Flyers Recall Sandstrom; Send Ersson Back To AHL
The Flyers have sent Sam Ersson back to the AHL, and called Felix Sandstrom back to the NHL.
Transaction: We have recalled goaltender Felix Sandstrom from his conditioning assignment with the @LVPhantoms (AHL) and have re-assigned goaltender Sam Ersson to the Phantoms.— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 20, 2023
But how did we get here? And is this really the correct move for the organization?
After his conditioning stint in the AHL expired, the Flyers were left with a choice. Either they could bring Felix Sandstrom back up to the NHL and send Ersson back down to the Phantoms, or they could leave both goalies in their place.
On its face, the decision was obvious. Sam Ersson has played much better in his time with the Flyers than Felix Sandstrom. There really isn’t even a comparison.
In 7 starts, Ersson has saved 4.2 goals above expected. In 9 starts, Sandstrom has allowed 3.6 more goals than expected. Expected goals account for things like a horrendous defense. They don’t fully get there, but they certainly make a considerable effort. And even by that metric, Ersson is by far the superior goalie.
So, the decision is easy, right? Keep Ersson as the backup.
NOT SO FAST:
In order to send Sandstrom back to the AHL, he would’ve had to clear waivers. And there’s a very reasonable chance that he would get claimed. While some contracts pass through waivers because of the cap hit, a team would have no qualms with taking on Sandstrom’s $1.5M cap hit.
So the real question is: do you really want to lose Sandstrom for nothing, because you’d rather have Ersson be the backup to Carter Hart? Is it actually that important for Ersson to be the backup at this very moment in time?
Sandstrom hasn’t covered himself in glory in his 9 starts so far this season, I think that’s fair to say. But is it really fair to evaluate a goalie based on 9 starts? Most of which coming in extremely unfavorable conditions? That doesn’t sound fair at all.
Yes, Ersson has been appreciably better than Sandstrom in the minutes they’ve both played. External factors don’t account for the difference. He just has simply been better at being a goalie.
But is our mission this year really to have the most effective backup possible to Carter Hart?
I don’t say that in a Tank Agenda sort of way. I say that to really draw focus on: what is our mission for this season?
The goal was to get a full evaluation of players–both skaters and goalies–to inform future decisions. (Also to get a good draft pick)
We’ve done that with Ersson. We know he’s good. We know he’s gonna be good. We know he has a future in this league, be it with the Flyers elsewhere. How good? That’s a question left unanswered, but we also didn’t need to answer it this year. We can’t answer it this year, in fact.
But for Sandstrom, have we really done that? Do we really know if he’s good or bad based on his starts to date? Sure, they haven’t been great. But they haven’t been as bad as even advanced statistics would suggest. And also, they’ve almost all come on the second half of back to backs… where the team just isn’t ready to play good hockey in front of him.
Is it truly fair evaluating if we stack the deck against Sandstrom, and then cut him for sinking when we made sinking the most likely outcome?
Or should we use the rest of the year to trust him with games that aren’t scheduled losses that he’s meant to fail in, and see where that takes him?
It seems to me that’s exactly what the Flyers should do.
Ersson will not be harmed by time with the Phantoms.
Sam Ersson had spent the entire season before this injured. He’s desperately in need of live game repetitions, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s with the Phantoms or the Flyers. They just need to come.
Ersson will get even more reps as the #1 for the Phantoms than the backup for the Flyers, especially if we tried to slice the backup role in half. There’s simply not enough nets to go around.
Ersson made his impression, and the team will most likely be seeing him soon. As soon as next season.
But for now? Let’s see if Sandstrom really is a goalie at the NHL level. Let’s give him a real, honest shot at succeeding.
Mandatory Credit: Zack Hill.