Over the last three seasons, Travis Konecny's game has dovetailed with the Flyers' team game.
That's no coincidence.
In many ways, the go-go winger is a make-or-break player for the Flyers.
Konecny was asked about the fans' frustration with the Flyers' past two years falling well short of expectations. Following a letdown 2020-21 campaign, the Flyers stumbled hard this season by finishing 25-46-11. They missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.
Simultaneously, Konecny hasn't been the same consistent scorer that he was as a breakout All-Star in 2019-20.
What would his message be to the frustrated fans about potentially turning things around quickly?
"It’s just ups and downs I think," Konecny said at his end-of-the-season press conference on April 30. "It’s not what we’ve all hoped for but there’s been plenty of teams that have dipped for a few years and then they're contenders and great playoff teams for years to come. Be patient, we’re coming."
Despite often finding himself directly under the microscope, Konecny did finish as the Flyers' leading scorer this season, albeit by default. The Claude Giroux trade and Cam Atkinson's injury provided him the team crown with 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) through 79 games. He had a minus-23 rating on a team that had a minus-87 goal differential.
Nothing to write home about.
"I’m the first to say it, I know that I can be better. For me, my season’s unacceptable and I want to come back better next year and try to help more," Konecny said. "It's a good group when everyone’s taking accountability and we know what we need to do individually and come together as a team and do the right things.
"It's also a good learning lesson for some, even me, a young guy still on a team. I want to be a playoff team, I want to be a playoff player and learn how to win games and take what we can from it."
The Flyers are well aware of Konecny's age. He's only 25, which lends you to believe he has yet to reach his ceiling. The maturation and peak of a player can materialize in the late-20s or early-30s.
But how patient will the Flyers be with Konecny? Next season, he'll be entering Year 4 of his six-year, $33 million deal. He was not drafted by the Flyers' current regime and he shouldn't be viewed as a youngster much longer. This offseason is a pivotal turning point for general manager Chuck Fletcher and the organization. The club is putting everything on the table and aiming to aggressively retool.
What kind of asset is Konecny to the Flyers? Is he a budding game-changer? Is he a centerpiece or complementary piece? Should he be untouchable?
Fletcher and company will evaluate closely because the read hasn't been easy.
In his 2019-20 All-Star campaign, which was cut short by COVID-19, Konecny led the Flyers in goals (24) and points (61) through 66 games. Over the following two seasons combined, Konecny recorded 27 goals and 86 points in 129 games. The drop-off in goals, stemming back to the 2020 playoffs, has been perplexing.
While on a point-per-game pace early in the 2020-21 season, Konecny was benched by Alain Vigneault for one game. He had eight points (five goals, three assists) through eight games at the time. His scoring then dried up.
This season, Konecny fired a career-high 220 shots, which led the Flyers. However, his 7.3 shooting percentage was the lowest in his career. Perhaps he was snakebitten a good bit. Perhaps more team-wide stability and a new look behind the bench will ignite Konecny again.
"Travis Konecny ended the season very well and, to me, is poised to have a big year next year," Fletcher said in May.
From the start of February to the season's end, Konecny put up 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 37 games. He highlighted some enlightening work late in the season with special assistant to the GM Danny Briere and director of hockey analytics Ian Anderson as being helpful.
"Just looking over some analytics stuff, which usually I've never paid attention to those type of things," Konecny said. "I don’t know if there was 10 games left and I started to kind of feel like maybe I was in more scoring positions. It’s interesting stuff, so when I took a look at it, it kind of made sense to me, like where I had gotten away from certain things in the past and where I was now. Hopefully moving forward into the summer I can try to get my head in the right spot for what I need to do to get back to where I was."
When Konecny is at his best, like he was in 2019-20, he's the Flyers' energizer bunny.
He stirs the pot.
And he can stir the drink.
This offseason, full of unknowns, must first dictate what makes up the Flyers' drink.
"That’s not up to me to decide those things," Konecny said. "It’s tough thinking about that stuff because you love all your teammates and you don't want to see anyone go. We’ll just have to see what happens and come back ready to work next year."
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