We’ve heard about it all year. The “next man up” philosophy. When one man goes down, another steps up. We saw Morgan Frost slide in when Sean Couturier was injured. We saw Connor Bunnaman come in when Morgan Frost was injured. The phrase itself is perfectly indicative of the situation the Flyers were in during those moments. Now, it needs to become universal.
The next man up mentality needs to span across everything that impacts the roster. We aren’t talking just injuries and COVID protocol issues. We’re talking underperforming. The Flyers have a handful of players who aren’t playing up to their potential, therefore not contributing much in the way of points. Each has their own reason as to why a benching would make sense.
The Flyers are getting a good bit of help from their top guys like Claude Giroux (1g, 10a), Jakub Voracek (3g, 9a), and a red-hot James van Riemsdyk (7g, 11a). The bottom half of their lineup has some quality contributions being made, but some of the bigger names aren’t pulling their weight. Some names that you would expect to be somewhat consistently contributing simply are not, and it’s time to shake things up.
This will sound redundant, but another Konecny benching may be in the cards. Flash back to a few years ago, Dave Hakstol benched Konecny and it lit a fire under him. Go back to just last week after TK was benched and that same spark didn’t seem to ignite anything. There’s a few things here that are worth mentioning. Konecny is having a tough go of things this year, it’s no secret. He led the Flyers in scoring last season, so expectations have surely increased. His struggles are magnified due to that.
Don’t misunderstand. It’s not ok that one of the Flyers top forwards is struggling this much. What’s even worse is that his benching did very little in the way of motivation. Konecny has played in five games since being benched and hasn’t registered a point. When it should have been a reset, it ended up being more of a slap on the wrist. So would benching Konecny again make any sense given the outcome prior?
It’s always worth a shot. Vigneault could maybe bench him for longer than a game this time to let it sink in. While frustrating, it may be just what the doctor ordered for the struggling 23 year-old. The Flyers are finding ways to win games without Konecny’s production. If he rounds that corner and starts pitching in offensively, the Flyers could be a force in the East Division.
Want to show the players in the locker room you’re not messing around? Bench the guy who just came back to the team after missing a whole season. While it may seem harsh, it sends the right message. The Flyers are a team that could make a serious run in the playoffs, and they won’t be able to do that without their center depth producing at an optimal level. Nolan Patrick is in need of a reset it seems, and this could be exactly the wake up call he needs.
While center depth isn’t the luxury it used to be, that shouldn’t deter Vigneault from potentially sitting Patrick in the press box for a game. Michael Raffl has shown he’s capable of playing center, as well as Connor Bunnaman. Scott Laughton is an option, but should be treated as a last resort considering his line with JvR and Joel Farabee have been clicking as of late.
Just because the Flyers aren’t that deep at center doesn’t mean Patrick gets a pass here. Even with the injury to Frost, a potential replacement to Patrick on the third line, Nolan Patrick’s spot in the lineup should be anything but assured. With no points in the last six games and only five points this season, Patrick needs to start producing or he could find himself watching the games from the press box.
This one is the minor compared to the other three, but it might be time to get Aube-Kubel a game or two off so he can reevaluate his game. He’s been playing fourth line minutes, sure. However, he’s been committing some costly penalties and has the tendency to toe the line between safe and running amuck. Four points so far this season is decent production from a bottom-line guy, but his 19 penalty minutes is a bit concerning.
Pair that with one assist in his last five games, and it might be time to see what some of the taxi squad guys have to offer. While Samuel Morin may not be as offensively gifted, he brings a presence to the lineup that Aube-Kubel tries to bring, but pales in comparison. Twarysnki brings a safer style of play as well and could be worth a game or two tryout. Either way, it might be time to see if a game off resonates with Aube-Kubel.
Benching Oskar Lindblom sends the same message benching Nolan Patrick does, but stronger. We all know what he’s been through this past year. While it’s incredible that he was able to slot back into the lineup before the Flyers were knocked out of the 2020 NHL playoffs, he’s a full-timer now. Being a full-timer comes with a set of expectations, and they aren’t been met.
In a league that runs by the motto “what have you done for me lately,” the answer is essentially nothing. After starting the season with 18 points (11g, 7a) in 30 games last year, Lindblom picked up where he left off this year. He registered a point in his first two games and three in his first four. Since then, he has one assist in nine games and hasn’t had a point in six games.
You want to send shockwaves through the locker room and put every player on notice in a good way? This could be exactly what needs to be done. Feel good stories are wonderful, and there are very few that compare to that of Oskar Lindblom. However, the honeymoon phase is over and it’s time to “do that hockey.” If Lindblom can’t find his footing soon, he’ll find it in the press box.
“Next Man Up” is a great message to apply to many different scenarios. When a player is injured, it’s “next man up.” When someone is demoted from a top line, it’s “next man up.” Why should it be any different when it comes to underperforming players?
Photo Credit – Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire