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The Recent Handling of Morgan Frost Has Been Mystifying

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

If we’re going by John Tortorella’s philosophy from last season, you can make the argument that Morgan Frost should have been made a healthy scratch the first time. He was not noticeable, he was rather lackadaisical, and Tortorella had a lot more options at his disposal compared to last season. The Philadelphia Flyers scratched him after the 2nd game and as we have passed the quarter-mark of the season, Frost has been scratched 10 times. 

After defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets to open the season, the Flyers threw up a dud the following game in Ottawa, which prompted Tortorella to make a change. Frost went pointless, was a minus-1, had 2 shots on goal, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot, and averaged 13:58 TOI. He would sit the following 6 games where the Flyers went 3-2-1 but his reentry followed a disappointing 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Frost would play the next 4 games against Carolina, Buffalo twice, and Los Angeles, once again going pointless but playing a lot more responsible hockey. He averaged 16:26 TOI, was a plus-2, fired 6 shots, and recorded 5 hits with 1 blocked shot. The Flyers went 1-3-0 in that stretch but wound up sitting Frost against the then-winless San Jose Sharks.

After an embarrassing defeat, Frost reentered the lineup for the next 4 games, all of which were victories against Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina, and Vegas. Frost recorded an assist against Anaheim, 2 goals against Los Angeles, and an assist against Carolina before a goose-egg against Vegas. He only averaged 13:22 TOI, which was yet another indication that he was the odd man out.

Frost returned back to the press box for the following three games against Columbus and both New York clubs, where the Flyers went 1-2-0 and created chances but could not finish, especially on the power play. For the 4th time in the season, Frost would come back into the lineup and played 16:42 in their shootout victory against the Islanders in their most recent game.

On the season, Frost has 2 goals and 4 points in 11 games, while averaging 14:54 TOI, is a plus-4, and has won 42.2% of his draws. Analytically speaking, his CF% is 4.2% higher than 2022-23 (55.6 vs 51.4), his CF% rel is 2.2 points higher than last season (8.2 vs 6.), his FF% is 6.2% higher (58.6 vs 52), FF% rel is 5.6 points higher (11.2 vs 5.6), and his PDO is 4 points higher (102.5 vs 98.5).

The improvements can be seen on even strength as well with his CF% 2.7 points higher (50.6 vs 49.2), his CF% rel is 1.8 higher (2.3 to 0.5), his FF% is 4.7 higher (53.9vs 49.2), and his FF% rel is 4.8 higher (5.4 vs 0.6). Granted, this is a comparison of 11 games in 2023-24 to 81 games in 2022-23 but it is still a substantial difference in his game – something Tortorella has been asking for.

After the first instance, let alone the first few games that Frost was made a healthy scratch it started to get a little mystifying as to why he was being kept on the pine compared to several other Flyers who had been struggling just as much or more. Bobby Brink has been scratched for 5 games, Tyson Foerster sat once in the early parts of the season, Ryan Poehling has missed 3 games, while struggling forwards in Noah Cates, Scott Laughton, and Nicolas Deslauriers have not received the same treatment.

You can definitely play devil’s advocate and understand some of the reasons behind his decisions. Cates, Laughton, and Poehling are exactly the types of players he’s looking for because of their 2-way abilities, their defensive acumen, their ability to win face-offs, and penalty killing. However, the Flyers have had issues with scoring and especially with their shoddy power play. We all know Frost has more offensive prowess than some of the aforementioned players, so if they’re struggling just as much, why has Frost carried the burden?

Scott Laughton

CF%: 45.4%
CF% rel: -7.7
FF%: 47.3
FF% rel: -7.4
PDO: 99.9

21 games, 1 goal, 9 assists, 14:56 TOI

Noah Cates

CF%: 46.3%
CF% rel: -6.3
FF%: 49
FF% rel: -4.9
PDO: 94.2

21 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 14:25 TOI

Nicolas Deslauriers

CF%: 45.0%
CF% rel: -7.2
FF%: 48.4
FF% rel: -5.1
PDO: 94.0

21 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, 9:10 TOI

Ryan Poehling

CF%: 41.9%
CF% rel: -11.4
FF%: 44.4
FF% rel: -.9.9
PDO: 96.5

18 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 12:45 TOI

Morgan Frost

CF%: 50.6%
CF% rel: 2.3
FF%: 53.9
FF% rel: 5.4
PDO: 104.9

11 games, 2 goals, 2 assists, 14:54 TOI

If you frequent and look at all their different categories related to analytics, Frost is comfortably implanted in the 8-10 range in almost all categories. Nothing to exactly write home about but he’s definitely above average, is doing better than most of his teammates and some of his counterparts, and he provides a whole different skill set than a lot of the bottom-6 players who continue to play in front of him.

The Flyers are 11-9-1 and playing a better brand of hockey than most people gave them credit for during the offseason. They are firing shots at will, they are creating scoring chances on the double, but lack the finishing ability that most top-end teams possess, which is what makes all of this that much more frustrating.

A lot of people didn’t expect them to be this good to start the season, they’ve had stretches of hockey where they look almost unstoppable and downright dominant, they held the New York Rangers to just 19 shots on Black Friday but met a brick wall in Igor Shesterkin. The same could be said about their two games against Ilya Sorokin and the Islanders. A few bounces go their way, a few more power play goals scored, and this team is looking at a record of 13-7-1 or 14-6-1 instead of 11-9-1.

Laughton, Poehling, and Cates provide the same intangibles, which is why at times it seems irresponsible to have all 3 in the lineup when you’re directly looking for offense and have been forthright about that position. Deslauriers is a fun player to have in the lineup as well but when you already carry Garnet Hathaway, it doesn’t seem like you need to have both.

You could easily line up with the following sets when healthy and still have a good mix of offensive weapons, defensive players, and 2-way utility guys:

Tyson Foerster – Sean CouturierTravis Konecny

Owen Tippett – Morgan Frost – Cam Atkinson

Bobby Brink – Noah Cates – Joel Farabee

Scott Laughton – Ryan Poehling – Garnet Hathaway

It remains to be seen if Frost will stick around for their upcoming set of games next week against the Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh Penguins, especially now that Cates is out long-term with a lower-body injury, but he deserves a longer look and a longer leash than he’s been afforded with to start the season. Frost hasn’t played as advertised, especially after his great finish to the 2022-23 season, but he also hasn’t been that bad to deserve 10 press box visits in the first 21 games.

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