Konecny Scratched: It’s the End of the World As We Know It. Or Not.

It’s been announced that Travis Konecny will be scratched tonight against the San Jose Sharks, and this news has left plenty of fans both confused and outraged. According to Sam Carchidi, it’s being written off as a “learning experience” for the rookie, rather than something serious.

It’s not the first time Hakstol has scratched a premier player, citing a learning experience. Shayne Gostisbehere sat out of the November 17th game against the Winnipeg Jets for the same reason.

At first glance, these benchings both seem random and oddly-timed. But I think there’s some method to what the fans see as Hakstol’s madness. Here are a few arguments I’ve seen against the Konecny benching, and why they aren’t as serious as you may think.

He had two assists last game, he’s playing fine.

Konecny has been playing okay lately. And yes, he did have two assists in the last game against St. Louis. But he also hasn’t scored a goal for himself since November 11th, a stretch of 22 games, and has only had eight assists in that time. While his last game was fairly productive, the past six weeks as a whole really haven’t been.

And truly, sitting him after a good performance is probably a better thing for his mentality than sitting him after a game where he made a bunch of bad mistakes. It lets Konecny watch from the press box tonight and learn, rather than stew on what mistakes he may or may not have made that led to Hakstol’s decision.

Wouldn’t he learn more from playing?

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, you learn by doing things. And sometimes, you learn by watching things be done. That’s why there’s an entire market of youtube video tutorials on even the most basic products. There’s a whole other level of learning that can happen when you’re watching a game from above, rather than playing and then watching video of plays you already know the outcome of. Is he going to learn the same things he’d learn if he was out on the ice tonight? Of course not. But that’s kinda the whole point.

If Hakstol is worried about improving play, why hasn’t he sat guys like VandeVelde or MacDonald?

To be honest, I completely agree with this argument. If we’re preaching accountability, guys like VandeVelde and MacDonald have to be included here, too. But at the same time, the team has struggled with injuries as of late and scratching players is a precarious scale to balance.

So why scratch Konecny at all? Well, the writing is on the wall. Or, at least in the tweet from Carchidi. It’s a learning experience for the rookie. It’s not a punishment, or a malicious decision. It’s for his own development. Veterans like VandeVelde and MacDonald aren’t going to learn from being scratched a game or two. Not the same way the young players like Gostisbehere and Konecny will. And at the end of the day, Konecny is one of the futures of this franchise. His development is a heck of a lot more important than whatever those other two are doing.

He’s been making the plays, he just hasn’t had any luck finding the back of the net.

This is true. He’s made some seriously impressive plays in the past few weeks where luck just wasn’t on his side. But something has to change that, right? You don’t just snap your fingers and change the way the puck comes off your stick. Trust me, I’m sure someone has tried that. Something has to give, and if sitting the kid for one game could be the answer, why not try it?

I don’t trust Dave Hakstol.

Listen, I know it’s basically a Philly Thing™ to not trust your coach or general manager, especially when he makes decisions you don’t completely understand. But don’t forget that one of the primary reasons the Flyers decided to hire Dave Hakstol in the first place is because of his success at the University of North Dakota, where he worked with young players very similar to Konecny. Many of the players Hakstol has coached have since become successful players at the professional level, including three-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Toews.

College players are typically 18-23 years old, and the Flyers have a whole lot of talent in that age range making its way to the NHL level within the next few years. This is his area of expertise, and so far he’s done a pretty good job with the young talent he’s been given. You might not understand his decisions. And if you do, you might not agree with them. But I wouldn’t be so quick to call for his job yet.

It might be bizarre timing, and it might seem like there’s a rotating wheel to decide who’s in the lineup each game. But Konecny sitting tonight is not the end of the world as we know it. In fact, I’m a little surprised it’s taken this long to get here. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Ivan Provorov as a healthy scratch at some point this season, too.

Ron Hextall’s favorite word seems to be “patience” and it’s showing here. Tonight just take a deep breath, crack open a beer, and enjoy the last Flyers game of 2016. If he’s still scratched Sunday against Anaheim, we can talk then.

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