With Carter Hart injured for the time being and Sam Ersson struggling at the NHL level, it seemed like it was the perfect time for the Flyers to get Felix Sandstrom into the mix. While it’s not specifically known if they kept him on the roster because of a fear of losing him on waivers, it does seem clear that he is no longer a part of their current plans.
The Flyers rewarded Ersson with the backup goaltending role a few days before training camp ended. They had previously rewarded him with an extension over the summer as well. Even with a small sample size at the professional level, the Flyers clearly had an interest in Ersson and showed they wanted to develop him further. And with Sandstrom having struggled to gain traction with the Flyers, the decision seemed clear.
So why have the Flyers continued to string Sandstrom along? He was just sent to the Phantoms on a conditioning stint, the team’s way of acknowledging that he does need to play. His last action was over a month ago when he spent 20 minutes in net during a preseason game on Sept. 27. In fact, he only played two total periods worth of time during the preseason. If that doesn’t say something about how the team doesn’t value him, it’s tough to show what else will.
That’s not to say that Sandstrom himself doesn’t have any blame in this. His numbers in 25 career games are nothing to write home about. Sandstrom played in the most games of his short career last season, appearing in 20 total games. A starter in 18 of those, he gave up four or more goals in 12 of those games. The Flyers only won one, a 5-4 overtime victory against the Blackhawks. Did the Flyers do him any favors by typically using him in the second half of back to backs? Most likely not, but Sandstrom didn’t do himself any favors with his play either.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Sandstrom had a -8.39 GSAA last season. That means he gave up nearly nine more goals than expected last season. On 575 total shots, Sandstrom gave up 69 goals. That’s an average of almost four goals a game. There were only six games in which he gave up two or fewer goals, with four of those as a starter. A big problem for John Tortorella last season in regard to Sandstrom was his ability to give up the backbreaking goal or simply a goal that he should be able to stop.
"”To win hockey games, your goaltender needs to be your best player. I think Felix has put in some really good minutes,” Tortorella said back in January. “We need another save. That’s the next step for him. Now, I’m not sure if that happens. He’s gonna get the opportunity, but he needs to make the next save. I think you’ll see him in the win column more.”"
Sandstrom came out on the winning side only twice in the 10 games following that comment. And if you’ve listened to the way that Tortorella talks about Sandstrom versus how he talks about Ersson, it’s clear which goaltender he’d rather have in net. While it is not his decision on what goaltenders to use, there is a strong belief that his opinion does carry a lot of weight behind closed doors. And with his clear lack of interest in Sandstrom, it might not be a surprise that the team would rather recall Cal Petersen with Hart out.
It’s possible that Sandstrom could be recalled after getting into a few games with the Phantoms. But at this point, it is time for the Flyers to move on completely from Sandstrom. It’s not likely that he has tremendous trade value. But if the team was worried about losing him for nothing on waivers, might as well get whatever you can for him. It’s likely going to be a late round pick with his lack of success in the NHL. But it’s fair to him to let him try to catch on with another team since the Flyers have shown numerous times that they have turned their focus to other goaltending prospects.
The team has continued to add depth to the position as you can never have enough goaltenders. The more they add, however, the more likely it is that Sandstrom will continued to get passed on the depth chart. At this point, it’s best for both sides to move on from each other.