3 Flyers thoughts: Nolan Patrick, Phantoms' head coaching candidates, more

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There's time on Patrick, the Phantoms' gig, more in 3 Flyers thoughts originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, the Flyers' offseason of looming questions goes onward.

Despite there being no playoff hockey in Philadelphia, there never seems to be a dull day.

Let's get into our latest three Flyers thoughts.

1. Further patience with Patrick

Nolan Patrick didn't sugarcoat the meaning of this summer.

"It'll be the most important offseason of my life, for sure," Patrick said last week at his end-of-the-season press conference. "The last couple of years were tough, so I'm looking forward to having a healthy summer of training.

"Train, be able to do everything, it's exciting. It's been a long time."

General manager Chuck Fletcher mentioned the positive fact of Patrick being able to get through the season from a physical standpoint. After not playing an NHL game in over 650 days as he recovered from a migraine disorder, Patrick played in 52 of the Flyers' 56 games this season. The significance of that shouldn't be forgotten.

But Patrick's effectiveness on the ice fell short. The 22-year-old center finished with nine points (four goals, five assists) and a minus-30 rating. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson finished with more points (10) over 24 games before he was dealt to the Canadiens at the April 12 trade deadline, so there's no denying the disappointment in Patrick's production. The 2017 second overall pick admitted frustration with how his season transpired, that offensive production did weigh on his mind, coupled with the other mental and physical challenges of returning from his injury.

Fletcher said Patrick wasn't cleared to play until just before January's six-day training camp started. Last offseason, Patrick was able to participate in daily scrimmages in Brandon, Manitoba, but going full steam ahead is another thing.

"It was really hard, I feel like I came in behind the 8-ball," Patrick said of this season. "I was struggling to find my game and clearly didn't adjust great and get back to the top of my game quick. And it showed."

Many deemed this season the prove-it year for Patrick, but that should truly come in 2021-22. He'll have what should be a normal summer and regular season. He's a restricted free agent this offseason, which features an NHL expansion draft.

So there are decisions ahead and the future is uncertain, but NHL teams don't give up very easily on young talent. It just doesn't happen often and for good reasons. Many have urged patience with Carter Hart and his delicate age of 22. There will be continued patience with the 22-year-old Patrick.

There was a sense of hopefulness around Patrick's 2020-21 season. Now, there's more of an expectation for Patrick to perform in 2021-22. We'll see where the offseason and regular season take it, but neither side is jumping ship just yet.

"I'm a huge fan of Patty," Claude Giroux said last week. "He's got the all the skill set, big body, he competes every night. That's a guy you want to go to battle with. For me personally with Patty, I'm very excited to see him play and come to camp next year."

2. The Phantom of the bench

With the Flyers and Scott Gordon mutually agreeing to part ways Tuesday, the organization is seeking a new bench boss at its AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. Tony Androckitis of InsideAHLHockey.com reported that Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere is the lead candidate to be the Phantoms' next head coach.

Laperriere, 47, has been known to be a good buffer between the players and head coach/management, going back to 2012 when he first started working in the Flyers' player development. He relates well with the players and works well with those above him, which makes him a quality candidate. There's a reason why he has stayed in the organization through a regime change.

A guess at another candidate:

John Torchetti, who worked in the Wild organization under Fletcher and Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr when the two were in Minnesota. Torchetti, 56, coached the Wild's AHL affiliate and also took Fletcher's 2015-16 Minnesota team to the playoffs in 27 games of interim duties. Torchetti gave the Flyers a tip on their 2020 fifth-round pick Elliot Desnoyers.

And perhaps the Flyers would consider promoting Nick Schultz in some capacity. The 38-year-old is a Flyers player development coach and well-respected.

3. Weirdly watching the playoffs

For only the second time in his 11-year NHL career, Justin Braun is not competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Braun has played in 100 career playoff games between his time with the Sharks and Flyers.

The 34-year-old was one of the Flyers' steadiest defensemen throughout 2020-21, a season in which the club struggled mightily to prevent goals, giving up a staggering NHL-worst 3.52 per game.

This is a big offseason and season ahead for Braun. He could be snagged by the Kraken in the expansion draft. In 2021-22, he'll be on an expiring contract after re-signing with the Flyers last October for two years.

Braun has been a key guy to the Flyers' goal-prevention efforts. It'll be interesting to see if he gets another playoff run with the Flyers. In the club's regular-season finale last week, Braun suffered a fracture to his left foot when he blocked a shot in the first period. He said the recovery should be a standard four weeks.

"Brauner has a certain skill set and he maximizes that skill set," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said after the finale. "Plays the right way, does a lot of little things that might go unnoticed to the usual fan, but in the game and the way players analyze it, and coaching staff and management analyze it, there are so many subtle, right things that he does all the time. That's why he's respected by his peers and the coaching staff."

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