There’s been a long line of outstanding leaders on the Flyers’ alltime captains’ list, from Hall of Famer Bob Clarke to Eric Lindros to Claude Giroux.
That tradition sort of came to a halt last season when then new head coach John Tortorella decided to not have any of his players wear the “C” on his jersey.
Instead, he chose veteran Scott Laughton to go with the closest thing to that time-honored designation, an “A” (usually reserved for an alternate captain).
As this past season came to a close, Tortorella already has made it clear he will go without an official captain once again for the 2023-24 campaign.
It’s generally assumed Laughton once again will have an “A,” and two veterans returning from injury – Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson – could also figure in the mix.
Laughton looks like a perfect fit for this revised role because of his willingness to help young players trying to break into the NHL.
Names like Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Wade Allison and Cam York come to mind.
The key here is the ability to instill confidence.
Remember, it took Laughton the better part of three years, including a one-year demotion to the minors, before he was able to establish himself as an NHL regular.
He knows sometimes the road to the top can be a rocky one.
“I think everyone has their own path,” Laughton said during an end-of-season press conference a few weeks ago at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “But a lot of guys took great steps forward and a lot had career years.
“You try and keep that confidence going into next year. Sometimes bounces go your way that year and you have five or ten more points or five or 10 more goals. So you try and use that going into the summer and try and help your game and maybe do some of the stuff you did in previous summers.”
Laughton is coming off a career year of his own with alltime highs in goals, assists and points.
He looked pretty sure of himself by season’s end.
“Confidence I think is a big thing,” Laughton said. “Some people don’t believe in it. But I’m a big believer in confidence and getting those puck touches and I thought some guys definitely stepped up in the absence of some of our key players who have been out all year.”
Many in the hockey community believe it will take the Flyers at least another year or more to get the organization back on its feet and into somewhat serious contention again.
As Laughton points out, the progress made this last season by young players could help determine how soon things turn around for the Flyers.
“I really hope these young guys can experience playoff hockey in Philly,” Laughton said. “Because I don’t think it’s like any other.
“I’m not getting any younger and you obviously want to win in this league. I think that’s why you play the game and I’ve said it before: I want to be here and be part of the solution and help these young guys out and try to take the next step for this franchise.”
Having Couturier and Atkinson back in the fold should only help keep the young players on the right track.
That, and the experience of playing against superstars such as Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin can only assist in making the under-25 Flyers better able to handle the pressure of the nightly NHL grind.
“We have a lot of younger guys who have stepped up and played bigger roles,” Laughton said. “I think you saw it in the last two months or so, they’re getting more opportunities and playing against some of the top guys and really getting their feet wet.
“You don’t always have that opportunity as a young guy to play those big minutes and in key situations. So I think it can only help the team down the road when we have a couple young forwards that I think can be very valuable to us going forward. It’s going to be exciting for us and them and it’s going to be a big summer for a lot of those guys.”