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After Years of Trade Rumours, Konecny Proving His Worth, Value, and Importance to Front Office and Company

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

Remember when Travis Konecny was almost traded in the summer of 2021? When general manager Chuck Fletcher approached him after the offseason and told Konecny that he could’ve made the trade if he wanted to but backed out because he believed in his player? Or how about when Fletcher dangled Konecny again as every Flyer was on the trading block and he wanted to see what he could get for his top players?

The only reason the trades never materialized was because the return was too low for the Flyers to justify a move like that, and thank god for that because it seems like John Tortorella has finally solved the equation in unlocking Konecny’s potential.

Drafted late in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Ron Hextall found a diamond in the rough so to speak as he moved a few spaces up to select the then-Ottawa 67’s forward. The Flyers traded the 29th overall selection and a late 2nd round pick to move up 5 slots – a pick they originally acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Braydon Coburn trade.

Konecny was always tenacious, feisty, and had a knack for scoring after posting 239 points in just 183 games. In 2015-16 alone, he scored 30 goals and 101 points in only 50 games as a member of both the Ottawa 67’s and Sarnia Sting. The draft class was loaded, which would partially explain why he was taken so low, but also many believed he was too small – a dinosaur theory that will never seem to escape the NHL.

Konecny ended up making his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season, scoring 11 times and adding 17 helpers in 70 games. He took a leap the following year when he scored 24 goals and 47 points, playing a key role in the top-6 and forming chemistry with many of the team’s top talents like Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He ended up scoring 24 goals in 3 consecutive seasons with his point totals increasing from 47 to 49 to 61 (in only 66 games) between 2017-18 and 2019-20. The COVID pause did him no favours as he exited the bubble with 0 goals and 7 assists in 16 games.

The 2020 Flyers from January to March were no more after they disappeared once they swept the round robin tournament. Konecny struggled mightily and his struggles leaked into the following 2 seasons with Alain Vigneault seemingly stunting his potential, growth, and game. Vigneault was a stickler for a responsible, 200-foot game, and if you made a mistake, he would let you know. He was not entirely fond of Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s penchant for minor penalties which eventually led to him being waived and quickly claimed by the Colorado Avalanche. The same treatment couldn’t be done with Konecny but something just didn’t seem right between player and coach.

Konecny didn’t look the same in the bubble, 2020-21, and a quarter of 2021-22. He wasn’t tenacious, he wasn’t feisty, he wasn’t in your face, and he just didn’t have that aggressive flair anymore. Vigneault zapped it out of him and he struggled to the tune of 27 goals across 145 games (including the playoff bubble). If we want to take Vigneault’s sample entirely, that would be 16 goals in his final 88 games. Mike Yeo took over as interim head coach and Konecny finished the 2021-22 season with 11 goals and 42 points in his final 57 games. Compare that to the 5 goals and 10 points in his first 22 games – with only 1 goal and 1 assist in his final 13 under Vigneault.

Another key highlight was that Konecny’s shooting percentage was completely off-base with his career numbers as he converted on a career-low 7.3% of his shots. His rookie year was 8.3% but then between 2017-18 and 2020-21 he converted at 13.8% of his chances with 13.6% in 2017-18, 13.2% in 2018-19, 17% in 2019-20, and 11% in 2020-21. He even fired a career-high 220 shots on goal last year but just didn’t have the puck luck as the Flyers crashed and burned to the bottom of the standings. Heading into this season, even with the two outliers, his career numbers stood at 11.5%, which meant that he was bound to improve and return to that form at some point.

The only possible caveat was going to be John Tortorella just based on his style and history. He’s a coach you either love or hate, but he has a good track record in unlocking and unleashing the potential of players he trusts. His reward system has been beneficial to many over his career and even in his early days with the Flyers. Konecny was benched early in the season against the San Jose Sharks on October 23rd for his lackadaisical effort alongside Kevin Hayes. He responded immediately and now sits atop the team leaderboard in goals and points. After their 4-1 victory against the Anaheim Ducks, Konecny has 19 goals and 37 points in 32 games.

Since being benched, he has 15 goals and 31 points in 26 games, which is a stretch where he has recorded a point in every game but 3, is currently riding a 7-game point streak where he has scored 7 goals and 12 points. He has averaged 22:09 over his past 14 games, he is averaging a career-high in ice time on the season with 20:33, and has played a key role on the penalty kill, not to mention his gaudy 18.4% conversion rate and the 103 shots on goal he currently has, which has him on pace for a career-high 251.

He has formed a deadly duo with Scott Laughton which has helped the Flyers pace the league with 7 shorthanded goals – as Konecny has 2 goals and 2 assists while shorthanded. He averages the third most ice time shorthanded (2:16 per game) behind only Laughton (2:36) and Ivan Provorov (3:04). His CF% Rel is the highest on the team by anyone who averages more than 40 seconds of penalty killing time a game at 6.5 ahead of players like Travis Sanheim’s 3.1, Laughton’s 2.0, and Tony DeAngelo’s 1.0.

While he is doing all that while down a man, he is third on the team in ATOI on the power play (3:09), behind only DeAngelo (3:36) and Hayes (3:11). His CF% Rel is once again the highest (8.8) by any Flyer that averages more than 40 seconds of power play time per game (Allison 20.6 in 0:42). Other key power play contributors: Tony DeAngelo sits at 5.0, James van Riemsdyk (3.5), Kevin Hayes (3.3), Morgan Frost (1.7), and Owen Tippett (1.6).

And while he’s doing that on special teams units, he is near the top while playing even strength hockey as well. His CF% Rel (3.9) is only behind James van Riemsdyk (7.0), Egor Zamula (5.9), and Kevin Hayes (4.7). His GF/60 is third-highest (3.4) only behind Cam York (3.9) and van Riemsdyk at the top again (5.1)

He is playing lights out on a nightly basis, is being relied upon heavily with key minutes, is an every-situation player, and has earned the respect, admiration, and trust from his fiery head coach. Konecny is the heartbeat of this offence now, which isn’t all too surprising considering he has led the team in points in 2 of the last 3 seasons. He had a tough run after all the COVID interruptions and it seemed like he was on the way out of Philadelphia with a trigger-happy Fletcher running the show. He was rumoured to being on the trading block for over 2 seasons but thankfully the Flyers never accepted any trades presented to them.

He is worth every bit of the $5.5 million that is affecting the salary cap and with 2 more years left on his contract after this season, he remains a focal point of the team moving forward. The soon-to-be 26-year-old just needed the right coach to get him out of his funk, and quite honestly we have Mike Yeo to thank for that.

Now that Tortorella has latched onto him, the sky is the limit and he is well on his way to smashing his previous career-highs, especially the goal plateau of 24 that he hit in 3 consecutive seasons. With 19 goals now on the season – in only 32 games – look for that 25th goal to be coming with plenty of games left on the docket.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

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