Holmgren doesn't see Flyers making major move

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Holmgren doesn't see Flyers making major move

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The trade rumors involving the Flyers have been blowing in the wind for a while now.

Bob Dylan notwithstanding.

Despite the Flyers' terribly inconsistent play and the very tightness of this lockout-shortened season, general manager Paul Holmgren says he is not going to pull the trigger on a major deal.

“I think we have a nucleus of good, young players,” Holmgren said Tuesday night before the Flyers' taunt 3-2 win over the Jets.

“To talk about disrupting that is not something that I am in favor of doing. We have not played exactly how I thought we would have played.

“We’re missing some key people [Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros] right now. We can’t use that as an excuse. Other teams have similar issues going. We’re going to ride this out for now.

“I don’t anticipate doing anything. Obviously, there is lots of talk going on right now. Everyone is doing their due diligence, but I don’t foresee us making a move.”

Hartnell’s absence has really impacted Claude Giroux, who had eight games this season without a point. He picked up an assist on Tuesday. He needs that big guy with the long, red locks to create some space for him on the ice.

“Obviously, the other teams are keying on Claude right now, doubling on him,” Holmgren said. “He’s missing his left wing, who helps a lot. Scotty is a key for Claude and a key for our team. He needs him to create a little space for him.”

Wayne Simmonds missed three games with a concussion and is trying to get back into being a physical guy who picks up points at the net.

“With Wayne coming back and getting a couple games under is belt will be beneficial to Claude,” Holmgren said. “I look for him to get going now. You can’t ask Claude to try harder because he is trying his hardest right now. Other teams are doing a good job on him. I feel the underneath guys now need to do a better job.”

Coach Peter Laviolette has been juggling his lines regularly to try and find chemistry and make up for lost bodies due to injury.

Laviolette changed all four of lines against the Jets in part because Sean Couturier was back home resting from the flu.

Max Talbot has yet to score a goal, but Holmgren said he doesn’t expect Talbot to recreate the career high in goals (19) he posted last season. Also, he feels Talbot’s role and specialty is defensive hockey and penalty kill.

He does feel Danny Briere, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn all need to elevate their games. Voracek had two assists against the Jets and Schenn scored his second goal in three games.

“They all have to do a better job,” Holmgren said. “… As a team, we’re not operating on all cylinders and that is why we are having trouble.”

The Flyers came into the Jets' game with the second-fewest goals in the Atlantic Division -- 31. When a team is not scoring, flaws are exposed. And when it makes defensive gaffes, like it did Monday in Toronto, it leads to disastrous results on the ice.

Does this team miss Jaromir Jagr?

“Doesn’t make any sense to look back on that,” Holmgren replied. “Obviously, he was a big benefit to Claude and Scotty last year. Sometimes you have to move on.

“We were not in a situation last summer to do anything at that time. Whether we would have later, I still don’t know. But I have moved on from that.”

Holmgren said he is pleased with the progress the club has made in improving on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill. But he also feels the inconsistency on the power play has not enabled the Flyers to make up for goals elsewhere when it should.

“[Monday] night in Toronto, we had bad 7-8 minutes, down 4-1 and too many giveaways in our zone and center ice, and it cost us,” Holmgren said. “Yet, we had seven minutes in power-play time to get back in it and we didn’t get anything out of it.

“It’s a close league. If you are not on top of your game for 60 minutes, there’s a good chance you won’t win.”

He also thought the club had “turned the corner” by getting seven of eight points on the last homestand before this six-game road trip began.

“Then, we took a step backward in Toronto,” Holmgren said. “A lot of times in this league now, if you are standing still with the puck or you don’t move the puck right away, you will get in trouble.

“I don’t care who you are. We got into situations [in Toronto] where we didn’t win those little battles along the boards and on a couple goals we didn’t move the puck quick enough and got burned. We have to do a better job.”

Four games remain on the trip. Three are against teams higher in the standings -- New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Montreal.

What happens there could very well dictate if Holmgren is pushed to make a move.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until Oct. 6 if not Oct. 8, the final exhibition game. 

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
 
It’s all over the ice, too.
 
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season? 
 
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
 
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time? 
 
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
 
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
 
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
 
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
 
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
 
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
 
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
 
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
 
And his self-evaluation?
 
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
 
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
 
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
 
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
 
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
 
How to make the kill better remains at large.
 
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
 
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
 
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
 
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
 
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
 
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
 
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
 
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
 
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”