VOORHEES, N.J. – Perhaps the most entertaining player on the Flyers might be Travis Konecny, because he sure knows how to get fans out of their seats with his confrontational skills.
He can turn a dreary 4-1 game into a sight to behold with his sometimes chippy tactics. It makes for great hockey theater.
But is this a guy you want mentoring your young players?
Well, if you buy the idea that the seven-year veteran is now starting to pick his spots a bit more, then yes, there can be some positives to Konecny’s approach to the game.
After all, the 26-year-old Konecny is coming off his finest season, with a personal-best 28 goals. If not for a nagging injury and a lengthy mid-season slump, he might have been in the running for a 40- or 50-goal season.
“It’s fun because now I have the opportunity to work hard, do what I have to do, watch all the skill that these guys bring to the game,” he said after a camp scrimmage at the Flyers Training Center. “I’m in awe most of the time. Some of these guys have tremendous skill. I’m just excited to see what they bring to our team. I think it’s going to be a good year and a lot of people are counting us out but there’s a lot of good stuff happening around here.”
Is the older version of Konecny mellowing a bit? The stats don’t seem to indicate that. His 77 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons are career highs.
“I don’t know, that’s just me,” he said with a smile. “I’m just trying to make more ‘friends.’ I try to focus on my game. And obviously I can’t help it sometime. Even in the scrimmage today, I got running around a little bit, got some contact. I’m only trying to focus on the energy to have some impact on the game. If that means getting a hit or a scrum or something, then I’ll do that but I’m trying my best to get away from it a little bit and use that energy elsewhere.”
Travis and his wife, Karly, just welcomed their second child into the world (the couple now has two boys) so maybe he might start to mellow a bit and concentrate on play without hearing the whistle so often.
“The summer was good,” he said. “Too long. Everyone knows we don’t want to be in that position. It was a good opportunity to work on things. It’s been good to be back. Everyone is in good spirits. We’re working hard, so it’s really exciting.”
Even though he’s starting his eighth NHL season, he takes nothing for granted.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to have a clean slate,” he said. “Come in and try to prove myself. Try to work my way into positions on the team by earning it. Showing that I’m trying to improve every day and just help the team however I can. I’m not trying to look at the numbers from last year.”
Konecny welcomes the return of Sean Couturier, who’s missed a season and a half due to a pair of back surgeries. These two could be on a first line with Owen Tippett.
“It’s great,” Konecny said. “We all love seeing him (Couturier) out there again. He looks great. Yeah, we played a lot together in the past.
“You know, ‘Coots’ is just Coots. He’s a great player offensively. I feel like he’s the safety valve to any mistakes that happen on the ice. He’s always in good positioning. ‘Tippy’ is a special player. When he has no space he finds a way to get out of it. When you can play with a guy moving that fast, it really opens up the ice. It should be fun if that’s how it shakes out.”
Like Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim and others, Konecny expects a second season under coach John Tortorella to be a little easier because everyone knows what to expect and what each individual wants.
“Yeah, I mean, maybe (you are) less on your heels,” Konecny explained. “You know what to expect. The one thing with ‘Torts; is he’s always been honest. He’s always told you where you’re at. Now that we know that, you can hold yourself accountable, know exactly where you stand every day and what you need to do.”