The turning point in James van Riemsdyk's season came early.
Like, really early.
A hit he took in the preseason shook him up and set the table for a frustrating season full of injuries and time spent in the press box instead of on the ice. He fought through a hip injury, groin strains, ab and oblique tears, a concussion and a broken foot.
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Even when he returned from injuries, he wasn't the same. In the last week of the Flyers' season, his still-recovering left foot took a painful step backward when it was drained of fluid due to an infection.
What was a hopeful start to his playoffs in Games 5 and 6 against Pittsburgh soured against New Jersey, when he had trouble getting his foot back in his skate.
"I did play through a lot of [the injuries] and it did make me a less productive player than I wanted to be, but at the end of the day, I don't have much control over that," van Riemsdyk said. "I played with the cards I was given and dealt with that. I want to get healthy, learn my lessons from this season and move on and go from there."
The end result was a career low for the 23-year-old in games played, goals and assists and hip surgery is scheduled for this week, according to the Flyers. The power forward was also the subject of trade speculation, most notably when he sat out with a concussion. By rule, it isn't allowed to trade an injured player, but a small minority of fans actually thought van Riemsdyk was purposely staying out of the lineup to avoid getting moved.
"I guess there can always be speculation on what would happen if you weren't hurt," van Riemsdyk said, "but the notion that I 'got hurt' because I didn't want to get traded was outrageous.
"I love the group of guys here and management has treated me well. Obviously I want to stay here, but at the same time it is a business and you never know what can happen. I know what kind of player I'm going to be and what I can bring at this level. Whether that's here or somewhere else, I know I'm gonna be a productive, successful player. That's really all I have control over."
The Flyers still think van Riemsdyk is a key part of their future. The player who scored seven goals in 11 games and was the best player on the ice for much of the playoffs last season is what the Flyers see in a healthy van Riemsdyk.
"James, if I was grading him, I'd give him a huge incomplete just based on injuries," GM Paul Holmgren said about this season. "I think James is a good, young player that unfortunately for us was not a factor for the most part of the year because of injury."
Last summer, the then-22-year-old signed a six-year extension with the Flyers that will kick in next season. The future was bright and promising.
It still is.
But this season is one van Riemsdyk wants to put in the rear-view mirror as soon as possible so he can have the breakout year he's been waiting for.
"First and foremost I just want to get myself to feel healthy again," he said. "That's gonna be the key."