Much was made of the numerous offseason moves that were made to try to give the Flyers a new identity after missing the playoffs last year.
And maybe the jury is still out on perhaps the biggest move that sent Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers out of Philadelphia in exchange for veteran defenseman Ryan Ellis, who has played in just four games so far this season.
But one move Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher has to be feeling really good about is the acquisition of Cam Atkinson from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers knew they were getting a proven goal scorer, and so far Atkinson has delivered with 12 goals in his first 29 games. That might not seem like an incredible number, but it’s about a 34-goal pace and it leads the Flyers through the first third of the season. He’s a middle-six forward with 20 points and is on pace for roughly 55 points.
The Flyers gave up Jakub Voracek in that trade and Voracek, to his credit, is giving the Blue Jackets exactly what they expected — a player who can drive play from the wing and be a set-up man on the power play. Voracek, through his first 28 games, has one goal and 21 assists.
You could say it’s one of those trades that have been good for both organizations, although both teams appear to be destined for missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
But if the Flyers had the chance to do it all again, they probably would.
Atkinson and Voracek are the same age (32) but Voracek broke into the league three years earlier. He’s quickly approaching his 1,000th career game, sitting just four games shy after the weekend. Atkinson has played just 655 career games, giving him a little more tread on the proverbial tires. Atkinson is also a valuable penalty killer and a threat to score while a man down.
And for a three-year window starting this season, the Flyers are saving more than $2 million on their payroll after the swap. This was largely instrumental as the Flyers appeared to be in their “go-for-it” window with Carter Hart locked in at under $4 million for that same time span.
Voracek is due to make $8.25 million for the next two years after this one, while Atkinson has three more years remaining at $5.875 million per year.
It’s not the type of franchise-altering trade like acquiring John LeClair and Eric Desjardins to build around an elite center in Eric Lindros, but sometimes credit is due for the smaller trades that seem to work out. So far, Atkinson has been a good one.
Russian Machine Never Breaks
All eyes have been on Keith Yandle as he approaches the NHL’s iron man streak for consecutive games played owned by Doug Jarvis at 964 games. Yandle was just 14 away after the weekend, meaning Yandle should hit the mark by late January, barring any postponements or cancelations.
But Ivan Provorov is working on an impressive streak of his own. On Saturday against Ottawa, Provorov played in his 400th career NHL game and has yet to miss one. According to league stats, Provorov is just the eighth player in NHL history to play his first 400 games without missing one and is the first defenseman to do so.
Currently, Provorov has the fourth-longest active games played streak in the league behind only Yandle (950), Phil Kessel (929) and Brent Burns (627).
Through the weekend, the Flyers were 10-2-3 when scoring the first goal of the game. On the flip side, they were just 2-10-2 when allowing the first goal.
There’s also a rather large contrast when it comes to conference play. The Flyers have fared well against the Western Conference this year, going 7-3-1. Against the East, however, they have won just five of 18 contests, going 5-9-4. Two Eastern Conference teams the Flyers will not have to worry about the rest of the way are the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers went a combined 1-4-1 against those two teams this season and were outscored by a 23-12 margin. And that includes the Flyers’ lone win, a 6-1 victory over the Devils. They were outscored 22-6 in the other five games.