Matt Read Left Searching for Role in Flyers' New System

Matt Read met with Dave Hakstol and told him what he learned.

At 29 years old, Read is just as inquisitive as the rest.

And this past season, he found out a lot.

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The winger totaled 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 79 games. His assists and points were career lows for a full season, while his minus-5 rating and 15:15 of ice time per game were also personal worsts.

"It was kind of an up-and-down season," Read said last week during his end-of-the-year press conference at Flyers Skate Zone. "I got healthy-scratched a couple of games. I guess as an individual, you see when you get healthy-scratched, you've got to learn from what you're doing wrong so you're not in that position again."

When the Flyers' season concluded in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Read evaluated his performance with Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

The fifth-year Flyer played primarily on the team's third line. During the playoff push, Read was paired mostly with Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner.

One thing was missing.

"I actually just talked to Hak about this," Read said last Tuesday. "As a line, we've been in the offensive zone a lot, we're getting pucks there, but there's really no one there, there's no one being the screen guy or getting rebounds. We're all, I guess, perimeter players, cycling in the corner, doing the little things outside but not getting into the tough areas."

As his production suffered, Read noticed the game's evolution. It's likely changed plenty from his 2010-11 rookie season in which he posted career highs in goals (24), assists (23) and points (47).

"Not many guys can shoot from the top of the circles and score 50 every year," Read said. "You've got to learn how to score goals - it gets harder and harder every year obviously with video and how everyone's concentrating on every little aspect of defensive hockey."

So Read, who is under contract through the 2017-18 season, expressed to Hakstol what he hopes to do more of in 2016-17.

"We talked about getting in front of the net more often, or getting in that tough area where you take a cross-check to get a rebound or do the little things," he said. "I think that's where 95 percent of the goals are scored, off of rebounds or things right around the net."

Read admitted it was a trying season despite his playing better over the final 41 games of the regular season, a span in which he recorded six goals and eight assists for 14 points and a plus-1 rating.

"I think I would say I had my stretches where I'm playing very well and helping my linemates, but I think I had a lot more times where my confidence level wasn't there," Read said. "Or just struggling to be the best I can be to help my linemates, help my team be the best we can be every night."

Hextall saw both sides of the coin.

"I thought Reader played well the last two, two and a half months - probably his best hockey of the year," he said. "I'm not necessarily talking playoffs but that stretch before that when we were all going pretty well. I think Matt played very well. I think sometimes he's been bumped around the lineup, which is no excuse. 

"Reader can play better."

And that's what stuck out to Read. He had difficulty transitioning to Hakstol's system, as well as his role change from previous head coach Craig Berube.

Hakstol conceded the Flyers' slow start was partly due to the adjustment period.

"Some of it, absolutely," Hakstol said. "All of it, you'll never really know. But is some of that attributed to it? Absolutely."

Read never discovered his niche.

Or at least he hasn't yet.

"I consider myself a defensive offensive player," he said. "I can play very well defensively - defensive hockey and play against the best lines or be given the opportunity to help offensively.

"With [Berube], it was strictly playing against top lines every night with [Sean Couturier], and this year, it seemed like every week there was a different role, playing on different lines. 

"To be a player in the NHL, I think you've got to be able to be versatile and change roles whenever asked upon."

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