Injuries happen. It's a part of every single sports franchise in every sports league in all levels of the sport. Sometimes the injuries are so detrimental that it costs its team the season. Sometimes it catapults them into a slide, and the returning healed players help dig the team out of a hole.
However, in some instances the injuries a team sustains gives their younger, less experienced players and backups their time to shine and turn a few heads while they're at it.
The Philadelphia Flyers were forced to face their traditional and inevitable injury bug much sooner than they anticipated. Many believe that if a club has to skate through the black and blues, it's best to get it out of the way sooner in the schedule than experiencing it in the second season.
I absolutely agree. Why's that? Well, so that the roster is playing healthy together during the meat and potatoes when it's getting down to a dogfight for the top eight seeded spots. You want momentum leading you into the post-season, as well as a group of soldiers metaphorically sewn as one body by the threads of chemistry, team experience and (as I see it) family value.
Injuries tend to throw a wrench in the gears of team chemistry. The time off the ice from key players weaken or shatter one or more links in the chain. From there....the whole ship could sink, and then the question is -- Are there any lifeboats?
But it doesn't seem that way with the Broad Street Orange & Black. With Chris Pronger, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, and Andreas Nodl taking time to lick their wounds (and even Danny Briere's short injury stint), Adirondack's top skaters were recalled and asked to keep the positives rolling for the Flyers.
It's a small success story, really. Because instead of short-lived scabs, we're watching question-generators succeed their way up the ranks.
Where could I possibly be going with this?
Let me be blunt; When Pronger returns to the ice from injury, I sincerely believe Erik Gustafsson should nab that sixth d-man spot while Lilja takes a seat on the scratch list. When Schenn's ready to lace up the skates after his broken foot heals, perhaps it's time to let him continue his dominance in the AHL while a returning Andreas Nodl shares a soft pretzel with Lilja, and Zac Rinaldo carries on his reign of checking grandeur from the bottom, forward line.
Nevermind Harry Zolnierczyk for now. I love the kid's tenacity, but Matt Read's 7-points in 11-games played cannot be overlooked. He's only going to get better as the season rolls on. Allow Harry Z and Brayden Schenn to grow as a forward pair in Glen Falls.
Andreas Lilja is not that effective PK blue liner we were promised he'd be when management ignored an extension with Sean O'Donnell and handed a 2-year, $1.475M contract to the ex-Duck/Red Wing. He has cost this team penalties, most of which come from hooking calls after he's beaten off the puck and is trying to remedy the situation. Not to mention he is a turnover machine. I hold my breath each time he's passed the puck in our zone while our scoring line advances on the attack, and an opposing back-checking group is waiting for him at our own blue line.
The young gun Gustafsson shows signs of being a similar defenseman as Kimmo Timonen. They're the same size, but Gus also plays a bit bigger than he is. To my surprise, he's added quite the effective checking element to his game. Perhaps it's always been there? I admit, I do not pay much attention to our players in the lower leagues.
Nevertheless, am I wrong to think Erik Gustafsson's been an impressive defensive fill-in while our captain daily dips his eye socket into the fountain of youth? I say nay.
I say this with a heavy heart; Brayden Schenn missed his window. Unlike many, I refuse to stand here and proclaim Schenn to be a bust.
There's no doubt in my mind this prospect will one day be an NHL force to reckon with. When he was potting pucks in the AHL like Chong pots "plants", I too was excited to hear we've finally called up the kid we primarily traded away Mike Richards for.
To say the result was a disappointment is an understatement.
For starters, Schenn's call-up forced Laviolette to switch up the line combinations. As Flyers fans, we're no stranger to this repetitive news break. But before the nameplates met new linemates, our Bullies were doing extremely well in the win column.
So Brayden fell under scrutiny and many believed it was his addition to the roster that messed up a good thing the Flyers had going chemistry-wise. From then on it only got worse for Schenn. No points scored, and a minus-5 rating in 4-games played.
On paper, Brayden's short tenure in a Flyers uniform looks to be that of a team's epidemic. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Could dressing him and re-introducing him to the lineup once more send this team in a mini spiral again?
I have no clue. But here's a better question -- Why even test it at all?
Just like before they called Brayden up from Glen Falls, the Flyers now have something great going for them. Coming off an absolute raping on Saturday that they handed the struggling Blue Jackets, this team's officially sitting at the top spot of Goals Scored in the entire league. But lit lamps aside, I wholeheartedly believe Zac Rinaldo adds a flavor to this team's kinship that proves to be game-changing influence.
Perhaps it'll depend on the club's performance during their three game road swing through Florida and then North Carolina.
Matt Read says he's ready to go. Chris Pronger's looking more likely to return to the ice Wednesday as well. So we'll see if this Armchair GM'ing of mine holds any water at all.