Testy Provorov? Motivated Provorov? Who knows, just like with Flyers' offseason


While Ivan Provorov was smiling, he didn't appear too happy.

In the second question of his end-of-the-season press conference Saturday, he was asked how he would evaluate his season personally overall.

"No matter what I say, you guys are going to give me your own grades," Provorov said. "It doesn’t matter, you’re all experts in hockey, so you’re going to give me all your super experienced grades. I don’t think my opinion really matters to you guys."

Did he feel the media was too hard on him this year?

"No, I don't need anyone to write glory stories on me," Provorov said. "You all have an opinion. I have my opinion. So, yeah."

The 25-year-old defenseman played 79 games this season. Frustratingly, for the first time in his career, he had to miss not only one game, but three in a row. During January, the NHL's COVID protocol ended his ironman streak at 403 games, a run dating back to the start of his career as a 19-year-old rookie.

Provorov finished the 2021-22 season with nine goals, 22 assists and a minus-20 rating. The minus-20 mark was the worst of his career. For some context, it came in a season in which the Flyers had a staggering minus-87 goal differential.

His 24:53 minutes per game led the Flyers, while his nine markers and 170 shots were first among Flyers defensemen and his 31 points were tied for first with Travis Sanheim. Provorov's 172 blocked shots were tied for the NHL's third most. His offense came on in the final 15 games as he recorded four goals and seven assists.

After the Flyers finished 25-46-11 for one of their worst years in the 54 seasons of the franchise's existence, an offseason overflowing with uncertainty commences. In January, general manager Chuck Fletcher said the Flyers were planning to "aggressively retool" and that everything would be on the table. That hasn't changed.

One could argue it's the most uncertain offseason of Provorov's tenure as a Flyer, more uncertain than when he had to wait out the 2019 summer to sign his new contract the night before training camp. When a team finishes in the bottom four of the NHL standings like the Flyers did in 2021-22, everything is placed under the microscope and analyzed.

"We definitely went through a lot in one season that most teams don't go through," Provorov said. "Hopefully, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

The Flyers saw only a small glimpse of the potential they envisioned for their new top defensive pair in 2021-22. With prized offseason acquisition Ryan Ellis playing only four games because of a troubling lower-body injury, Provorov had a rotating cast of defensive partners for a second straight season.

Toward the end of the season, he got looks with rookies Cam York, Ronnie Attard and Egor Zamula.

"All of those guys have tons of talent, tons of potential," Provorov said. "It means a lot for me to be able to kind of help them, show the way and be able to pass some knowledge that I've been able to learn and pick up through six years now of playing in the NHL. What I thought of my adjustment and what helped me my first year and the first, whatever, 15, 20 games. I think all of those guys were eager to learn and wanted to do good and wanted to help the team. I think they did pretty good so far in all the games that they’ve played."

Ellis, a do-it-all type like Provorov, played alongside his new partner in the Flyers' first three games and suited up once more in November before missing the rest of the season.

It soured the promising outlook for the duo, which quickly developed chemistry in training camp and through the first three games.

"Coming in, training camp went really well. The team looked great. Playing with Provy felt great," Ellis said Saturday. "The first couple of games, personally for me, were good even though I was injured at that point already. Everything was feeling, looking, doing well.

"Then once I stopped and then once a couple of other players were hurt, it became even harder watching the team struggle when I can’t do anything about it. I think any athlete that watches their friends and their peers struggle and not being able to do something about it makes it even tougher mentally."

It's very possible the Flyers could see the dynamic pair they were hoping for with Provorov and Ellis together next season.

"The time that I spent with Ryan in camp and at the beginning of the year, I know he’s doing everything he possibly can to get to 100 percent and be able to be here for this team and feel great for next year," Provorov said.

It's also possible that the pair doesn't play out. Ellis has a big summer of recovery ahead and is aiming to be ready for September training camp, but undeniably his "multilayered" injury emits concern. Provorov, one of the Flyers' alternate captains, is entering Year 4 of his six-year, $40.5 million contract.

What will the Flyers' offseason of changes entail? Given the wait and what they had to endure all season, the Flyers could really want to see their original plan of Ellis and Provorov get a chance to come to fruition. That would seem most logical.

But what do we know?

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