It’s time to figure out just how deep the Flyers’ forward corps is.
Losing a top forward, let alone Selke Winner Sean (1C)outurier causes a number of problems. Aside from the glaring hole at 1C, the loss of Coots’ offensive production, defensive prowess, and special teams roles creates a ripple effect beyond the first forward line. Temporarily replacing him over the course of at least two weeks is no easy task, and I don’t envy anyone behind the Flyers’ bench tasked with trying to figure it out.
The silver lining to this awful situation is that Morgan Frost gets a chance to prove his NHL worth. As the team’s 13th forward, he’s faced with the conundrum of needing NHL ice time to develop, but not having an available roster spot. The AHL is still a few weeks away. Regardless of whether anyone thinks he needs to be in the roster now or needs time to develop, I can guarantee every rationally-minded Flyers fan agrees he needs to be playing meaningful hockey. This provides Frost a great opportunity to kick the door down and demand his roster spot.
The question then becomes, which line will he best be utilized on? Which line allows him the best opportunity to actually kick the door down, and not fail miserably at breaking down said door like a hapless MXC contestant?
Given the type of player Frost projects to be as well as his skillset, it’s wise to try and place him in the top 9. The 4th line wouldn’t cater to his playstyle, and more minutes allows him more chances to develop. The Flyers also seem married to the idea of him playing center instead of moving to wing, so we’ll rule the wing out for now. At least until AV pulls a fast one, moves him there, and makes me look stupid. So where does he go? Assuming they want to keep chemistry with the wing pairings, let’s look at the lines now.
Centering Lindblom and Konecny: Simply plugging the hole left at 1C leaves you with… the youths. This would certainly be fun to watch as Frost works with two of the Flyers’ most dynamic young players, distributing the puck to two guys who have a knack for finding the back of the net. If all goes well, this could be a top line for years to come. That of course, assumes that all does in fact go well, and that AV trusts Frost to handle top line minutes right out of the gate. That’s where you lose me on this idea. Frost started on a top line last year and had some really great games out of the gate, but then faded. Rather than try this again, I feel the move is to start him on a lower line. The defensive capabilities also fall mainly to Lindblom on this line, and I’m not thrilled at the idea of a wing handling most of the defensive load.
Centering Giroux and Farabee: This is an intriguing matchup as it gives Frost the team captain and a budding young scorer to work with. Frost has also played with Giroux in his previous NHL stint, so there can certainly be some residual chemistry here. My gripe with this idea is breaking up Giroux-Hayes-Farabee, which has arguably been the Flyers’ best line so far. Building off of that, Hayes looks to be the next man up for 1C for the time being, with Patrick moving to this line. Or, there’s the potential spicy move of moving Patrick to 1C and keeping this line together. Anywho, I just don’t see Frost in this line mainly for the reason of solid chemistry already there.
Centering JVR and Voracek: This seems like the most logical starting spot for Frost, with one of Hayes or Patrick likely replacing Couturier on the top line. Given the chemistry between Giroux-Hayes-Farabee, I wouldn’t hate a Lindblom-Patrick-TK line at all, but I digress. Starting on the third line gives Frost some meaningful minutes generally without facing the stiffest competition. He also gets to learn from two solid veterans on his wings, both of which can really rack up points when they’re on their A-game. The drawback to this line would be the potential defensive lapses. Both JVR and Voracek are making some strides in their defensive efforts, which is great! But at the end of the day, unless your name is Mark Stone, I don’t want a winger handling heavy defensive responsibility. And to put it lightly, these two aren’t exactly known for defensive capabilities. Frost will likely need to hone his offensive skills before adopting more defensive roles. This line may require a bit of sheltering for that reason, but I still feel this is the right move.
With the Flyers’ wings playing as well as they are, I think it’s wise to leave them be and let Frost start out between JVR and Voracek on the third line.
-Brian Adams (@BadamsProblems)
Photo Credits: TSN (Frost headshot), NHL.com