Bobby Brink's benching was a much needed reset

Despite a homecoming game in Minnesota, Bobby Brink watched from the press box. It was a much needed reset for the rookie forward.
Despite a homecoming game in Minnesota, Bobby Brink watched from the press box. It was a much needed reset for the rookie forward. / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

I’m sure Bobby Brink had this one circled on his calendar. With the Flyers on the road to face the Minnesota Wild, it would’ve been the first homecoming for Brink, a native of Minnetonka, Minnesota, since turning pro. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. Coach John Tortorella announced before the game that Nic Deslauriers, the odd man out in Wednesday’s match-up against the Montreal Canadiens, would slot back in the lineup Friday, replacing Brink.

Tortorella, when asked about the decision in a pregame presser, explained that this is all part of the ebbs and flows for a player of his age, but they need him to be more consistent if he's going to maintain his status as an NHL regular.

"Other players are playing better. This is all part of the process for Bobby. He's gonna be a really good player, but there are a lot of things he needs to work on. I think he's been a little inconsistent. Bobby Brink does not have a cemented spot in the National Hockey League, but that's to be expected. He has a ways to go to find that."

John Tortorella

Tortorella was singing a bit of a different tune on Wednesday when he was asked pregame about Deslauriers coming out.

"The forward that we decided is Nic, and it kills me to take him out because he does so much. He's such a great pro and does so much of the heavy lifting for us. "

John Tortorella

There are likely a few things at play regarding the stark difference between Tortorella's feelings towards both players. Deslauriers, for one, is an established pro. With 10 seasons under his belt and stints with five different teams, he is highly regarded around the league for his leadership, professionalism, and ability to mentor young players. He fills a bygone enforcer role and plays tough minutes on the checking fourth line.

Brink, on the other hand, is a rookie who still needs to prove he belongs. The Flyers are expecting offense from the youngster, and lately they just haven't gotten it. He's been held off the scoresheet for the last five games and has seen his minutes reduced during 5-on-5 and 5-on-4. His underlying metrics, specifically Corsi For % and Expected Goals For %, have been up and down, especially in the new year.

Of note, this is the second time this year a poorly timed benching has occurred. Although not the same, Cam Atkinson was shelved when the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town on January 4th, a match-up I'm sure Atkinson was anticipating against his former team. When asked about the timing of Brink's scratching, Tortorella unsurprisingly did not mince words.

"It's the National Hockey League. I can't get itineraries from players when their parents are coming in to decide what a lineup is. I can't...I knew that would come up. You're in the wrong game."

John Tortorella

Although unfortunate, I share Torts' sentiment. The NHL is a business, after all, and the Flyers are in the business of winning. That means icing the best lineup on a nightly basis. It means rewarding and punishing, for lack of a better term, where appropriate. In Brink's case, there was nothing nefarious about the timing; it was simply a much needed message to a young player. Brink has proven he can be effective at the NHL level, and I, too, believe he will be a valuable asset for years to come. You do have to wonder though, with the resurgence of prospect Samu Tuomalla in Lehigh Valley (10g, 18a in 34 games), if a roster shakeup could be forthcoming.