With the way this team has played over the last two seasons, it's becoming more and more clear that the 2008 run was merely an abberation (something I think we've all known for a while but have been hesitant to admit). The result of this abberation has been for the front office and the fan base to declare a rebuilding process that was far from over, indeed over.
Just one year removed from being the worst team in the NHL, Homer agressively retooled the team to put them in a position to be competitive again. That 2007-08 team surpassed all expectations in the playoffs, leaving us all feeling that we were on the brink of a cup. Many of us forget how...well...lucky for lack of a better word we were in those playoffs.
We beat Washington in a 7 game series when the two teams (and the whole series) could not have been more equal. While the Flyers deserve credit for gutting it out and winning, that series was more or less a toss up. In Montreal we could have easily gotten swept 4-0 had it not been for Biron and Umberger playing out of their minds. We were outplayed for long stretches of every game in that series yet the aformentioned two players constantly bailed them out. Now again, the Flyers certainly deserve credit for the win because they did play their asses off, but the fact remains that had it not been for two unsuspecting players playing the best week and a half of Hockey of their lives, the Flyers would not have been close in that series. Then came the Ptitsburgh series and we all know how that one turned out...
SInce then the Flyers have been a model of inconsistency. The only prolonged stretch of good play that I can remember was last season before the all-star break. From the second half of last year into this year it has been constant ups and downs. These constant stretches of inconsistency (and at times flat out terrible play) are not a good team playing poorly...its a slightly above average team playing slightly above average hockey.
To try and correct this problem the Flyers brought in a veteran monster defenseman. Management has fired the coach and called out the players for lack of focus time and time again and yet nothing has worked. In my opinion the problem is much more internal than that. Its the general attitude of the team thats followed that 2008 ECF run.
The theme within this team during the 2007-08 season seemed to be a burning desire to prove to the rest of the league that the previous season was an abberation. The Flyers played with a fiery intensity to show that while the franchise had fallen on hard times, they were still going to fight and claw their way back to the competitiveness. It was this attitude that allowed us to survive that 10 game losing streak in the middle of the season, and it was that heart and attitude that allowed us to advance so deep in the playoffs despite being outskilled and outmatched.
Ever since that run the attitude has changed. Instead of a desire to prove the naysayers wrong, it is a calm, collected attitude of "Ok we're close, now it's time to take the next step". Theres nothing wrong with that approach if it indeed is true, however in the Flyers case it is not. I believe in two years or so they will be in a better position to contend. When Richards, Giroux, JVR, and the like have all had more time to grow up. But in the meantime the front office needs to get back to basics with these players. Instead of drilling it into their heads that this is a talented team and they should expect to win the cup, the message should be that each player needs to prove why he should be on the team, on the first scoring line, wearing the C, etc.