Flyers’ young players may benefit from tough finish

Tyson Foerster

      VOORHEES, N.J. – Although the emotion of a missed playoff opportunity hangs like a dark cloud over the Flyers Training Center right now, there is a silver lining.

      A number of the team’s young players had a chance to be part of a “trial by fire” experience, namely a late eight-game winless streak which ultimately kept them out of the postseason

      All these men in their early-to-mid 20s can mentally file this one away under the heading of what it will take down the road to make it over the top.

      One day after they were eliminated from the big dance, all the Flyers gathered at the FTC to participate in exit interviews with coaching and management staffs.

      Nearly everyone spoke individually to the media and there was a sense that if there was any redeeming value from this experience, it was that they learned what to do better. Particularly the young folk.

      Make no mistake, a lot of progress was made this season. After all, few people had picked them to get anywhere near the playoffs and yet they still made it all the way to the final game on the schedule with a very slight chance to sneak in the back door.

      Captain Sean Couturier observed whether those lessons took hold with the team’s youth. Or even the veterans, for that matter.

      “I think every game matters,” he said. “Whether it’s in March, April, December. . .every point matters and you can’t really take any nights off. You have to do everything you can every night to get the two points. Maybe that’s the biggest thing we can learn as a young team.

      “It stings right now, this feeling of not making it, especially with the situation we were in. But maybe use this as motivation. Maybe raise our game to another level next year.”

      Noah Cates, 25, had the word “experience” high up in his talk about the disappointing finish.

      “The experience of being in the playoffs for as long as we were (124 days), the race toward the end was definitely a good experience for us to have,” he said. “Know what it takes and how hard it is. To have two weeks like we did, fall out of it and then have a few good efforts to have a chance. Definitely a good experience for this group. Have that hunger for the future.”

      During the season, Owen Tippett, 25, signed an eight-year contract extension, so he’s going to be a big part of this rebuild. This past season saw him score a career-high 28 goals, plus he had a chance to feel what it’s like in the pressure-cooker of a playoff chase.

      “We can all kind of learn from it,” he said. “And take that going into next year. That’s all part of learning. I don’t think anybody had us in the position we were in coming down to the last game. It’s all stuff you have to learn and that’s how you get better. That eight-game stretch didn’t help us but it’s an opportunity to learn, come back next year and know that feeling.”

      Tyson Foerster, 22, could very well be a finalist for the Calder Trophy (NHL rookie of the year). He kept his eyes and ears open through the good times and the bad for this team this season.

      “I think we had a lot of heart all year,” Foerster said. “Everybody counted us out. I think we proved everyone wrong. We just couldn’t get it done in the end but I think we had a great year.”

      Defenseman Jamie Drysdale, 22, came over in a trade from Los Angeles for former first-rounder Cutter Gauthier. He fits into that “New Era of Orange” to a tee. Watching his team go through this test was productive, he said.

      As for Cam York, 23, the whole season moved his career forward. He played a ton of minutes and on Tuesday night was named the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy winner for most improved player.

      He believes the Flyers will be better equipped to handle adversity next season.

      “We definitely learned a lot,” York said. “I’ve been here for what feels like a pretty long time. I’ve never been in a situation like this, so to play meaningful games and come out on the wrong side of it, you definitely learn a lot. You want to do everything you can the next year to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

      >How close to steady contention

      Travis Konecny was asked how long he thinks it will take for the Flyers to become a steady contender again.

      “I’d love to say it’s going to be next year,” Konecny said. “You see the steps we took this year. Everyone’s a year older next year and we go through it again. I believe this team could be great and be in the playoffs consistently every year. We have all the tools to do it.”

      >Power play woes

      The Flyers’ power play finished clicking at a woeful 12.2 percent, last in the NHL and worst in team history.

      Many players talked about it, few had answers.

      “I mean guys work hard on it everyday,” Konecny said. “We’re always communicating, trying our best to sort things out. I’m sure it will be something we look at this summer and try and improve.”

      Drysdale was never a hundred percent healthy and that didn’t help matters.

      “Obviously that situation wasn’t ideal,” said Drysdale, who played about 12 games on the point in manpower advantage opportunities. “We would have liked to perform better.”
      >Short shots
      The Flyers announced they have signed Denver University forward Massimo Rizzo to a two-year entry contract. . .With the Lehigh Valley Phantoms close to clinching a playoff spot in the American Hockey League, the Flyers returned forwards Bobby Brink and Olle Lycksell plus defensemen Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning to Allentown. . .Flyers coach John Tortorella and general manager Daniel Briere are scheduled to meet with the media on Friday.
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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.