With the NHL season well underway, Flyers fans and media alike have been disappointed in the play of third year defenseman Ivan Provorov. Not only are his counting stats lower, but a brief observation of him shows he is struggling with his play away from the puck, particularly in awareness in the neutral zone.
So is there actually a real reason to panic? Should Flyers fans be concerned with the short-term development or even long-term development? Or is something else the reason for his drop in play?
Here is a brief diagnosis of the problem.
- Increased defensive zone starts and therefore increased defensive zone responsibility.
Last season, Provorov started in the defensive zone about 60% percent of the time. This year, he is up to 70%. Essentially, this means that Provorov is no longer being protected by his coach. He is now expected to take on defensive responsibilities – not just offensive ones. Similarly, his utilization suggests this is why his counting stats and shot quality are down. Dave Hakstol is starting Provorov 10% less in the offensive zone than last year. Naturally enough, Provorov’s shot count and offensive production are down around that same amount less than in seasons past.
- Normal growing pains.
After two season of almost identical zone starts, expectations, and utilization, Provorov is experiencing seemingly normal growing pains of changes in all of the above. Being given less offensive responsibility in a practical sense while having it in a figurative, imaginative sense can appear as though a player is underachieving. Rather, the more likely case is that he is transitioning to an expectation of heightened defensive play. So far in his career, Provorov’s play has been sheltered, as most young defensemen are. Now, he is likely experiencing difficulty in changes and expectations of his play overall.
- System Problems and Power Play
The Flyers visibly struggle at defensive play in their own zone. Statistically, their possession numbers have been average to below average for most of the season. The Flyers are also struggling on the powerplay and penalty kill this season. Obviously not all of this is the consequence of Provorov’s play. While his play contributes to the Flyers’ problems, clearly he is not the only problem. Rather, the collective results of the Flyers, including an eye test, seem to point to overall systemic issues, more so than just individual ones. Provorov’s low powerplay totals are likely a result of the powerplay as a whole, more so than as an individual. The same can be said for his decreased shot totals.
Overall, Flyers fans shouldn’t be too concerned with the play of Provorov as of yet. His overall decrease in offensive production and defensive struggles are likely a combination of personal growing pains and systemic issues. The season is still early, and if the Flyers are able to make some changes to their system or even personnel, Provorov may still return to form.