Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers elected to stand pat on trade deadline day, aside from a waiver claim of defenseman Johnny Oduya, but their biggest move came a week prior. Trading for Petr Mrazek has gotten mixed results after a strong start, but there was another player added to the roster that same night that has made an impact, and will continue to make an impact for the rest of the season and years to come.
Oskar Lindblom came over from Sweden after last season and by all accounts was ready for professional hockey in North America. A roster spot wasn’t open in the Flyers’ top-nine to start the season, however, which gave Lindblom some time in the AHL to get used to the style of play as well as just living in America in general.
In terms of points, Lindblom didn’t have a great start to the year, nor has he with the Flyers, but raw point totals aren’t an accurate assessment of his game. Lindblom plays a fantastic two-way game and is always doing the little things right to help his line push play forward and ultimately help his team win hockey games.
With Wayne Simmonds out for a few weeks due to an upper-body injury, Hextall elected to call up the winger from Sweden. Lindblom had been playing well in the AHL all season long, and had become especially acclimated to the North American style of play over the previous month or so. He was waiting for a shot and the door cracked open with Simmonds’ injury. Lindblom has come through that door and made it an open-and-shut case to keep him in the NHL.
Yes, it took an injury to get Lindblom called up, but it was assumed that he would need a few months in the AHL to get ready for the grind of the NHL schedule. He made great use of those months and made sure that he would get the call to play over a veteran like Matt Read or Colin McDonald. The Flyers could’ve played it safe and just reinserted Taylor Leier, Dale Weise or another bottom-six grinder into the mix to tread water until Simmonds’ return, but they saw the progress that Lindblom had made and it has paid off.
“We’re not going to do something now that gives us a little better shot, maybe a 2% better shot this year, that’s going to hurt us down the road,” Hextall said after the deadline last Monday. “We have a lot of good young players and we get asked about them fairly often.”
Lindblom is likely one of those players.
“We’re not gonna make a deal that makes us a little bit better right now where we give up two young assets, a good young player, a draft pick,” he said.
Hextall also singled out Lindblom as a benchmark for a potential trade target.
“For us to get a player that is a couple percent better than maybe Oskar, at 30-some years old, and give up a couple of assets, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.
“I believe in our team. Oskar Lindblom has been a good player for us, we got [Wayne Simmonds] coming back, we brought [Petr Mrazek] in, we got [Johnny Oduya]. We made a couple small moves and we think we’re a better team right now.”
Hextall knew that the Flyers are in a good spot, and didn’t want to sacrifice anything of value for a slight upgrade this season. Instead, he has put some faith in Lindblom, and Oskar has responded.
Lindblom has impressed in his seven games in orange and black. He initially started on the third line, but after just five periods of hockey he was promoted to the second line with fellow rookie Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek, and he hasn’t looked back since. Even with Simmonds returning from injury, Lindblom is staying on the second line for the time being. That could change if the Flyers continue to struggle, but for now he is being rewarded for his strong play.
There has been an influx of youth onto the Flyers roster over the past few years from Shayne Gostisbehere to Travis Konecny to Nolan Patrick, and Lindblom brings his own dynamic to the team. While Gostisbehere and Konecny were demoted at times due to their lackluster defensive play, Lindblom hasn’t seen that and it would be shocking if he does see that. Lindblom is a very defensively sound player and a forward that can contribute offensively while also doing his job defensively will see a lot more consistent playing time.
Lindblom’s call-up, and the fact that he is staying up, combined with Simmonds’ return gives the Flyers great depth at the forward position. They now have four lines that vary from fantastic to good. Not one of the four lines has a huge hole.
The top-six remains the same as it has been over the past handful of games, while the bottom-six gets a huge boost. Simmonds, a forward that is talented enough to play in the top-six and even on the top line, will be a crucial part of the team’s third line instead. He and Jordan Weal will flank Valtteri Filppula in the middle. The line found success together late last season and they hope they can replicate it now. Weal has disappointed overall, and Filppula has declined over the past few months, but the trio should be a solid third line, which is all they need to be.
This moves Michael Raffl, a forward that can also play in the top-six, down to the fourth line alongside Scott Laughton and Jori Lehtera. Raffl and Laughton have been great this season in checking roles and there is no reason to think that won’t continue here. The inclusion of Lehtera instead of Leier or Read rubs some people the wrong way, but Lehtera is a decent fourth-liner that doesn’t make huge mistakes. He’s not going to break a game open with his speed or flash, but he’s a serviceable 12th forward.
Lindblom and Simmonds will also now play key roles on the power play. Simmonds will return to the top unit, dropping Patrick back down to the second unit. The second power-play unit has been awful this season, but now it looks pretty good on paper. Patrick, Lindblom, Konecny, Weal, and Ivan Provorov will make up the unit, which should be able to produce some chances and hopefully some goals.
But back to Lindblom.
He didn’t make the team out of camp, and he hasn’t found the scoresheet yet, but he has become a key piece to the Flyers this season. He has made little impacts here and there so far, and will have an even bigger impact as he continues to play well and eventually find the scoresheet. He is undoubtedly a key piece to their future puzzle as well as a middle-six forward.
The Flyers got a key trade deadline acquisition, and all they had to give up was a few months of patience. Lindblom gives the Flyers a middle-six forward that greatly benefits their depth and there’s no risk of him declining or walking after the season is over.
Photo by Fourth String/Sons of Penn
Sons of Penn Radio
Make sure you rate and subscribe to SOP Radio on iTunes or follow on SoundCloud!
Be sure to follow Ryan Gilbert and Sons of Penn on Twitter and Facebook for analysis, insight, GIFs and more regarding your Philadelphia Flyers.
Join us on our Facebook pages to connect with us and continue the discussion. We can be found at Sons of Penn and The Orange Update. Until next time, friends.