Sometimes NHL coaches make moves that are almost impossible to defend on-paper, but serve a larger strategy. Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault provided a big example of that in making Travis Konecny a healthy scratch on Saturday.
Again, from a sheer hockey perspective, it’s a bad decision to healthy scratch Travis Konecny. Apologies, but that’s especially true when it means swapping out Konecny for Samuel Morin.
But what about “sending a message?” Your mileage will vary.
Flyers’ Vigneault boldly makes Konecny a healthy scratch
In Alain Vigneault’s eyes, making Konecny a healthy scratch is a wake-up call — to the player, and maybe to the Flyers as a whole.
Calls him one of their best three forwards, and he's doing some things right, but that 5v5 play isn't where it needs to be as a team, and TK's 5v5 play needs to be better. Had a convo with him this morning about it.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) January 30, 2021
In assessing this move, it’s crucial to peel back the layers. In doing so … it’s still a debatable decision.
If you take too much of a bird’s-eye view, it may look especially absurd. For a team dealing with Sean Couturier‘s absence, it sounds downright silly to healthy scratch Konecny. The 23-year-old has eight points in as many games so far this season.
When you break things down, it’s clearer that things aren’t going that well for him. Consider that, in the past three games, Konecny only has an assist and registered just a single shot on goal.
Criticizing his even-strength play is fair, too, as he’s been brutal by plenty of metrics.
Considering the grinding style of play of the Islanders, you might want an all-hands-on-deck mentality.
Far from the only problem
Even so, it feels a bit unfair to single out Konecny with this healthy scratch. At times this season, the Flyers have struggled as a team at even-strength. They’re probably lucky to sport a respectable 5-2-1 record.
At the moment, the Flyers are a team that’s losing the shot volume game, while aiming to win the high-danger chance battles.
That’s fine — if not exactly exhilarating to watch — but it’s a style that might expose certain skill players. As much as this might “wake up” Konecny, it could also create a disconnect between player and coach. And it makes it less likely that the Flyers would be able to “outscore their problems.”
In other words, it’s a risk. We’ll see if it pays off. It might even come down to how you view things. If there’s a turnaround, will it be because of this move, or maybe even in spite of it? We’ll see.