VOORHEES, N.J. – As far as training camps go, this was one of the more competitive ones, which might be why Flyers general manager Daniel Briere might sound a little more optimistic than some expected.
Briere had some tough personnel decisions to make and he spent much of his time discussing those and why he made the verdicts he did.
After Tuesday’s team workout at the Flyers Training Center, Briere opened by saying there is still some roster uncertainty with regards to Thursday night’s season-opener at Columbus.
The “X” factors start with the health status of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. If he can’t go, either Egor Zamula or Emil Andrae will step in.
“We’re trying to find out a little bit more,” Briere told a media gathering. “Originally we thought it was something very minor. Now we’re doing more tests on it to find out exactly what’s going to happen. I’m still waiting, I haven’t talked to the trainers yet. He’s getting more tests done today.
“So we’re still hopeful that it isn’t serious and he’s going to play Thursday. We just don’t know for sure yet.”
Ristolainen did participate in Tuesday’s practice.
Next topic of business was the goalie situation. Currently there are three on the roster – starter Carter Hart and backups Samuel Ersson and Felix Sandstrom.
Hart wasn’t feeling well over the weekend, hence the precaution.
“At this point we have the luxury to do it,” Briere said. “So early on in the season, that’s what I’m expecting. Things can change at any moment. The opening day roster, things can change. But for the next few days I’m expecting to have three goalies.
“There’s a lot of things going on. Carter was not feeling well the last few days. There’s just a lot of things we’re dealing with. Unfortunately with Risto’s injury, it gave us the luxury to keep extra bodies around.”
Briere was smiling a lot when discussing the decision to keep rookie forwards Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster on the opening night roster.
“To be honest, they both played well,” Brink said. “They earned their spot in training camp. Bobby, we didn’t expect him to be as good as he was. He’s been probably our best forward in training camp. He totally earned that. As far as Tyson, we had the expectation that he would start with us. His play was solid. I know he wasn’t on the scoresheet as much as Bobby but the details in his game, we all like. Coaches were on board, he’s someone you can rely on. We’ll evaluate and make sure they get the proper ice time. We can always adjust. If somebody’s play dips, these guys don’t need waivers. We’ll evaluate as we go along.
“We’ve seen it with Bobby Brink. We didn’t think he was going to be as good as he’s been. He’s earned his way. Torts (coach John Tortorella) is using him more and more.”
Then there’s the playing status of young defensemen Egor Zamula and Emil Andrae.
“Both of them have been excellent with their play,” Briere said. “Earned the right to be here. Just to start the season. It’s going to be the same thing with Bobby and Tyson . .we’re going to make sure they get the proper ice time. If they can’t find it here, we’ll find a way to get them on the ice.”
Briere was open and honest about his decision to make this camp a fair competition for jobs.
“There were some tough decisions,” he admitted. “Putting Wade Allison on waivers wasn’t an easy one. It’s not that Wade had a bad training camp. The young guys just had a better camp. There were opportunities and some of the young guys seized them. That forced us to make some tough decisions.”
The GM was asked to evaluate the camps of Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, both returning after significant time off.
“I felt like they started slow,” Briere said. “They got better as the camp went on. They haven’t played in a long time. In Sean’s case, he hasn’t played in two years almost. It’s going to take time. I was excited in both cases to see them compete, go hard. . .in battles, not be afraid. I felt maybe the first few steps, they played it safe a little bit. Once the first hits happened, I thought both reacted well as the confidence grew. I expect them to get better and better.”
As for possible surprises, Briere gave defenseman Travis Sanheim high marks.
“Sanheim is the one that really stood out to me,” Briere said. “I was really impressed with his fitness, his mindset coming into camp. It feels like he’s got something to prove. That’s been probably the most exciting thing for me, watching tc.”
Briere was also excited about the play of the line of Ryan Poehling, Garnet Hathaway and Nick Deslauriers, also known as the PHD line.
“I was impressed with the PHD line,” Briere said. “I thought they did really well. Poehling and Hathaway brought something different to go along with Nick.”
The Flyers are hoping for a big season from Joel Farabee. He was recovering from surgery last season and really didn’t play with his usual fire.
“It’s a little unfair to evaluate him because he wasn’t in position to compete at the top level because of the injury,” Briere said. “He couldn’t train fully. He knows it’s a big season. Lots of expectation on him. He’s one of those guys, there’s more responsibility on his shoulders, leadership-wise. Losing JVR (James van Riemsdyk) and (Kevin) Hayes in the room, I talked to Joel about accepting more responsibility.”