I was going to call this a moratorium but I needed to be honest. There’s no suspension of activity, nor prohibition. This is something that, honestly, blew up on the launch pad. The “Nolan Patrick Revenge Tour” that many have dubbed this season never got off the ground. Sure, you can point to the first seven games where he had five points this season and say “Well Derrik, it did get off the ground.” To that I say…
31 games later and Patrick has registered only two points since his first seven games. Those aren’t the type of numbers you would expect from a former number two overall pick. Yes, we cannot discount the fact that Nolan Patrick is coming back from having over a year off after battling a migraine disorder. As unfortunate as that may be, the time for excuses is up. Patrick has missed all-but one game this season, and has failed to live up to his expectations.
What Hasn’t Worked?
Let’s take a look at the early part of his NHL career. In his first two seasons, Patrick was on a 35-point pace in an 82 game year. He totalled 30 points in his rookie year over 73 games and 31 points in 72 games during his sophomore campaign. “Points don’t tell the whole story.” Of course they don’t. You know what does though? The fact that he was stagnant from year-to-year. Yes, it was only two years, but now after a year off, we’re seeing a regression even worse than many anticipated. Is it fair to say it’s him just shaking off the rust? Lindblom had off almost all of last season and he has three more points in five less games. That argument doesn’t hold much water.
Could the migraine disorder still be impacting his play? Of course it could be, but you’d think we would have heard about it by now if it was having an effect on his play. Maybe it’s because he’s playing in the bottom-six. Sure, it’s a somewhat valid point, but do you want your second-line center putting up seven points in 38 games? He’s on pace to score at half the rate he had in his first two seasons, and those seasons wouldn’t have passed the test for a second-line center.
Playing him up the lineup isn’t going to help if we see the same type of game we’ve been seeing. He isn’t going to surpass Kevin Hayes on the depth chart with the way he is playing. Playing him at wing doesn’t seem to be helping much either, so there’s that.
People want to keep pointing to the time off and rightfully so. He was off for a very long time. The fact still remains that at some point, he needs to be the player he was before the disorder. No team has the time to wait something like this out, and nobody knows how long that could be. Even if the Flyers are going to tread water or sell at the deadline, Nolan Patrick is a guy you likely sell. He won’t net you a notable return on his own, but could be a part of something bigger. I digress. There comes a time where the migraine disorder can’t be used as an excuse anymore. That time has passed and now Nolan Patrick has nothing to excuse his poor play. He’s doing the little things, he’s playing a safe game. That’s great, but that isn’t what these scouts from Elite Prospects were talking about during his draft year.
A guy that was this highly touted shouldn’t be struggling to put up points. He’s starting to entire serious “bust” territory, and that’s incredibly concerning.
New Regime, New Nolan?
With the Flyers struggling, talks of breaking up the core have reached a new level. Trading Claude Giroux seems more fathomable now than it ever has, and people still want Jakub Voracek out of a Flyers sweater. The mess of a season has brought out the ugly in the Flyers fanbase, but has also brought a new way of thinking. If the Flyers go through with a rebuild of sorts, where would Nolan Patrick fit with the new regime?
To be quite honest, he wouldn’t. Nick Kypreos mentioned on the Real Kyper at Noon podcast that the Flyers are aggressively shopping Nolan Patrick, meaning there’s likely no spot for him on the Flyers if they go through any sort of rebuild or re-tool. He’s frequently been referred to as “entitled” and difficult to interview by a few, indicating that he could be somewhat of a problem in the locker room. When you rebuild and try to form a culture in the locker room, those aren’t traits you want in there from the get-go.
If Not Now, When?
If the days of Ron Hextall taught us one thing, it’s patience. Constantly preached, fans had the word patience rammed down their throats until they got tired of the taste. The ultimate payoff was seeing Sean Couturier blossom into the Selke-winning center that he is today. The problem with that is it took Sean Couturier seven seasons to reach that level. His first six seasons saw him gather 191 points in 416 games, an average of almost 32 points per season. That’s on par with Nolan Patricks first two seasons of his young career. Not including this season, Couturier’s last three seasons have seen him post 211 points in 231 games. Coots is averaging 70 points per season in those three seasons, even with last year being cut short.
What Couturier has blossomed into is what many hope Nolan Patrick will become. The main problem with that is having the patience to wait for it to happen. Will it mimic Couturier’s trajectory and take six seasons? Do the Flyers have that kind of time to wait for it to manifest itself? Considering the Flyers are run by Dave Scott, who runs Comcast, it’s easy to say that patience probably doesn’t sit so high on his priority list.
Fans are tired of being told to be patient by upper management. They got a taste of success last season and want more, and rightfully so. This team was supposed to be a contender this season. While early on they were playing as advertised, it’s been derailed and now they look like a shell of what they should. It’s back to the patience well it seems. This well is all-but dry, but the patience with Nolan Patrick has all but run out.
What’s Next for Nolan Patrick?
The future is murky. The former second overall pick in 2017 is playing fourth line minutes right now and it doesn’t appear that he’s destined for anything more at the moment. His play could pick up and he could find himself back at 3C, but that’s about where it ends for him. Kevin Hayes likely stays at 2C considering his price tag, so the ceiling for Patrick isn’t as high as it really needs to be to see him thrive in Philadelphia. Factor in Hayes’ term, and you’re looking at a situation that just isn’t conducive to him growing as a player in Philadelphia.
There are two routes to take here, one more attractive than the other.
Trade – The obvious decision here is to part with Nolan Patrick and recover something to make it as worthwhile as you possibly can. He won’t be the key cog in any deal, but he can be a piece that nets you something decent in return. The key is getting something in return for him. His cap hit is attractive for what he could potentially bring to the table, but that part about potential is likely what will scare teams. Suitors will want something that can hit the ice and perform right away. While he hasn’t exactly proven he can do that with the Flyers, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that a change of scenery could do him some good. The key is getting something in return that will help the Flyers in the next couple of years.
Let him walk – This is obviously the lesser of the two options since the Flyers would get nothing in return. The season appears to be winding down with no decent shot at the playoffs, or making it past the first round at that. Once the season is over, letting Patrick walk if he hasn’t been traded might be their only option. You could trade his negotiating rights for peanuts, but what kind of help is that? As bittersweet as it is to potentially see a former second overall pick walk into free agency, it just might be the right move if they can’t form a deal for Nolan Patrick.
Here lies the Nolan Patrick Revenge Tour. Gone far too young, but not exactly gone just yet. While the rumors and rumblings indicate that its time in Philadelphia is running out, we’d be remiss to forget the good times it brought. His first fight as a rookie that seemingly won over the fanbase. The numerous scrimmages he took part in. His fan club, full of people calling him his “grown adult son,” and things of that nature…
In all seriousness, you won’t catch me saying things like “good riddance, I’ll help you pack your bags.” I don’t dislike Nolan Patrick. I don’t wish anything but success for the guy. The fact of the matter is, things just aren’t panning out for him in Philadelphia. It’s a damn shame because he could end up being a great player for someone else down the line. Obviously we all want that “someone else” to be the Flyers, but it’s looking more unlikely as the days go by.
Signing Kevin Hayes was the writing on the wall. The term included in the deal was the icing on the cake. If the Flyers had any faith in Nolan Patrick becoming the player they envisioned when they drafted him, they wouldn’t have brought in Hayes for the length of time they did. It was considered a contingency plan for some, but seven years is a long contingency plan.
Hopefully for Patrick’s sake, the Flyers can facilitate a trade to someone who has a spot for him to succeed in. His ceiling is much higher than where he’s currently at in Philadelphia, and he deserves a chance to succeed, even if that’s elsewhere.
In closing, it’s been real, it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. You’ve got a fan in me, and I truly hope that you can find a situation that embraces you and allows you to become the player we wanted you to be in Philadelphia.