Flyers Demote Bunnaman, Farabee to the Phantoms; Fletcher Updates on Lindblom, Patrick, Ghost
In physics and hockey, every action has a reaction. When the Flyers traded for Nate Thompson and Derek Grant prior to Monday afternoon's trade deadline, that meant two players were going to come out of the lineup. Which ones were very much up for debate. After all, just about every line has been firing on close to all cylinders lately. There were about four players in contention to fall out of the lineup, and a few hours after the deals were announced, we found out which players would be heading out.
Connor Bunnaman was an obvious choice. Though he's looked good centering Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the fourth line, Bunnaman doesn't bring a ton to the table. He doesn't kill penalties. He only has 2 points in 21 games (17 in this most recent stint). His analytics (47.85% Corsi, 50.01% xGF at 5-on-5) aren't amazing. He didn't need to clear waivers to be sent to the Phantoms. The fact that Bunnaman was able to contribute to the Flyers at all this year means he's ahead of schedule. He'll be back next year to solidify himself as a full-time NHL bottom-six forward.
But that still left one player who would need to come out. Veteran wingers Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick were healthy scratch candidates, but both have been playing well. Nicolas Aube-Kubel has also been playing well, and the 23-year old would need to clear waivers to be sent to the Phantoms.
Which left 2018 14th overall pick Joel Farabee as the odd-man out. It's the first time Farabee will play for the Phantoms since October. He had three goals and an assist in four games before being called up and appeared to never look back (he was sent down for a day in January for cap reasons).
Farabee appeared to be turning the corner on some of the expected rookie struggles about a month ago. From January 16 to February 1, Farabee had a five-game point streak, scoring four goals (including his first multi-goal game on Feb. 1 vs. Colorado) and two assists during that span. That stretch, which is about 12% of Farabee's season (49 NHL games) accounts for 30% of Farabee's total points in the NHL. Analytically, Farabee hasn't been great either (49.7% Corsi, 45.71% xGF at 5-on-5).
Still, it's frustrating for Flyers fans to see Farabee sent down. 20 points in 49 games for a 19-year old rookie is pretty impressive. Farabee has also killed penalties for the Flyers, and his excellent hockey IQ has been on display almost every night. But you could kind of see this move coming. Farabee had just two assists (both on Feb. 18 @ Columbus) in his last seven games. He was demoted to fourth line left wing during the third period of Saturday's game. It's hard to say this move came completely out of left field.
This demotion in no way means Farabee won't come back to the NHL at some point this season. In fact, I'd even go as far to say it's likely that Farabee comes back at some point. I don't think Nate Thompson is a better player than him - I can't see him playing in the Flyers lineup the entire season. The Flyers have done a great job at identifying players that can't hack it and demoting them without much hesitation (Vorobyev, Stewart, and Twarynski come to mind). Chuck hasn't failed us yet - he's earned a little trust. Teams almost never use the same 12 forwards for twenty straight games. Remember, Farabee only played 44 games last year between Boston University and World Juniors last year. If Farabee plays as well in the AHL in March as he did in October, he'll be back up in no time.
As for the second part of the headline, Chuck Fletcher held a press conference at 3 PM Monday to address the moves, as well as take some other questions. Two interesting tidbits before the big news - Fletcher said he had no interest in trading Shayne Gostisbehere, despite receiving calls on him from other GMs. I like that. There's not much logic in dealing Ghost when his value is at its lowest, unless it was for another defenseman who was a clear upgrade. Ghost was recalled from his rehab stint Sunday, so we'll see when he draws back into the lineup.
Fletcher also said he is still hopeful Nolan Patrick will return, which is better than the alternative, although time is starting to run out. Patrick would go on a six-day, three-game conditioning stint with the Phantoms prior to a potential NHL return. According to the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi, Fletcher said he hopes Patrick will in the "next couple weeks get to full contact in practices."
Now, for the best news in hockey Monday:
No, it's not the Farabee part, even if Chuck's comments support my analysis (more the other way around, but I digress). Obviously, it was great to see Oskar in the locker room Saturday, and there was an informal update on Lindblom during the season ticket holders town hall last week. But it's great to see a formal update from Fletcher on Oskar, especially one as positive as this. Oskar still has a long way to go, but it's great to see that the early results on his fight are positive. We are all always #OskarStrong.
*Thumbnail Photo from Yong Kim (Philadelphia Inquirer)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com