These two Flyers forwards are both coming off of career-threatening experiences, but seem to be regularly slated in the lineup and projected to contribute. The question remains if it is a reasonable projection.
What’s remarkable about Lindblom’s situation is that despite a rare form of bone cancer (Ewing’s Sarcoma) he seems to be ready just over a year after his diagnosis. He even played in the playoffs, but his ice time and spot on the 4th line reflected that the Flyers were relying on him to bring an emotional boost more than an actual hockey one.
Going into this season could be a different story. The Flyers goals leader last December when his diagnosis happened, Lindblom appears to have had ample recovery time and was recently declared officially cancer-free by his doctors. He also signed a 3 year, $9 million dollar deal in the offseason.
The outlook for Lindblom recovering as a scorer is actually pretty positive. If you take a quick look at some examples of NHLers who have beat cancer and their comebacks the sample is pretty positive. Saku Koivu played his 2nd and last full season after his cancer treatments, which also turned out to be his statistical best. Phil Kessell actually didn’t miss any time and neither did Jason Blake, and Brian Boyle only missed training camp due to his treatments. Olli Maatta (can anyone teach me how to make the umlaut with a regular keyboard?) had surgery on thyroid cancer but was only out for two weeks.
So Lindblom’s situation is a bit unique. Mario Lemieux excluded (he’s a Top 5 talent ever) it seems as though players can regain their form rather quickly. While Lindblom’s exact weight and how strong he is will remain to be seen, the contract he signed, his willingness to be back in the playoffs, and previous performances from the NHL’s cancer ass-kickers leave Lindblom’s outlook decidedly positive. Lindblom might not immediately return to his goal-scoring pace, but once he’s comfortable he should be a regular contributor and a source of emotional strength for the team.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…but we don’t really know what’s going on with Nolan Patrick. Since he was diagnosed with a migraine disorder last year his status has been a mystery and up for speculation. Speculation is what people have done for better or worse because there isn’t really much to go on. What we do know is that a decent portion of the Flyers young players are already coming back to the area to quarantine and get a jump on training around town. Training camp is expected to begin around January 3rd and according to coach Alain Vigneault, Patrick has been in town for a few weeks now, and training which is a good sign. Chuck Fletcher has echoed the statement. So has Travis Sanheim. What isn’t is that most of the other players in town have all shown up in reports, but Patrick did not. His undercover recovery continues to be a source of frustration.
To be clear, the Nolan Patrick situation being what it is has resulted from the Flyers handling of it. You could compare and contrast the Lindblom recovery process. It was open, heck it was documented and used as promotional material. Patrick’s has been a lot of “we’ll wait for the doctors” updates on if he’s feeling good or not feeling good. A lot of a “migraine disorder” (using quotes since I don’t know the technical terms) is subjective and comes down to simply how Patrick feels, but with neither him nor the Flyers establishing benchmarks in terms of what they are actually looking for, the wait for information creates a murky feeling of doubt and dread. Even in his latest presser, AV stated they are waiting on his January 3rd physical before making any decisions on if and when Patrick plays. Flyers fans haven’t been hanging onto the words “cleared for contact” this hard since the Lindros days.
Patrick was last seen skating with former Flyers forward Ryan White, who has been coaching and running hockey camps in Brandon, Manitoba. Whitey’s comments about Patrick have been glowing, but what is he supposed to say? Chuck Fletcher has stated he expects Patrick to contribute, sometime this season. Sam Carchidi tweeted that Patrick was skating without issue, and sleeping better. That’s great, but as to where his recovery is or his status with regards to contact remains unknown. How will he manage getting hit, the bright lights of an arena, travel, irregular sleep patterns, and all the stresses that comes with being an NHL player.
With just a one-year deal Patrick is in control of his destiny. A restricted free agent after this season, the more he plays the more likely the former 2nd overall pick is to get a raise. When he has suited up for the Flyers his talent is obvious. The fit however is not. A player with his question marks having to log hard minutes isn’t an ideal scenario. Currently slated as the 3rd line center, Patrick has another talented former 1st rounder in Morgan Frost breathing down his neck, as well as a versatile guy like Scott Laughton who can play center and has shown an offensive uptick. Plus there is the talk of Claude Giroux returning to the center position and moving down the lineup in an attempt to create matchup mismatches.
Let’s then factor in that this will be year 2 in the Alain Vigneault system. How much catchup will Nolan Patrick have to do? Can you throw him right into a 2nd power-play unit? With a projected 56 game season how patient can the Flyers afford to be? They face another decision on him that will impact their lineup for years to come next year. Hopefully, Patrick can quickly answer these questions and Patrick can go from a player with a cloudy future to one fulfilling his potential.
Right now, getting Patrick into at least 25-30 games seems like the Flyers’ ideal scenario, and he is comfortable enough to blossom in the playoffs.