Flyers' Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny added to Team Canada roster

Flyers' Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny added to Team Canada roster

Team Canada will definitely have a Flyers feel to it this spring at the IIHF World Championships in France and Germany.
 
General manager Ron Hextall and Hockey Canada officially announced their first 18 players on Wednesday afternoon and it includes two more Flyers: Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier.
 
Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds confirmed their participation last week. So that's four Flyers going to Europe for coach Jon Cooper and his assistant, who happens to be Flyers coach Dave Hakstol.
 
"It’s always special when you get to represent your country, and you can see it from the quality of our initial list of players who will join us at Worlds," Hextall said.
 
"Between them, these players have made 17 appearances at this very event, including nine players who've come away as gold medalists for Canada, and they can play a big role in helping set the tone for this team.
 
"Our coaches have a lot to work with, and we will be ready to ice a competitive team in Paris for our opening game on May 5."
 
The remainder of the first group announced so far: Eric Comrie, Calvin Pickard, Tyson Barrie, Calvin De Haan, Jason Demers, Michael Matheson, Josh Morrissey, Alex Killorn, Nathan MacKinnon, Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, and Jeff Skinner.
 
Team Canada will play the Swiss in a pre-tournament game May 2 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its first tournament game is May 5 against the Czech Republic in Paris.

Can Dave Hakstol, Flyers find balance between creative and cautious?

Can Dave Hakstol, Flyers find balance between creative and cautious?

For the first two months of the 2016-17 season, the Flyers were second in the NHL with 102 goals scored in 32 games (3.19 per game).

The problem was, they surrendered the league's second-most goals with 95 (2.97).

At the time, the Flyers were 19-10-3 and rising because of a 10-game winning streak.

The question was, would that ratio ultimately balance out in the win-loss column?

As nice as the scoring was, head coach Dave Hakstol was not pleased with the number of pucks mounting in his own net. Once the wins started fading and losses started piling because of crooked numbers by the opposition, the Flyers turned defensive.

Goals were less common as tight, low-scoring games took over. Hakstol even benched two of his most innovative players with the puck, Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere, a combined eight times to have the two focus on little things.

From Dec. 15 to the end of the season, the Flyers scored the NHL's third-fewest goals at 110 in 50 games (2.20 per game), while allowing the 11th-fewest at 136 (2.72).

The Flyers went 20-23-7 over that span and, of course, missed the playoffs.

Systematically, did the Flyers restrict creativity?

"I think that you look at all different aspects," Hakstol said Thursday. "There's a foundational side of the game where we talked about play without the puck and needing to be real solid in that area. We didn't start the year very strong in our play without the puck. We addressed it and improved it greatly as the year went on. With the puck, I think as you look at the game, there is room for creativity."

The Flyers will continue to get younger, especially next season, which is expected to result in faster players with greater skill. The Flyers hope to accentuate those characteristics because, well, the teams that score are the teams that win.

Sure, discipline and possession with the puck are important, but the Flyers simply did not score enough, specifically at 5-on-5 (128 goals -- 27th).

The challenge will be can Hakstol and his staff adjust and find a preferred style as more skill makes its way to the big club?

"Hak, he's a smart guy. He's a smart guy," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Thursday. "He knows what's going on. I think if you look lately here, we started playing really well. The one thing any coach, I don't care where, and I've been around a lot of them over however many years, they hate turnovers. Turnovers are a huge thing in a hockey game. Your players are all going north and all of a sudden there's a turnover and you're not set up defensively. That's where a lot of goals are scored -- quick breaks, 3-on-2s, when the other team is not set up.

"That's what systems try to do -- turn pucks over, get teams off guard. They're not in defending mode, they're in offensive mode, that's when you quick break. That's when you get scoring chances. It's hard to get scoring chances nowadays."

Jakub Voracek echoed his GM's sentiment, mentioning the increase in difficulty of scoring in today's NHL. He also knows an adjustment is needed because the Flyers didn't do enough.

"It's harder and harder every single year to get goals, but I think it's the system and the teams playing right now, it's a defensive system," Voracek said. "That basically everything is jammed up in the middle, we've got five guys, one is a defenseman that has to get it through. It's almost impossible to get it through. So it's obviously harder to score. But we have to find a way."

Hextall was adamant about the Flyers' wanting players to play freely and to their strengths. There's an exception, though.

"It's risk and reward," Hextall said. "And there are times where players have to recognize the risk vs. reward. If it's a 40 percent chance you're going to make a play for a scoring chance and a 60 percent chance it's going to go back the other way, it's probably not a real good risk to take. If it's 90-10, it's a good risk to take."

Is that shackling a player, though?

"No," Hextall said. "He's taking 10 percent of his plays that he might try to make, out of the mix. We do not want our players to not be creative. We want our players to be creative. We want Konecny, (Claude) Giroux, Voracek, we want them to make plays. We want them to set up scoring chances, we want them to score goals. What we don't want them to do is turn pucks over and come back our way and we end up minus-20, minus-25. That's got to stop. That minus stuff has got to stop. It has to stop."

What must start is the Flyers' striking a better balance between that risk and reward.

"You look at the different areas of generating opportunities, in the National Hockey League right now, a lot is off the rush," Hakstol said. "That's an area where we're really taking a step back and really looking at things. Looking at different ways to allow players to have that creativity."

Flyers Notes: Anthony Stolarz's injury, offseason surgeries and more

Flyers Notes: Anthony Stolarz's injury, offseason surgeries and more

VOORHEES, N.J. -- On the night the Lehigh Valley Phantoms punched their ticket for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs, Flyers prospect Anthony Stolarz went down.

The 23-year-old goalie left Wednesday's 2-1 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1:32 into the first period with what appears to be a lower-body injury.

According to Tony Androckitis of Highland Park Hockey, Stolarz was seen on crutches after the game, while the Phantoms did not have an update on his status.

Stolarz, of course, is expected to be a piece of the Flyers' future and will be in the running for a job with the big club during training camp come fall.

A serious injury could impact his preparation for such.

How serious is it?

"I don't know yet on Stolie," general manager Ron Hextall said Thursday at his end-of-the-season press conference. "I don't have the whole ball of information there on Stolie, but it doesn’t look like he'll be healthy in the real near future, I guess is fair to say."

Will he play in the Calder Cup Playoffs, which start next week?

"I don't know that," Hextall said.

Stolarz made his NHL debut this season and finished 2-1-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in seven games (four starts).

The Flyers' goaltending situation next season is far from sacrosanct. Michal Neuvirth signed a two-year contract extension at the March 1 trade deadline, while Steve Mason can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It's possible the Flyers leave Neuvirth unprotected for the June expansion draft and Hextall did not rule out re-signing Mason.

A lot remains up in the air, which impacts the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Stolarz.

"We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year, and the following year and after," Hextall said of his goalies for 2017-18. "We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again, we'll look at our options and move when we feel is our best option at the appropriate time."

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol was impressed with Stolarz.

"From the small sample size, everything I saw in Stolie was headed in the right direction," Hakstol said. "Whether he's ready to be a full-time NHL goaltender, I think we have to wait and see where he's at in training camp. That's the next step for him, is to earn a full-time NHL position and full-time NHL job. Certainly, the work that he did for us, even after he got through the early jitters in a couple of his early performances, was sound and solid."

Weise, Manning surgeries
At the end of each NHL season, most teams are typically banged up with a handful of players who need surgeries.

The Flyers, however, were left in decent shape.

Winger Dale Weise underwent surgery Wednesday for bone spurs in his elbow.

Defenseman Brandon Manning, who suffered from back issues in the second half of the season, will have surgery to remove a small fragment from one of his discs.

"It's a very mundane procedure, is my understanding," Hextall said, "so he should be fine.

"At this point, that's it. From a health perspective, we're in pretty good shape."

2017 IIHF World Championship
Team Canada will be well-represented by the Flyers for the 2017 IIHF World Championship. Hextall is general manager and Hakstol will serve as an assistant coach.

Will Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux suit up for the Canadians?

According to a report by TSN's Darren Dreger, Simmonds and Giroux have been named to the roster.

"That's all yet to be determined," Hakstol said. "I'll leave that to the GM of Team Canada, I'll leave those things to Ron."

Nothing is official yet.

"I think there's some assumptions we can make, I don't know if any of them have really been solidified yet," Hakstol said. "I think there's probably going to be a half dozen of our players that potentially are going to be there and be part of the tournament."

The tournament begins on May 5.