(Photo: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)
It’s an unusual time in the entire world, let alone the sports world. The NHL is about to embark on a 56-game season that looks very different from anything we’ve seen before.
In these unknown times, one thing has not changed for the Flyers. There are expectations this year, higher than they have been in quite some time. After making a playoff run this summer that came one win short of a conference final appearance, there is no turning back for the franchise. The goal is not just about playoffs, it is about making another run.
The Flyers are returning a lot of that roster back to camp, as well as the potential to get back players like Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick, both of which have been in camp since the beginning on Monday.
“First of all, the expectations are high, let’s not kid ourselves. Our first goal is to get into the playoffs and then we are not in this to win one series. We are in this to win the Stanley Cup,” Alain Vigneault said on Wednesday. “Four series. Sixteen games. We believe that we have a very good team. We have a Stanley Cup contending team and we can be if we play to our level and play to our potential. With a healthy Nolan and a healthy Oskar, that adds to the talent of this group. It adds to the depth of this group. Now it is our job to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and play to our full potential. That is on me to get this group to become the best that they can be.”
There is very little time remaining for that. The team takes the ice on Friday for their fourth practice session. They will be back on the ice on Saturday with staggered group times and no scrimmage. Then Sunday is treated essentially as a game day with a 7 p.m. scrimmage at Wells Fargo Center. That’s it. After that, there are just two more days before a true game day for the Flyers to open the regular season.
One area where the Flyers seem to be well is in the preparation of the group ahead of camp. There was really no way for the players to truly prepare as usual. Some had rink access. Others had to resort to new ways to stay in the best shape possible. Vigneault noted this in his comments on Wednesday, pointing out that the players did their part in being ready for the vigorous camp that was ahead.
“I’m very pleased with how guys came to camp,” Vigneault said. “This time compared to the last time we came from a shutdown or lockdown or whatever you want to call it, prior a lot of guys didn’t have places to work out, couldn’t find ice. This time, because of their experience of the other lock down, guys built themselves gyms at home, guys found ways even though places had shorter hours, found ways to go to gyms. They found ice time. Everybody came to camp this time in good condition. That good condition is going to pay off going forward down the road.”
It helps that the team will be on the same schedule as nearly every other team in the league, the same amount of time to prepare and the same lack of preseason games to truly test conditioning. That test will come as the season begins, but the Flyers are trying everything to simulate game conditions.
“I like the format that we have set up for the players. I like the format that we have set up off the ice as far as conditioning and on the ice. We are on track,” Vigneault said. “We are going to be like everyone else- same number of days, no exhibition. But I feel as far as the conditioning aspect, we are going to be in good shape.”