In the midst of University of Colorado football mania, we noticed some common themes among successful NHL teams.
Some good teams have a shutdown defenseman — kinda like a Deion Sanders on ice skates. Another team will have a sniper … or a power-play specialist. Another team will have players with blazing speed, or puck-moving defensemen. Then, there’s the guy who distracts the goalie on power plays. Or the premier penalty-killer.
And I thought: Do the current Flyers have such players? Do they have players with these specific talents? Specialists that can sometimes win games by themselves, or have a major say in the outcome?
Maybe Travis Konecny is a sniper — he did score a team-high 31 goals, but that was only tied for 46th in the league. Or maybe Joel Farabee will become a sniper. He has shown that kind of potential. Or Owen Tippett.
Tippett could be that guy in front of the net on the power play but he’s too good of a shooter to consistently play there.
Shutdown defenseman? Chris Pronger was. So was, in his own way, Eric Desjardins. Mark Howe was a Hall of Famer who used his skating skills and smarts to play superior defense.
In today’s NHL, speciality teams often have a great impact on the outcome of games.
The Flyers ranked 29th in the league with the man-advantage last season. Who is the Flyers’ power-play specialist? Tippett? He could be at some point. He led the Flyers with eight power-play goals last season. That number should improve with increased man-advantage time. The runner-up last season? Kevin Hayes with six power-play goals and he’s now with the Blues.
James van Riemsdyk was considered something of a power-play specialist. But JVR scored only two man-advantage goals in 61 games last season and he’s now with the Bruins.
Shayne Gostisbehere used to be that power-play guy with his frequent blasts from the point. He’s now with the Red Wings.
Watching players develop brings a special kind of anticipation and angst. The talent is there, maybe consistency is not. It’s part of the process.