Andrew MacDonald Out 6 Weeks with Lower Body Injury
Now there's the injury news we were looking for!
Sorry, sorry, way to insensitive, I know.
Ron Hextall dropped a bomb on Sunday morning, announcing defenseman Andrew MacDonald will be out for the next 6 weeks.
MacDonald has been one of the most maligned Flyers in recent memory. It's not necessarily his fault - you can't blame MacDonald for accepting the 6 year, $30 million extension Paul Holmgren offered him after he was aquired for the Flyers 2014 Playoff push to help the thin Flyers defensive corps.
However, MacDonald's poor play over recent years, culminating with a demotion to the AHL for the majority of the 2015-16 season, has made his deal an albatross. The stuborness of coach Dave Hakstol to keep him in a top-4 role for the majority of the last 2 seasons has only given fans more evidence for their rage.
MacDonald did have a bit of a bounce back season last year - he scored a career-high 6 goals (adding 2 in the playoffs) and thrived on a pairing late in the season alongside Travis Sanheim. Furthermore, the uninspiring play of fellow overpaid veterans Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera directed some of the hate away from MacDonald.
Unfortunately, MacDonald appears to be trusted by both the coaching staff and his teammates (he wore an A in road games last season), so Flyers fans hoping that he would move aside when young players became ready didn't seem likely to get their wish.
This injury is a golden ticket for Phil Myers to claim a spot on the Flyers defensive out of training camp. Myers is by far the best Flyers defensive prospect, projected as at least a top-4 defenseman that can both move the puck and hold his own defensively. Injuries have slowed him down both in junior and in his first AHL campaign last year, but the skill is certaintly there. The only option other than calling up Myers would be to use Christian Folin as a regular defenseman, leaving the Flyers without a spare to begin the season, which is not ideal.
The injury also solidifies a spot for Travis Sanheim. He was pretty much a lock, as he spent the majority of last season in the AHL and posted impressive underlying metrics despite being a -6. Plus/minus may not be a great stat for evaluating players, but here it serves to show how unlucky Sanheim was last season. The fact that he spent time in the AHL in January (where he dominated) at least made it possible that he could start there with a poor camp, but again, that would mean playing Myers and Folin above him, which is doubtful at best.
The 6-week time frame would put MacDonald on pace to return for the Flyers game versus the Avalanche on October 22nd, their 9th game of the season. Depending on how well Myers and Sanheim play (both are waiver-exempt), MacDonald could return to his original top-4 role, or see his minutes reduced. In MacDonald's absence, fans could see what most view as the ideal defensive lineup, which could look something like:
One of the most frusturaing things about Dave Hakstol was his constant failure to optomize the Flyers lines with the personnel he was given. MacDonald's injury may change that to start the season - whether it stays that way or not will depend largely on the play of the Flyers young kids.