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O.K., let’s get this out of the way right off the top – Morgan Frost scored a goal in his NHL debut last night during the Flyers 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.
Here it is; and it was a pretty goal by him, never mind the fact that the Florida Panthers defense left him all by his lonesome with time and space right to the side of the net:
DID IT JUST GET COLDER IN HERE? 🥶
In his NHL debut, Morgan Frost scores his first NHL goal! pic.twitter.com/nXBX2dau9P
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 20, 2019
Frost became the 23rd Flyer to score a goal in his NHL debut. Here are the other 22 just for your perusal. A wide array of players who became stars, players who never lived up to expectations and players who you might never have heard of before or will ever hear of again after reading this post:
- Jason Akeson 4/27/2013
- Harry Zolnierczyk 10/18/2011
- David Laliberte 10/31/2009
- Mike Richards 10/5/2005
- Justin Williams 10/5/2000
- Petr Hubacek 10/5/2000
- Colin Forbes 3/9/1997
- Dainius Zubrus 10/5/1996
- Andre Faust 1/17/1993
- Eric Lindros 10/6/1992
- Magnus Roupe 10/8/1987
- Pelle Eklund 10/10/1985
- Todd Bergen 1/8/1985
- Dave Poulin 4/2/1983
- Greg Adams 1/17/1981
- Don Gillen 1/27/1980
- Brian Propp 10/11/1979
- Al Hill 2/14/1977
- Drew Callander 2/7/1977
- Mel Bridgman 10/9/1975
- Dick Sarrazin 11/27/1968
- Andre Lacroix 2/21/1968
On the whole, Frost was impressive in his debut. The Flyers picked a good place for him to play that first game – a mostly empty arena in Sunrise, Fla. – and if you think I’m kidding, I’m not. Stuff like that is discussed. A more low key environment without the feeling of an intense spotlight (like on home ice, or in his hometown, or a visiting arena where there is a rambunctious fan base) is always considered a better spot for a rookie to debut.
Sometimes, teams have no choice. Sometimes they have to throw the rookie into the fire. But, if they have a chance to make the environment more relaxed for a kid making his debut, they will. Florida is always an ideal spot for that.
And Frost didn’t disappoint. He had a pretty solid game.
Yeah, he scored, and that excites everyone, but the reality is, that’s not what coaches care about the most. They want to see how players play in situations. Breakouts. First passes. Entering the offensive zone. Passes through the neutral zone. Work along the wall. Winning or losing 50/50 pucks. All of those things matter more than scoring a goal in a game.
Yes, you can’t win if you can’t score, but really, you can’t score unless you do all of those other things well.
And for a debut, Frost was very good.
Most of his passes were crisp and clean. Most of the time he had the puck on his stick, he made the right decisions. Most of the time he had the puck in his own end, he was able to make simple plays and get out of the zone.
In a vacuum, it was a very good first game for Frost, and he should be smiling after it:
Morgan Frost #Flyers
📸: Zack Hill pic.twitter.com/Pl3Ul0ln9L
— FlyersNittyGritty (@FlyersKnitty) November 20, 2019
I’ve been saying for a couple years now that the best move Ron Hextall made as Flyers GM was trading Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for two draft picks that turned out to be Frost and Joel Farabee.
Frost is going to be a really good player eventually. As is Farabee. We’ve seen glimpses of the good Farabee so far and obviously Frost’s debut is one to remember.
But it’s important to remember that there are going to be growing pains along the way, too.
Farabee wasn’t good when the Flyers lost to Washington last week, and he had another clunker against Florida Tuesday.
It’s going to happen.
And at some point, the bloom will temporarily come off of Frost’s rose too. Just like it has for Carter Hart at times (he was pulled again after allowing four goals on just 14 shots). Just like it has for Travis Sanheim (hey, he scored a goal last night too). Just like it has for Phil Myers. Just like it has for Travis Konecny in the past couple seasons, and just like it has for Ivan Provorov last season and Shayne Gostisbehere for, well, for multiple seasons now…
My point is this: Be happy for Morgan Frost. Let him grow into the game at the pace he needs to grow into it. Don’t ramp up the expectation level. Just let it be. He’ll be really good eventually. So will Farabee. So will all of the young Flyers.
But don’t grow sour, or start blaming other players when things go wrong – as they are right now as the team has lost four straight games – when in fact the reasons things aren’t going well might be because of issues with the very players you have raised the bar too high on too quickly.
As for the rest of the team against the Panthers:
The Flyers were woeful in their own end against Florida. Hart had a rough night. The defense looked shoddy from top to bottom. Provorov and Matt Niskanen, who have been really good for the Flyers, weren’t.
Myers, who got back into the lineup after a one-game benching, wasn’t great either, and took a dumb penalty (not that it hurt the Flyers as the penalty kill killed off all four minutes of it) but it didn’t help that he couldn’t stop himself from cross-checking Jonathan Huberdeau in the mouth when the team was trying to come from behind in the game:
— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) November 20, 2019
Shayne Gostisbehere wasn’t great playing in his hometown, and had only 14:33 of ice time, his lowest of the season, and sixth among the Flyers defensemen. By contrast, Provorov played 27:10. That should tell you the difference in confidence level the coaches have between these two guys right now, and that’s in a game where Provorov wasn’t even at his best.
Up front, I was curious to see how the Flyers third line of James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, and Jake Voracek would respond to this challenge from their coach Alain Vigneault:
Flyers have lost 3 straight.
Alain Vigneault challenging
Kevin Hayes, Jake Voracek, JVR
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) November 20, 2019
Well, Hayes snapped his 10-game point drought with a cheapie secondary assist on Sanheim’s goal, and he continues to play very well on the penalty kill.
But other than that, his game in the offensive end of the ice has been completely missing. Four goals through 21 games for a $7 million-plus player is unacceptable.
Ditto with the other guys. Voracek I’m willing to give a little more time. He’s not too far off his career points production pace and a quick little hot streak will get him right back there again, but when he isn’t scoring, his weaknesses are magnified, it’s hard to argue that.
Van Riemsdyk is starting to become a buried player in the lineup. He played just 12:56 against Florida and registered just one shot on goal. That’s the second time in the last five games he has been relegated to alternate shifts and finished with fewer than 13 minutes of ice time (the shootout win against Boston was the other). Again, he’s here and is being paid to put up points. He’s not doing that.
It was right around this time a year ago that I heard some rumblings about the Flyers thinking about trying to move his contract. Then, all the shit hit the fan and former GM Ron Hextall was fired, then coach Dave Hakstol was fired and then van Riemsdyk started scoring, and well, the notion of trading him didn’t come up again.
But I have to wonder if those whispers don’t start again soon.
The Flyers have now lost more games than they’ve won (10-7-4) but they are still clinging to the final playoff spot in the East thanks to two uber-talented teams playing woeful hockey (Toronto and Tampa) still being behind them.
But, it’s becoming more and more obvious that 5-on-5 defense is still the Achilles’ heel for this team. Sometimes Hart and Brian Elliott have been able to mask that with strong goaltending, but if they’re having a bit of an off night, then this defense likely isn’t good enough yet to really help the team win.