What to do with Joel Farabee

Joel Farabee was supposed to be coronated the next top guy of the Philadelphia Flyers after Claude Giroux’s departure, even receiving a blessing from the former captain himself who told Farabee to “break all my records” on his way out the door. And while not that long ago Farabee seemed to be in line to fill his shoes, a string of various injuries and underwhelming play has thrown doubt into his ability to be the next leader of the franchise.

The 23-year-old underwent disc replacement surgery in the cervical region of his neck during the offseason and made it back in time for opening night in mid-Ocotober, despite a timeline that originally didn’t project him back until American Thanksgiving.

It’s a pretty sizable built in benefit of the doubt for his underwhelming and inconsistent play.

Farabee’s in the first year of his six-year, $30 million extension ($5 million aav) signed back in September of 2021. It’s not necessarily an egregious number, but it’s a value that’s a bit more than his current production level deserves. It’s a classic example of Chuck Fletcher signing a player a year early then immediately not living up to his new deal, something that has become a real problem with the current general manager.

He racked up 20 goals in 55 games during the shortened 2020-21 campaign, the only player on the team to hit the 20-goal mark that season, a plateau he fell short of in 2021-22 despite playing eight more games, and has just nine goals in 59 games during the 2022-23 season. In fact, as of this writing (February 22) he hasn’t scored a goal since January 9, a span of 18 games with only three assists registered in that time.

The Flyers’ offense remains one of the worst in the league, sitting 26th in total goals with 158 and 27th in goals for per game with 2.7. Farabee’s nonexistent contributions to the lineup are a pretty significant reason for that as the team as a whole continues to struggle to find consistent secondary scoring outside of Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes.

Farabee also has yet to experience a full 82-game season. 2019-20 and 2020-21 were disrupted by the pandemic, and he missed just shy of 20 games last season due to various injuries. He has played in every game so far in 2022-23, though considering he’s locked in John Tortorella’s doghouse these days, it could just be a matter of time before his first healthy scratch of the season pops up.

Tortorella has taken the tough love approach to quite a few different players this season, tearing them down before building them back up and it has made them all better players overall. Rasmus Ristolainen, Wade Allison and Kevin Hayes have all had remarkable turnarounds after Torts worked his magic. It’s all about how the player responds and Farabee hasn’t connected the dots yet.

“He can be a very good player. I’ve seen it. He needs to be more consistent… it’s not just me needing to pull it out of him. I don’t spend my waking hours thinking about ways to help Joel Farabee. Joel has to help himself.”

Is a direct quote from Torts dating back to their last game before Christmas.

Will he eventually come out of the funk he’s in? He’s bound to score another goal sooner or later, but whether or not he returns to blue chip prospect status he held a few years ago does seem to be a legitimate question until proven otherwise.

The offseason neck surgery really does limit the level of legitimate concern present for Farabee this season. And the recurring injuries he faced last season restricted any kind of momentum he could gather. But that is also a considerable amount of excuses for a player that was earmarked as the next big thing for the franchise that’s just fallen flat. With any luck, he’ll remain healthy the rest of the season and enter the 2023-campaign at full health as well with a better understanding of his own body’s limitations and get back to some level of full strength we haven’t seen in a couple years; and those results should tell a more complete story of what the ceiling for Farabee is moving forward. Though another season of struggles and it may finally be time to admit that he isn’t quite the star-to-be everyone had hoped.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com


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