One of the best stories in the NHL over the otherwise dreary last few years has been the tale of Oskar Lindblom battling and defeating cancer. His return to the ice was a heartwarming moment that didn’t get the true adulation he deserved thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
Even though he played for the Flyers last season, the battle wasn’t over for Lindblom. He struggled to return to a physical level that the NHL demands of its players. Though the recently-turned 25-year-old had a productive summer that he feels will lead to his return to success on the Flyers’ roster. And now that all signs are he is physically back at that level, it’s important to temper your expectations when it comes to his offensive output, not due to limitations he has, but because of his role on the team and his overall playing style.
Lindblom was on the hottest run of his career right before his diagnosis. He recorded 11 goals and 18 points in 30 games before taking his leave. His best offensive season prior came during 2016-17 when he scored 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games during his last season in Sweden before he headed for the AHL. In the NHL, he recorded 17 goals and 34 points in 81 games during his rookie season in 2018-19.
Lindblom spent a vast majority of the 2021 season in a bottom six role focused on defense. He only recorded eight goals and 14 points in 50 games. As the season went on, his ice time was cut pretty heavily, from 16-17 minutes down to 10 or 11. He was even scratched for half a dozen games over the last month of the season. Alain Vigneault felt it was the best way to help Lindblom, who was showing signs of physical exhaustion in his play.
He’ll probably slot in on either the second or third line left wing role during the 21-22 season, and because of the depth on wings, may find himself once again in a defensive-minded role. Lindblom is one of the many “Swiss army knife” players the Flyers have had on their roster over the last few seasons. Though he has a bit more offensive upside than that of Scott Laughton or Michael Raffl. He can score when given the opportunity, but he’s never done it at a high rate, or has been placed in a full-time role to do so.
Expect the Swede to at least get a look in the top six in an offensive role at some point, and if he can raise a few eyebrows in that role, his leash my be extended. Alain Vigneault seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Lindblom, and will handle his deployment with care.
The good news just keeps rolling in for Lindblom, it was announced late last week that he is still cancer free, and his training camp strength tests are back where they were before his diagnosis in 2019. He’s been impressing with the coaching staff and beats alike during training camp, noticeably back to his pre-cancer level of play, thus building the hype of Lindblom picking up right where he left off in 2019. He very well could, but it’s best to not build hope in the chance he doesn’t produce big offensive numbers so the inevitable disappointment and ostracism of Lindblom takes place.
Lindblom is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Flyers, a natural rallying point for the team to come together and pull out a win and the fans to unite and celebrate everything he has overcome. It’ll be a big season for Oskar, and his return to form will be witnessed in front of a packed Wells Fargo Center every night. Him excelling on an improved Flyers team will be a great next chapter in the story of Oskar Lindblom.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: cbssports.com