Alex Lyon could be the perfect replacement for Felix Sandström
As playoff hockey is in full swing, the Philadelphia Flyers take action to remind us that they still exist. Ian Laperriere was hired as the new head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday afternoon. Samuel Ersson also signed his entry-level contract on Thursday. If that wasn’t enough to make you go, “mehFelix Sandström announced that he will play hockey in Finland next season. Monday it was announced via Twitter that he had signed an agreement with the HC TPS de la Liiga.
It may come as a surprise, but the grass may be greener for Felix Sandström across the Atlantic. With Ersson in the fold now and Kirill Ustimenko on the verge of returning from injury, the odds may be rare for Sandström. It can be a battle to get a fair amount of playing time with the Phantoms this coming season. However, the organization could consider taking the same approach with Ersson as it did with Ustimenko and Sandström when they made the jump to North America. If that happens, the Phantoms might need a stable veteran hand in the net to help Ustimenko.
Enter Alex Lyon.
Lyon have become a fan favorite at Allentown. Well Named. He’s been a great goalie for the Phantoms since joining the AHL in 2016. He’s led them to several playoff appearances and has been exemplary in the playoffs. Let’s not forget that he supported the Phantoms in the longest game in AHL history. Five overtime and six hours later, Lyon blocked 94 of 95 shots against the Charlotte Checkers in May 2018. While his performance in the NHL when called upon leaves much more to be desired, he is a solid AHL starter. who could help mentor young players. during their time in the American Hockey League.
Like any professional sports league, the AHL is as competitive as the next. There’s no reason to assume the Phantoms wouldn’t want players on their squad who gave them the best chances of winning. Say what you want it to be a development league, the players who play there are there to win. If the Phantoms decide to start the 2021/22 season with Ustimenko and Ersson as their one-two at the net, it could be difficult.
It is not for lack of talent, but there will be situations that they will face that they may not have encountered until now. If so and there isn’t a veteran to help them get through this difficult time, things get more difficult. If Alex Lyon stays with the Phantoms, both goalies will have a guy to turn to if they start to struggle. Not to mention that he is perfectly capable of winning matches.
During Lyon’s AHL career, he amassed a 75-54-22 record with a .913 save percentage and a 2.75 goals-against average. It’s nothing spectacular, but strong enough to win games. He knows the players. He knows the system. He surely knows the coaches even with Laperrière taking over. It’s a low risk decision that could bring major benefits to this team.
Alex Lyon brings leadership to the table
As mentioned above, Alex Lyon has a plethora of experience at the AHL level. It more than makes up for the lack of Utimenko and Ersson. Bringing him back into the fold allows the latter two to develop with the advantage of the presence of a leader. There is something to be said about having someone around to show you the ropes. While Utimenko has shown promise, he comes out of surgery to repair a torn labrum. While many see Samuel Ersson as the Flyers’ system’s top goalie prospect, he’s going to experience things here that he didn’t experience playing in Sweden.
Lyon being present in the locker room, it is someone to turn to for help. Whether it’s a mental block or a fit, Ersson and Ustimenko would benefit greatly from having someone who has seen it all and who can help them with their struggles.
We have seen it happen in the past. The Flyers brought in Sandström and Ustimenko in the same offseason, creating a goaltender blockage with the organization. Both started the year with the Reading Royals while Alex Lyon and Jean Francois-Berube held the position at Lehigh Valley. With the net taken care of in the AHL, this left Ustimenko and Sandström part ways with the ECHL Reading Royals.
The Flyers organization may see fit to launch Ersson in Reading much like his predecessors. While Sandström struggled a bit in Reading, Ustimenko jumped into the North American game like a fish in water. Chuck Fletcher may think he can replicate that type of success with Ersson at Reading. If so, that leaves a hole to be filled with the Phantoms.
Again enter Alex Lyon again.
A guy who knows the organization, Lyon would be the perfect candidate to fill the void, whether or not he is left on his own. He and Ustimenko could provide the Phantoms with a solid double at the net. Again, he could be a mentor for Ustimenko and help him reach that next level. He might not be the best candidate for an NHL call-up, but if Ustimenko picks up where he left off and shows solid numbers, Lyon may not have to worry about a another stint in the NHL.
There are definite advantages to bringing Alex Lyon back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. You have a steady hand that can not only win games but also show leadership and be a mentor for young goalies who are new to the organization. He probably won’t order much more than his previous contract is worth, so that’s also not a problem.
The only thing that could delay a deal between Lyon and the Flyers would be his ability to keep the strong going when called into the NHL. If the Flyers are looking for a more knowledgeable goalkeeper than Lyon on this, they can tap into the free agencies and see what happens. If they want to prioritize mentoring over performance in the NHL, which is a slippery slope and conversation for another time, then Alex Lyon is their guy.
Photo credit: Alex McIntyre