VOORHEES, N.J. – The prognosis after Joel Farabee underwent disc replacement surgery in his neck last June put his return date sometime well into the 2022-23 season.
Guess who was in the lineup on opening night?
Farabee defied all the experts through a comrehensive rehabilitation schedule with trainers, plus a lot of hard work when no one else was around.
While he did play all 82 games, he was never quite himself. He suffered through a 26-game goal slump and finished the year with just 15 goals, his lowest total since his rookie season.
So the lead question after Saturday’s camp session at the Flyers Training Center went straight to the point. Does he feel like he can get back to his form of the pandemic-shortened, 56-game 2020-21 season when he led the Flyers with 20 goals.
“Yeah, it definitely felt good,” Farabee said of getting back into camp. “The first couple days of camp, having that second jump of energy. Just feeling good, things like that. It definitely helps getting some time in the gym.
“Just grinding away in there. I’ve put myself in a good spot feeling really good heading into the season here.”
Even though Farabee was playing in games in October and November, he wasn’t really himself.
Now that’s he’s healthy again, it’s a load off his mind.
“For sure, I kind of started a couple steps back last year,” he said. “But obviously no excuses from my end. I have to play a lot better. Definitely looking forward to getting back on the right side of things and getting back to my game, feeling confident and help the team anyway I can.
Is he putting any pressure on himself to get back to a high-scoring level?
“I think for me, I think I always put pressure on myself to compete, to put up points for this team,” he said. “Do anything I can to help. At the same time I almost feel not that much pressure, getting back with the guys, having Coots (Sean Couturier), having Cam (Atkinson) back. Talking with them. . .there’s a lot better feeling around the rink here. I think everyone feels pretty good heading into the season here.
Speaking of Couturier and Atkinson, how much of a lift can you get from having those two stars back in the lineup.
“I think anytime you can add a guy who’s won a Selke (Couturier), a guy who’s scored 40 in this league, back on your roster, I think it’s definitely going to help,” Farabee said. “They are two great players, great in the room. They lead this team the right way. I definitely look up to both those guys. We’re pumped to have them back.
Now entering his fifth season, Farabee sounds ready to embrace a leadership role of his own.
“I think the first day I ever got to Philly, I think the older guys have always treated me great,” he said. “My first year here having Kevin (Hayes), Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton really took me under their wing. They let me stay with them when I needed dinners.
“I felt like this summer, now that I have a place in the city, I’ve housed a few young guys. I felt like for me, if I’m here, I try to get with those guys as much as possible. I felt when I was a young guy, guys did that for me. Just makes you feel a lot more comfortable around the rink. It just brings everyone together. I’m probably just a guy who leads by example. Not too vocal in the room. Away from the rink, I just try to focus on getting those guys together, whatever it might be.”
Since you made it as a 19-year-old in the NHL, can the youngsters here see you as an example who made the big show as a teenager.
“A hundred percent,” the Syracuse native said. “The good thing about where our team is at right now, we have so many young guys who are pushing for spots. A lot of guys were here this summer, which was very good to see. I think just that compete, the guy you’re going against, you’re going to give it everything you have. You’re going to compete against them but at the same time that’s your brother. I think just having that balance of the relationship is really good for our team right now.”