All The Important Info You Missed at Flyers Press Conference This Morning

Published September 22, 2022 at 6:38 PM
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Chuck Fletcher
Philadelphia Flyers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager
September 22, 2022

Last year we dealt with a lot of adversity on and off the ice. Clearly, we didn't meet the challenges that we faced, there's no ducking that. It was an extremely disappointing season, one that we lived with all summer, and certainly one that drove us to make the changes that we did both on and off the ice.

But this year is a clean slate for everybody, John has made that very clear to the players. We know there's a lot of skeptics, a lot of people that don't believe we are a good hockey team. I know our players are eager to prove them wrong, we all are.

There's a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we're excited about camp. In particular, I think this year this is probably the best opportunity since I've been here for young players to step up and either earn a bigger role on the National Hockey League team or even to make the team.

We have a big wave of young talent coming into our system this year. Some will play in Lehigh, some will play here, but it's an exciting opportunity for a lot of young players. Depending on how camp goes, we could have up to 10 players on our roster 25 years old and younger. So clearly, particularly up front, there's a lot of opportunity for some young players to step up and show what they can do and see if they're a part of the solution going forward.

In terms of injuries, I'll start off with Sean Couturier. He has not been cleared to play as you all know. This morning he will see a specialist to get a second opinion. Based on that appointment, we will try to come up with a plan of attack, and as we have more information, we will let you know.

Ryan Ellis is out indefinitely. There is no timetable on his return to play. I'll just say that my assumption is that he will not play this season if he does it will be a bonus. That is how we have prepared this offseason by making the additions we did on the blue line.

Patrick Brown had offseason back surgery, he is continuing to rehab. The timeline is a little murky, I would call it week to week. He is skating but he has not been cleared for contact.

Joel Farabee has been cleared to participate, but non-contact participation. I think we saw him this morning in the skating test, he is making good progress. In terms of when he will be cleared for contact, that will probably depend a little bit on how he feels in the skating portion and the practice portion of camp. I think we're still looking week to week with Joel.

Bobby Brink is in the building rehabbing, rehabbing is going well, he is nine weeks post-op. Return to play I believe will still be in that December-January timeframe. The next step for him is to progress to on-ice rehab which we hope to have him do in the next week or two.

Ryan Fitzgerald has a lower body injury he suffered while skating in Boston a couple of weeks ago. He is one to two weeks away.

With that, I will take your questions.

How surprised are you with Ryan Ellis? Because last year it seemed like he was improving and there was a decent chance he would play this year
There's been ebbs and flows, I think he made progress earlier in the summer. I would say the last two months there hasn't been any visible signs of progress. It's been a frustrating injury, nobody is more frustrated than Ryan, nobody wants to play more than Ryan, but we're dealing with reality now. He's not skating, so clearly, he is a long way from playing.

So, he'll go on long term?
Potentially, that's certainly an option for us.

When did Joel Farabee return to being able to skate?
Joel's been skating with the group for over a month now, he just has not had some contact yet. He had a little inadvertent contact in a couple scrimmages when the players were conducting their own practices, but he feels great. I think we want to be careful here, let the injury heal.

We also want to make sure Joel can do the off-ice training he needs to get stronger so he cannot just survive but play well this season. We're going to do what's in the best interest of Joel, but I think it's very encouraging. You saw he skated as hard as everybody, so the good thing is he's been handling the puck skating. His timing will be great, so now it's just a question of getting him back into contact and making sure he's strong enough.

Regarding Ryan, when things broke up last season, you said a surgical option wasn't something that was going to be considered. Has that changed, is there going to be a surgical option to fix whatever his issue is?
I know we have been vague with describing the injury. I think we call it multifaceted, which it is, there's a psoas component, there's a hip component, there's an abductor component, so I'm not sure if you go in and repair one part that it's going to fix everything. I've never heard of an injury like this, it's very complicated. Torn psoas is a very serious injury for a hockey player, a very rare injury, so we're doing the best we can, but we will leave it up to the medical experts.

Regarding Sean Couturier, can you speak to the details of the location of the injury and whether this is the same injury happening again?
I know it's in the same area as the last injury. He has been following the medical guidance of the doctors and our medical staff. Over the course of the summer he was improving, but from time to time he had some nerve irritation in his glutes He was told it was a normal part of the process, continued to train, and at some point, over the last week things deteriorated. It got to the point that he was not sleeping as well and was experiencing some pain. What triggered that I don't know, there's a whole host of components that impact your back. We'll try to get to the bottom of it and we'll do what's best for Sean.

He's going for a second opinion, if it comes back in a negative way is this potentially a season ending issue? Is this something that could threaten his career?
I think we're a long way from knowing that. He feels much better than he did last year, he can walk around, he can sit comfortably, he feels he can even go out and skate right now. To suggest its career ending or season ending is a long way away. We'll leave it up to the specialists, see what his opinion is, and then we'll get together and get a plan.

Is Ellis's injury threatening his career?
Certainly, that's a possibility.

How is Ellis holding up mentally?
It is extremely frustrating for him; I think he thought he would be a Predator forever. He got over the initial shock of being traded, he came here, he dove right and was a great teammate, he took Ivan Provorov under his wing - they were inseparable trying to build that chemistry. He was so excited to start the season, when he played, he played well. Nobody wants to play more than Ryan Ellis. I know people in this market haven't had a great chance to see him, but he is a high-end competitor, a very good player. It has been very difficult on Ryan as a human trying to get healthy and trying to be a part of what we are building here. But we'll hope for the best, and things can turn quickly as we have seen for the good and for the bad, but we'll keep working.

Have you entered contract negotiations with Travis Sanheim?
We have, we've had conversations with his agent. Our goal is to resign Travis, he's a big part of our team. He is probably the one and only player that played to their capabilities last year. I think he continues to improve. We continue to work to find a resolution, but if we don't, I don't think it will be a distraction. Everything has been professional and amicable, and we will continue to work away.

What was the back injury Couturier was dealing with and what kind of surgery did he have?
He did have back surgery, that's the best I can characterize.

Do you see any moves coming down the middle or do you feel someone within can step-up?
This is a really important training camp. We brought John in for a reason, not just to guide a change in culture and change standards and crack the whip but John has a proven track record of helping players reach their potential, of helping young players get better. I think we are excited to let John and his staff get to work and to see where some of these young players are, let's see where the health of our players is, and from there we can make decisions. It's a critical camp for a lot of players and again there is an unprecedented opportunity for some young players to take on bigger roles now that Giroux isn't here. Not every player is going to make our club, but all these kids are important parts of our future.
�Do you think someone can change to center because (inaudible)?
Scott Laughton can play center; he can play wing. Lycksell played some center before in his past, but I think we're going to start him on the wing here that's the position he's played most at. We do have some depth at center still and again we'll see what the situation is with respect to Couturier and Brown and see how some of these players do and we'll make decisions from there.

Have you been able to determine whether Hart is a subject of the Hockey Canada investigation and is there a concern regarding that on your part?
This is a really serious matter; I think we all understand that. The NHL is conducting an investigation. They've been pretty adamant that at this point we should refrain from making comments - we should direct all questions to them. The question is a serious matter but at this point I'll refrain from speaking until the NHL releases their investigation.

Have you been told how long the investigation is going?
I haven't.

Is Hart cooperating with the investigation?
From what I've been told every player has cooperated.

(Inaudible) Can you talk about that change and also is Harry back with the team or not, and if not why?
We feel that in order to be successful on the ice we have to have the right support crew off the ice, and we spent the bulk of summer really analyzing our staff but also conducting exhaustive job searches for people to come in whether is John Tortorella and his coaching staff or Ian McEwen and the athlete performance and wellness staff. We're very excited with where we landed with not only John but Ian, and Ian's only been on the ground a couple weeks. He's been focused on rounding out the staff and we announced the hiring of Tommy Alva to be our head athletic trainer, Jeff Taylor to come into a newly created PT type of position, a rehab position, we're looking into soft tissue experts to come in and work with our players so Ian's been hard at work with Barry Hanrahan trying to build out the staff. It's really important that we look at different ways of taking care of our players. It's not enough just to help out players when they're hurt, I think the whole emphasis here is in trying to build out a program where we can prevent injuries from happening by using data, best practices, and having experts in the field. It's going to be a process, it's going to take some time, but we brought some good people in, and we're excited with where we're going to take the program.

Is Harry back or not?
Harry's not back, no. We've made some changes to our equipment staff.

Who is the new equipment manager?
John Peters.

Are you comfortable with the prospect of having competition between Felix and Troy? Is that something you'll evaluate at the end of camp? Might it come to a point where you bring in a goalie from the outside?
Yeah you know it's a great question, Bill. We have spoke about this a lot the last two or three summers when we've been looking at backup goaltenders and who would have come in to work with Carter and you know it seems to be the same names every summer. The same types of goalies that are free agents. We just really feel that we need to start developing more talent internally. The goal going in was to have Ivan Fedotov, with Felix Sandstrom, and a goalie like Troy Grosenick and hopefully Samuel Ersson depending on he came back from injury last season. Let them compete. Let's what we have. Let's give them opportunities for these young goalies, to not only provide depth in the NHL, but hopefully take a step and reach their potential instead of bringing in sort of career backup goaltenders. I'm not sure if that is the proper term but obviously a little bit of a curveball with Fedetov. But Sandstrom, I thought played very well down the stretch. He played well here. Grosenick has had a long career with remarkably consistent numbers in the American Hockey League. Actually he has phenomenal numbers in the NHL and has never really been given that opportunity. So we feel these guys can compete. Samuel Ersson I thought would need maybe a half a season or maybe a season in the American League and maybe that'll prove to be true. But he is coming off a successful rookie camp. Small sample size, I get it. But the fact that he's healthy and was able to compete at that level at rookie camp, I think bodes well for the future. So look we will have to see, but at some point we will have to give some young players a chance to grab a job if they can earn it. And believe me, with Torts they have to earn it. But if you don't give them a chance, you never know.

Regarding Fedetov, do you have any more clarity on that situation?
No. Just he has to fulfill a commitment back in Russia. It's obviously a sensitive situation but there is a commitment he has to fill and really there's not much influence we can have in this situation.

What is your expectation after he fulfills his year in Russia?
Look it's a sensitive situation. I think I will just leave it at that he will have to fulfill his commitment in Russia. Obviously he has a contract with us and we'll just let things play out.

Chuck, you mentioned about the possibility of up to 10 players 25 or younger making this team. With the issues with Couturier obviously it's still unclear how long he's going to be out but does that change the possibility of Couturier missing a set of time, missing the season, does that change the organizational approach to the season and pivot a little more towards playing young players and using this more as a future focused year?
Well part of our, I think I mentioned to you guys at the draft and free agency, part of our main focus this year is to provide opportunity for young players to get better. And we've added a lot of young talent over the last couple of years. And I think it's really important to find out what we have. Last year, as I mentioned, a lot of adversity. Again, we didn't handle the challenges well but it was also a difficult year to fairly evaluate some younger players. Particularly at the end when we traded some players and we had some players out. You're throwing rosters together every night and on of John Tortorella's strengths, and I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for this, he's got a proven track record of making players better. Pushing players to be better. Developing young players and that's a critical part of what we want to do. We want to find out what we have. Even take a player like Travis Konecny. He is a 50 point guys or a 70 point guy. Let's push him here a little bit let's see what we have. Ivan Provorov, Sanheim I think took a step last year, but Ivan Provorov is a good hockey player. Let's give him a chance to get better. Never mind the Yorks and the Attards and the Zamulas on the blue line. Some of these are young players and there's going to be ups and down but we have to demand more out of some of these players. They're not just our future anymore. Some of these kids are our present. So, it's always been a critical part of what we wanted to do. If Sean is out for an extended period of time that clearly makes things a little more difficult because he's arguably our best player. Our number one centerman. But with that there's opportunity for other players to step up. There's opportunity for Morgan Frost to step forward. There's opportunity for Scott Laughton play at center. There's opportunity maybe for a Tanner Laczynski to take a step. He's 25 years old. We need to find out about Tanner Laczynski. He's not a kid anymore but yet he's missed a lot of time. Looks great so far from the little bit I've seen. But to me, that's the main storyline of this camp. Let's see what we have. Let's see how good these kids are.

In regard to some of these younger players, obviously camp performance is the first barometer, but if things are close do waiver considerations factor in at all?
They do because you want to make sure you have enough depth. So that will be something that we sit with the coaching staff about. John has been pretty adamant that he doesn't care what the name on the back of your jersey is. You'll hear more fro
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