The Philadelphia Flyers are expecting their defense to be the backbone of the team during the 2022-23 season, and nobody is more important to the success of the blueline than 25-year-old Ivan Provorov.
The peaks and valleys of Provorov’s career have always been felt hard by the Flyers, positive or negative. When he’s at the top of his game he has been a defensive stalwart who has been able to succeed at both sides of the ice. When he’s having a down streak, he makes uncharacteristically boneheaded plays that tend to compound until he is a complete disaster.
After another rough season partnered with Justin Braun, his end-of-season press conference rubbed fans the wrong way when he shut down questions intended on baiting him into talking about his lackluster play.
The thing is, Provorov knew his season was underwhelming. He knew he didn’t play up to the level he typically demands of himself. He knew it as well as everyone else did.
The question is why didn’t he?
These players aren’t stupid. They’re well aware of the atrocious situation they’re playing in. Provorov is undoubtedly one of the most hardworking players both on and off the ice for the Flyers and has been his whole career. If the rest of the team isn’t working as hard as you, for years and years now, and the losses continue to pile up, wouldn’t you eventually give up too?
There appears to be some discrepancy as to what role Provorov is exactly expected to play. There’s the elite level defenseman, the very few players across the league that can control play at both ends of the ice themselves, the Victor Hedman and Cale Makar of the world. Then there are top defenseman who work best when given ideal situations to play in; basically every other top guy in the league.
Provorov is the latter.
For some reason, the Flyers have never really given Provorov a top defense partner to work with. He spent the first three seasons of his career with Andrew MacDonald, and the last two with Justin Braun. He had 68 games of Matt Niskanen is 2019-20, which was unsurprisingly one of his best seasons, also showing promise working with Shayne Gostisbehere during the 2017-18 campaign.
Ryan Ellis, who was supposed to be a key member of the blueline after being acquired during the 2021 offseason, missed nearly the entire season rehabbing from an undisclosed hip injury and Provorov was once again been tasked with the bonafide number one defenseman role with a less-than-stellar partner. Even though he’s doing his best, he can’t carry the weight of the team alone.
Provorov will more than likely play with newcomer Tony DeAngelo to start the season. Despite the character issues Tony D brings to the table, from an on-ice standpoint, it could very well one of the best partners Provorov has had, certainly dating back to 2019 with Niskanen. DeAngelo’s puck-moving abilities mean Provorov should be able to focus more on the defensive side of his game, something he wasn’t able to do with Braun.
DeAngleo had success playing alongside Jaccob Slavin in Carolina last season, and for all intents and purposes, Provorov is essentially a dollar store version of Slavin, a very good two-way player capable of borderline elite defense while chipping in a respectable amount of points.
It’s difficult to find a harder working player than Ivan Provorov. The image of him sitting on the bench during the closing minutes of the 2018 playoffs weeping at the impending elimination after he destroyed his shoulder will always be the first thought most have when thinking about the 25-year-old Russian. Entering year seven of his career with a fitting partner and new coach could be the cure to what ails him, and if Provorov can bounce back to top defenseman levels, the Flyers will actually stand a chance this season.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com