Chuck Fletcher said it with almost a desperate laugh.
The Flyers’ general manager is facing a daunting offseason in which he has to look for answers at just about every turn.
Boy, would he love an answer to break his way from in-house.
“Cam York, to me, is a young man that’s going to have a very bright future in this league, precisely because the attributes he are brings exactly what we need,” Fletcher said at his end-of-the-season press conference May 3. “In terms of the ability to go back, get the puck, skate it if it needs to be skated, make the quick first pass. If that’s not there, find the second option. He has all those abilities and not every defenseman does. We do have some candidates on defense that can make our defense a lot better.”
As they’ve missed the playoffs the last two seasons, the Flyers have surrendered 3.56 goals per game, tied for the worst in the NHL. Following the Flyers’ 25-46-11 season this year, Fletcher lamented his club’s struggles exiting the defensive zone.
“We were defending all the time and that’s something we have to look at,” Fletcher said. “We weren’t exiting D-zone well enough. So there are certainly things we have to look at in terms of our structure, our details. We didn’t have the puck enough and when you defend all the time, bad things happen .”
The Flyers hope York is on the verge of being a significant, full-time remedy. The skilled and elusive 21-year-old defenseman possesses all the puck-moving ingredients. He has the potential to orchestrate the attack and grant Fletcher his wish: keep the Flyers in the offensive zone and out of the defensive zone.
York was the first-ever draft pick of Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr in their time running the Flyers. They selected him 14th overall in 2019. He’s an important player to this brass. The current regime is going to start to see its own draft picks impact the Flyers and it needs many of them to hit for a turnaround.
After making his NHL debut in a three-game appetizer at the end of 2020-21, York saw 30 games with the Flyers this season. He finished with three goals, seven assists and a minus-14 mark in 19:05 minutes per game.
There were some very good glimpses. Two of his goals came against the Rangers’ Hart Trophy finalist Igor Shesterkin. Down the stretch, he saw big minutes playing his off side on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. Half of his points came in his final 10 games (one goal, four assists).
“Obviously it was a crazy year, a mess at times,” York said at his end-of-the-season press conference April 30. “I think we’re all confident in my abilities and we all know what I can do. Just to progress, have a big summer and do a lot of good things in June. Continue to progress and hopefully become a full-time NHLer next year, a shutdown defenseman, a guy that’s playing a lot of minutes and play on the power play, stuff like that.
York missed the Flyers’ final nine games because of a foot injury. He suffered a hairline fracture April 12 when he blocked an Alex Ovechkin power play blast during the first period of the Flyers’ 9-2 loss to the Capitals.
He actually finished the game, playing 19:42 minutes.
“I did, yeah,” he said with a laugh.
“It hurt really bad. … I think the adrenaline kicked in there in the second period. In the third period, it was starting to really hurt. I was able to finish the game, but it definitely wasn’t comfortable. foot was hurting pretty bad then, but was able to finish the game somehow.”
York was planning to start his offseason training this month.
“It was just tough for me to tie up my skate,” he said. “The pressure of the skate was hurting my foot and I wasn’t able to push off. It obviously sucked and it was at a time of the year where I wish I could have played, for sure.
“It’s all right, it feels good now. Just going to continue to progress here and probably get back at it at the start of June.”
And York will be doing so in Voorhees, New Jersey at Flyers Training Center.
It’s an important summer for an important piece to Fletcher and the Flyers.
“I think it’ll be good for me,” York said. “It’s always good to be around the facilities and continue to build relationships with trainers and staff members. I think it will be good for me and I think good for everybody here.”
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