This far into the season, nice-try efforts no longer take up space on the Flyers’ wish list.
There are no moral victories, even if the team has played with better structure over the past month.
In a way, tight games against teams such as Pittsburgh do little for players’ spirits when they come out on the wrong end of the score.
After Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, interim head coach Mike Yeo gave the impression the Flyers should stop feeling sorry for themselves.
The excuse of not having some of their best players in the lineup is wearing thin. With the returns of Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard, Patrick Brown and Rasmus Ristolainen – plus the pending comebacks of Kevin Hayes and Wade Allison – the Flyers really will only be missing Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis.
“I think we’ve done some good things improving our game,’’ said Yeo, mindful the Flyers have only won three games since Dec. 29, 2021. “We’re in every game against all these good teams. Now it’s got to really tick us off we’re not winning more games.’’
This is not a new concept. But it is one that’s getting kind of old in the locker room. The players must hate coming out after games and explaining why they couldn’t close out games where they held late leads and couldn’t hold on.
“You know we can’t be satisfied with being a team which has good structure, works hard, but doesn’t do enough to win the game,’’ Yeo said of the 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday night. “That’s where we have to take a step here. There’s another edge to our game that we can bring.’’
“We can’t accept that we’ve got some guys out and we’re not winning games,’’ Yeo said. “Can’t be OK with one game once in awhile. We have to demand more. We’ve taken some steps but that’s the next big step here. I know we’re close but let’s not be satisfied with close anymore. We had a lot of guys out, we don’t have that excuse anymore.’’
Keith Yandle has been around enough teams to know this Flyers team should be better than its record indicates.
“The main thing in this league is getting results and getting wins,’’ Yandle said. “Obviously that’s tough to come by for us right now. I think it shows a lot about our team that we’re sticking with the process. Guys aren’t out there doing the wrong thing. We’re playing a team game, it’s frustrating now to get a win.’’
Playing for pride and the uniform can still be strong incentives.
“We’ve done a good job of sticking together as a group,’’ Yandle said. “In our locker room we have a really tight group. We enjoy being together. Guys aren’t cheating during the game. We’re playing for the crest on the front of our jersey. Everybody pulls the rope. I think that will help the team in the future.’’
Yeo said Yandle contributes greatly on the ice but it doesn’t stop there.
“He’s a guy who brings a lot of joy to the rink,’’ Yeo said. “He’s been around for so long, I don’t know if there’s been a better teammate that’s been more appreciated by his fellow teammates.’’
Yandle recently broke the NHL ironman record with 965 straight starts. He’s on pace to pass the 1,000 mark before the season is over.
“He loves to play the game and what he’s done with the record is impressive,’’ Yeo said. “We can talk about staying in the lineup, battling through injuries and all of that. The only way that happens is if you truly love the game. He never misses an opportunity so that’s pretty impressive.’’
Allison, coming off serious knee and ankle injuries, has been upping the intensity level in practice and could be back in the lineup shortly.
“It’s tough to get the group that you are trying to prepare for a game,’’ Yeo said. “And also give those guys the rest they need. He’s a guy we want to get out there, get him some contact, get him comfortable.’’
Yeo revealed Hayes remains a possibility for a return on Saturday against Chicago.
“We’re going to have a chance as far as our next practice to put him on a line and see what he looks like,’’ Yeo said. “That’s the big thing here. There’s a big difference between being cleared to play and actually playing. There’s no better way to get into game shape than to play in games yourself. He’s a guy we would love to get back.’’