One of the best storylines in the NHL over the last year has been the return of Oskar Lindblom as he beat ewing’s sarcoma and is back to carve his spot out on the Philadelphia Flyers roster. He’s got the entire support of the fanbase behind him and a solid roster to slot in to, but his struggles to get back to form are quickly taking over the joy most had.
Before the season started, we penned a piece urging fans to be cautious with their expectations for Oskar Lindblom. The second it was announced he was back to his pre-cancer strength tests, the immediate reaction was expecting him to pick up where he left off in 2019-20 when he scored 11 goals in 30 games. The problem is, that scoring pace is an outlier of his career.
Lindblom has never been a big scorer. He’s more than capable of chipping in some points now and again and can post respectable numbers by season’s end like he did in 2018-19 with his 17 goals and 33 points in 81 games, but carving out a career as a sniper isn’t exactly his forte. He’s got just 38 goals and 72 points in 198 NHL games.
Lindblom always felt like the spiritual successor to Michael Raffl, a player who can hang anywhere in the lineup without looking out of place, and can even succeed offensively, but his bread and butter is being a middle-six two-way forward.
Now, as he has just a single assist through the team’s first 15 games, the fans are getting antsy at his lack of offensive production. But his unimpressive output isn’t for a lack of trying. More often than not, Lindblom has been buzzing in the offensive zone (even leading the team in expected goals for at various points of the season), but a mixture of bad luck and bad linemates have limited his ceiling. Originally on a third line consisting of Scott Laughton and James Van Riemsdyk, the trio was relied upon as a defensively-sound shutdown line. Even though they had opportunities in the offensive zone, the line lacks a finisher and the rarely scored with the exception of a pair of Laughton goals.
Alain Vigneault first demoted Lindblom to the fourth line, a move the backfired horribly with a -4 showing against the Dallas Stars, before benching him to “reset” his play. Lindblom returned to the lineup in a game against Tampa back to his early season ways, buzzing all around the net, coming close to a goal or two but ultimately failing to score.
Lindblom has by no means been bad this year. He’s probably their best two-way winger, but the expectation level when it comes to his ability to score goals needs to be dropped a bit by both fans and coaching staff alike in order to get the most out of him as a player.
Oskar Lindblom’s battle back from cancer is an amazing story. The fact he’s playing hockey at all right now is a miracle. If he can find a scoring touch down the line, it’ll be a big boost to the team’s otherwise lackluster scoring depth. But in the meantime, accepting Lindblom for the player he is -an above average depth two-way winger- may help settle the building frustrations with the player.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: 6abc.com