Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Trust Flyers’ process

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 7

Fisher column logo2Trust the process. That’s what we’ve been told repeatedly by the 76ers.

But the truth is I trust the Flyers’ process more than I trust what the Sixers have done.

The Flyers’ young players aren’t generating as much excitement as the young players of their co-tenants at Wells Fargo Center, but they might have brighter futures.

Part of the difference in excitement levels may be that there is a difference between basketball and hockey. The number of players on the court and ice are similar, but NBA stars are on the court for the majority of the game. They can influence the outcome of a game much more than a hockey player, aside from the notable exception of a goalie.

But another part of the difference is the system. Many NBA players jump right to the NBA after one year in college. Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz were all high draft picks after one year in college.

None of them played in an NCAA Tournament game. Not one. But they are being thrown to the wolves in the NBA.

By contrast, the Flyers’ young players have been molded through juniors and with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers American Hockey League affiliate. In fact, general manager Ron Hextall has been criticized for being too slow in bringing the Flyers’ young players to the NHL.

Fans were chomping at the bit to see defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a third-round draft pick in 2012. Injuries forced Hextall to bring him up earlier than anticipated. Gostisbehere, who had played just 21 games in the Flyers’ system (his first season with the Phantoms was cut short after five games by a torn ACL), made a tremendous initial impact, even inserting himself into the 2015-16 rookie of the year race. Gostisbehere, who had the benefit of playing three years at Union College, slipped during his second season with the Flyers, which could be validation of Hextall’s plan to slowly bring players to the NHL.

The trickle of young players has grown into a steady stream. Ivan Provorov, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, joined the team as a 19-year-old last season. Before the season reached its end, he was clearly the team’s best defenseman. Forward Travis Konecny, selected 24th overall in 2015, also joined the Flyers last season, scoring 11 goals and contributing 17 assists.

Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim joined the youthful defensive corps this season. Morin and Hagg were drafted in the first and second round, respectively, in the 2013 draft. Sanheim was selected 17th overall in the 2014 draft, Hextall’s first at the helm.

Unlike the Sixers’ young players, nobody is expecting the Flyers’ defensemen to be stars right away. The team is still relying upon more experienced players, such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.

The only player being thrown into the fire without much seasoning is center Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in this year’s draft. Unlike Fultz and Simmons, the top overall picks in the past two NBA drafts, the expectations for Patrick are relatively modest. If he scores 15-20 goals and plays a solid two-way game, the Flyers will be pleased that he made the team in training camp.

Warning: there may experience growing pains along the way. There will be nights this season when mistakes by the young defensemen cost them games. But the Flyers’ long-term success depends on the development of their young players.

The Sixers’ young players may make more of a splash, but the Flyers’ young players may be better prepared for long-term success.

The emphasis should be on long-term success. The Flyers might find lightning in a bottle this year and make the playoffs, but there shouldn’t be profound disappointment if they don’t make the postseason. Fans should be patient – as long as we see progress from the young players.

Trust the progress. It means that Hextall’s bring-them-along-slowly process is working.

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