Making Due; Flyers Injuries Affect Titans
For fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, the beginning of the 2011-12 season has been bittersweet.
Coming into the year, many questioned whether the team was capable of producing enough offense to win games. There were also doubts about whether the team was going to be able to compete in the Eastern Conference.
To this point, those questions have been answered to the fans' delight.
Through 29 games, the team sits atop the Eastern Conference and holds a two-point lead over their closest competitor. They also lead the league in ‘goals for’ with a total of 106.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to see the team excelling at such a high level. Largely due to the stellar play of Claude Giroux and a laundry list of young players, the young guns movement in Philadelphia has been in full swing for the majority of the season.
Unfortunately, some of those young players have gotten their opportunities because of circumstance more so than ability.
The Flyers are currently in the midst of one of the most aggressive injury bugs in recent memory. It’s a bug that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
While it’s easy to see the effects that the injuries have had on the big club, the ripple effect throughout the organization often goes overlooked.
Unless the team goes outside the organization to sign a free agent, the club is forced to pull players up from their minor-league systems.
The Flyers have had to do this several times, dressing a total of six players who have also worn a minor league sweater at some point this season.
The team's system is constructed of three teams; the Flyers in the NHL, the Adirondack Phantoms in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Trenton Titans of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
When the Flyers need a player, they call someone up from the Phantoms. When the Phantoms need a player, they call someone up from the Titans. When the Titans need a player, well, they make due.
“It’s what this league is all about,” Titans captain Randy Rowe said. “You get injuries and call-ups. You just got to get used to it…it’s going to happen throughout the season. We got to expect that.”
However, the Flyers system isn't the the only system taking players off the Titans roster.
The Titans are affiliated with the Flyers but they also have players on their team that are contracted with other NHL clubs. The ECHL acts as a feeder system for the AHL, so when an AHL team has too many players on its roster, they will loan the excess players to the ECHL. When an AHL team needs players, they take them from the ECHL.
At this moment, the Titans have five players on loan to teams in the AHL.
One of those players, Andy Thomas, is property of the Flyers. He is currently playing with the Phantoms filling the void left by Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, all of whom have been called up by the Flyers.
The team is consistently changing due to roster moves, which makes it difficult for the players to develop chemistry with one another.
Not to mention that the team has injuries of their own to deal with.
“I think the call ups and the injuries hurt us,” Titans goaltender Dave Caruso said. “But it also makes guys who were not playing as much play a little bit more.”
The ECHL is a developmental league. The players are there to gain experience at the professional level in order to try and work their way up the ranks. For players like Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk, all they needed was an opportunity to prove their value at the NHL level.
The same holds true for players at the ECHL level.
Consistently changing lineups may be frustrating, but it also affords players an opportunity to showcase their abilities.
While the league may be focused on development, do not confuse that with a lack of competition. It is a zero-sum game where teams are expected to produce players that are able to move up the system but at the same time, are expected to win at any cost, no matter who is in the lineup.
Titans head coach Vince Williams is well aware of the expectations.
“Every team’s lineup changes every day,” he said. “There’s call-ups and injuries so you got to be prepared to play no matter [what].”