The Flyers of 2021-2022 were not just bad because they won a total of 26 games. Bad implies bad luck, bad on-ice performance, and bad coaching. The Flyers had all three, but bad does not do enough to describe their woes. They could more aptly be called hopeless. GM Chuck Fletcher loaded the roster with second-liners and top-four defensemen to protect the Flyers’ status as an NHL pretender at no small cost of cap space and draft capital. When that plan spectacularly went up in smoke, as did Fletcher’s courtship of Johnny Gaudreau, Philadelphia hockey fans were left with a roster of overpriced clutter and misfit toys. Never has a team so needed a youth movement, yet on Wednesday among the players released to the AHL Phantoms were top prospects Cam York and Tyson Foerster. York is a name most Flyers fans will be familiar with, but the Foerster decision is the true puzzler from the 10-man cut.
York has gotten ample playing time in the pro ranks, including 30 NHL games last season. York should be acclimated to the size and speed of pro hockey by now; his cut means more than anything that John Tortorella does not trust his blueline instincts, a problem that the 21-year-old can work on as he gets major minutes with the Phantoms. Foerster, on the other hand, has tools that would translate to the big team from day one.
Foerster is over 6 feet tall and 200 lbs, can drive the net explosively, and has what longtime Flyers’ beat man Sam Carchidi calls “perhaps the organization’s hardest shot.” In short, he is the sort of power forward that the Flyers need to keep up with a Metropolitan Division that has reliably been bigger and stronger than them over the past several seasons.
Foerster is not exactly an unknown quantity, either. The right-handed shot followed up a 36-goal, 80-point season with Barrie in the OHL by notching 10 goals in 24 games with the Phantoms two seasons ago. Foerster managed just 9 AHL games thanks to a shoulder injury last year, but with 33 pro games and this preseason under his belt, should by now be used to the physicality of the pro ranks. Why, then, should Tortorella and co. allow him to languish on an underperforming AHL squad?
The alternative net-front options for the Flyers are simply not upgrades on the prospect. Wade Allison, though meaner and a bit less gifted, is a very similar player to Foerster. Allison, who is nearly five years Foerster’s senior, should be a teammate for the big winger, not a roadblock. James van Riemsdyk is an expensive underperformer. At this point, “JVR” is nothing more than a reliable (and unspectacular) 45-50 point scorer. In short, the Flyers gain nothing in the present from delaying a future with Foerster as a go-to on the powerplay.
The failure of the mercifully-brief Mike Yeo era was not the on-ice end product. Sure, that was horrifying, but it was dwarfed by the even-worse misuse of potentially useful players. Instead of jump-starting the production of one-time valued prospects like Morgan Frost and Oskar Lindblom by coupling them with the team’s few trustworthy pros, Yeo played them together, hampering their already stunted growth. If Tortorella means to break that trend during his reign over the Flyers, a blue-chipper like Foerster should be showing what he can do alongside Cam Atkinson and Kevin Hayes, not shuffling his feet in the minors.
Photo: Tyger Williams/Inquirer