To say that Travis Sanheim had a down year is like saying that Flyers have had a down year. It’s a HUGE understatement. However, despite the struggles, there are reasons to believe that Sanheim might find his way back into the good graces of the team.
Sanheim was the first round pick by the Flyers in 2014. He is one of the “older” defenders at 27, behind Justin Braun, Nick Seeler, Tony DeAngelo, and a few months younger than Ivan Provorov. He scored seven goals this year, the same as last season and two off of his career high set in 2018-19; his second career season. His 23 points this year are down significantly from last year (31). Likewise, his -5 rating is a big drop from his +9 from last year; on a team that did worse than this season.
Indeed, it was his defensive abilities, combined with a little offensive punch, that helped get him a big-time extension just before the season started. Some thought it was too much for a guy who hadn’t really “proved it” yet. He has yet to show he is one of the elite defenders in the NHL. And for a team that has been looking for one for years (Since Chris Pronger? Kimmo Timonen?), Chuck Fletcher, in a typical Chuck move, felt like he had to extend him now or else lose him to the market.
And off the bat, he was mightily inconsistent. He made lazy plays that translated into goals. He was out of place, beaten out for the puck, and just plain looked lost at times. It got to the point that John Tortorella sat him for a game in late February; the only game Sanheim missed this year.
After the benching, he seemed to reset himself. He ended up a +3 the rest of the way. He scored three goals, including a two goal performance vs the Panthers, and four assists during this stretch too.
Maybe he needed to regain his confidence again. That’s why Tortorella claims he benches guys. He wants to reawaken the star within.
Sanheim is still young. He has shown flashes of talent, but not greatness. As of right now, he is projecting as a decent second line defender, but he could be this team’s Chris Therien if he pushed himself. The Flyers need a good shut down defender who can occasionally add some offensive pop. Sanheim possesses some of that. He is not a “young guy” anymore but a seasoned vet at this point. It’s time for him to step up.
There is no reason that this can’t be just a blip on Sanheim’s career. His strong finish to the 2022-23 season shows he can learn from his mistakes and improve his overall game. Good things can still come for him if he goes out to grab it. It’s up to him to take the initiative. But he should easily have a bounce-back year next season.