Today, head coach Alain Vigneault announced that Flyers winger and 2020 points leader and leading goal scorer Travis Konecny would be returning after his stint on the NHL’s COVID list. While that is very exciting, the Flyers recently have been clicking, winning 3 straight games since being walloped by the Bruins in Lake Tahoe. In those games, we’ve seen AV put together new lines that have been absolutely humming. With Konecny coming back there had to be one odd man out, and that man out should’ve been Nolan Patrick and not Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
The Flyers offensive lines of recent have looked as follows: JVR-Couturier-Farabee, Giroux-Hayes-Patrick, Lindblom-Laughton-Voracek, Raffl-Bunnaman-NAK. In that log jam, AV decided that 4th line wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel would be the odd player out.
This was the wrong decision.
The player Vigneault should have taken out is Nolan Patrick. since the Flyers lost the Bruins on February 5th, Patrick accumulated the following statistics in the 6 games following: 0 goals, 0 assists, a +/- of -2, 2 penalty minutes, and only 1(!) shot on goal.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel in those 6 games has recorded 1 goal, 1 assist, a +/- of +2, 2 penalty minutes, and 7 shots on goal. The numbers are not even comparable to each other. Aube-Kubel is also one of the best forecheckers on the Philadelphia Flyers, and in a 3 game series where maybe the best player to ever put on a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform will miss all 3 games with COVID, the use of Aube-Kubel’s forechecking ability to fluster the Penguins would be a great skill to have available.
Nolan Patrick on the other hand has not been performing well at all, and the Flyers coaching staff realized it. After last season, where Patrick was dealing with migraines and long-term concussion problems, his skills obviously diminished as he wasn’t playing hockey at an NHL level. Patrick still is only a 4th-year player and 22 years old so yes Patrick does need to continue to play in games to develop. This season is not a normal NHL season to return to by any means either.
56 games being played seems like it would help Patrick as fewer games mean more rest time correct? Well, this season that is not the case, the Flyers play their final game in 70 days, and still have 38 games to play. The Flyers are going to be playing more hockey games than not playing in the coming months, which will cause massive fatigue.
On top of the rushed season, in the first couple of games Flyers star, Sean Couturier was injured for a long period of time. In response, Patrick was asked to play a lot more ice time than he was used to. Then recently when COVID hit the Flyers, again, Patrick was asked to play a lot more ice time than he was used to.
His struggles at that point were already widely apparent so once a majority of the team got healthy the coaching staff moved him to the wing to get his production higher, and it hasn’t worked out.
After a year and a half of no NHL games, Patrick early in the season was expected to be a top 2 center and perform at a high level. He started off well but clearly, the lack of playing time has caught up to him. A break to let him figure himself out not only would help Patrick but would help the Flyers if the Nolan Patrick we all know is in there emerged the following game.