There are a lot of ways to describe Nolan Patrick’s career so far- disappointing, underwhelming, disenchanting, to just flat out sad.
The Nolan Patrick Revenge Tour went about as well as The Doors reunion tour after Jim Morrison’s death, a miserable failure. The bar may have been set a little too high for the 22-year-old as he was still a fan favorite and former second overall pick and the hype surrounding his return to the ice always seemed unnecessary.
There’s a fair amount of revisionist history when it comes to the feeling surrounding the 2017 second overall pick. You ask around now and most people will claim they never wanted him in the first place, and those people would be lying through their teeth. 99% of the fanbase wanted one of Hischier or Patrick, and where perfectly happy when the consensus number one pick fell into the Flyers’ laps at number two. I was certainly ecstatic. It’s not everyday you move up 11 spots in the draft and select the top guy second overall, that’s the kind of luck that is few and far between in Flyers’ history.
When his rookie season was underwhelming it was kind of easy to shake off. “He’s just getting adjusted” I thought, as more and more young kids seem to have a rough transition to the NHL level lately. When his sophomore season mirrored his rookie campaign, it was a little more alarming. His 13 goals and 31 points were mediocre at best as he was preoccupied keeping his head above water as the team’s second line center than he was producing offense.
When Patrick missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season with a migraine issue, the stage was set for a fairytale comeback story during the 2021 season, and for awhile, it seemed like it was bound to happen. He scored during the first game of the season against the Penguins, 652 days since his last NHL game. He followed that up with one more goal and three assists in his first seven games, then went ice cold, going on a 17-game pointless drought and only registered two goals and two assists in the following 39 contests.
Patrick’s play during that time matched the next-to-nothing offensive output. He saw time in the top six for parts of the early season, got bumped to the middle six, then got demoted to the fourth line. He saw copious powerplay time with minimal results and effort level on a shift-to-shift basis was weak to say the least.
Now Patrick now waits for this season to end without a contract for next year. His one-year “show me” deal was supposed to give the Flyers some kind of direction with the kid. Yet, they’re stuck with the same question mark they were a year ago. He returned and played almost a full season, his fundamentals are absolutely present, but the effort level and production aren’t. Realistically, they could probably sign him for a cheap deal for the next few seasons to patrol the bottom line, the question becomes, why?
The main argument against letting him go is that fans are afraid by the slight chance he lives up to his potential elsewhere. It’s an argument that has been deployed as a reason to keep all the young, underwhelming players on the roster as fans would rather crash and burn with the current group than take a risk and possibly succeed with a different mix of players.
For Patrick’s sake, I hope he does succeed. It would be great if he could get the stars to align and put together a string of decent seasons and pull himself out of the “bust” category he is slowly falling into. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that his chance to achieve that level of success won’t come in Philadelphia. Whether it’s due to a lack of opportunity on the roster to the media attention he receives, it just doesn’t feel like he’ll ever hit his potential in the Flyers organization.
The phrase “loving something to death” seems to apply nicely to the Nolan Patrick situation. For whatever reason a lot of people still like Patrick and want to hoard him on the Flyers roster until the end of time. But if you truly cared about the player, you’d want him to move on to a better situation that suites his personal needs. You can want the best for him while acknowledging the mountain he has overcome, while also admitting he may not be the best hockey player. It’s been real NolPat, but it’s time to move on.
By: Dan Esche. (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com