Yet again, the Philadelphia Flyers season has come to an unfortunate end. It's 37 years and counting since our last parade down Broad Street, but that doesn't mean this year was a complete failure. It was a ridiculously entertaining season full of old memories, new memories, hope for the future and appreciation for the past.
Some seasons come and go with little fanfare. This one? Not even close. Let's think back on 16 reasons, in no particular order, why this Flyers season was one we'll remember for a long, long time.
1. We watched Claude Giroux emerge into a superstar before our eyes. Peter Laviolette calls him the Best Player In The World, and while that may be up for debate, there's not in single doubt in anybody's mind that he's in the conversation. He was in the running for the scoring title all season, and I'm convinced he'll have at least one of those under his belt in the next few seasons. Oh, and he's only 24 years old.
2. For all his faults, Ilya Bryzgalov is one funny mother effer. And for all the jokes, he is still a very good goaltender and he has what it takes to be the elite goaltender we've always wanted.
3. Scott Hartnell brushed aside a rough start -- and frankly, a pretty rough couple of seasons -- to become not only a fan favorite in Philadelphia, but genuinely loved around the NHL by fans in just about every city.
4. We won the Battle of Pennsylvania.
5. The joy of Jaromir Jagr. Not only did he choose Philadelphia, but he was at times still the brilliant Hall of Famer that has graced this sport for so many years. The reputation that preceded him as a primadonna superstar turned out to be a giant lie, and his work ethic, genuine love for the game and infectious attitude made him an absolute pleasure to cheer for this season. We can only hope for the chance to do it again.
6. Brayden Schenn's future. He battled injuries all season long, but when he was able to get things going, Schenn showed off his elite potential. He's the definition of an all-around player, and he has plenty of time for his skills to evolve.
7. Sean Couturier's future. The best defensive forward on the team is still just 19 years old, and remember, he scored a whoooole lot of points in junior. Coots has the ability to be an unreal two-way player, and there's no reason to expect he won't. He's 19 years old. 19. Years. Old.
8. Matt Read's future. He had his doubters at the start of the season -- *raises hand* -- and it's rare that a kid his age makes his NHL debut with such an impact. But Read did, and he was a vital piece in one of the NHL's most dangerous offensive units this season. He scored 24 goals as a rookie, and he's ours for at least two more years. Probably longer.
9. We got to watch another year of Kimmo Timonen. The man is truly a specimen, and while many of us do appreciate him for the phenomenal hockey player he is, we should really sit back and think about how phenomenal he is. He eats minutes, he blocks shots, he leads quietly (and vocally when he must) and he's just an all-around great hockey player. We're not going to get much more of this guy -- as he said after Game 5, "Well personally, I'm running out of time to be honest" -- so let's enjoy him while he's here.
10. Paul Holmgren's massive balls. Yeah, I still love Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Yeah, I still think that the crazy overhaul last summer was unnecessary, but man. It's tough not to appreciate somebody with the cojones to make a decision like he did last summer. Maybe he had a mandate from higher up, but regardless, if you're going to trade the two cornerstones of your franchise, you can only hope to do it with as much success as Holmgren did it this season.
11. Peter Laviolette is just a great dude. If we learned one single thing on HBO 24/7 this season, it was this. It's not like we got a ton of tactical insight into his ability as a coach during the show, but we got a hell of a glimpse into his personality. I don't know about you, but if I played for him, he'd make me want to run through a brick wall.
12. The Winter Classic came to Philadelphia. Not all of us got to attend, but all of us did get to enjoy the event. For a weekend at the turn of the year, our city was the center of the hockey universe, and despite an unfortunate sideshow that grabbed headlines and added another round of ammo to the ever-persistent Philly hatred around the country, I think it's safe to say that we put on a solid showcase of this awesome sport.
13. The best Alumni Game we could have asked for. We got to watch Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Reggie Leach skate on a line together again. We saw John LeClair hook up with Eric Lindros for a goal. We watched Bernie Parent make a save. We watched Mark Recchi wear orange and black again. We saw countless other heroes come back and play for the Flyers. They won the game, too.
14. Mark Howe's jersey retirement. Howe is one of the greatest defensemen to ever play for the Flyers. He's a Hall of Famer, and he'll live forever in history as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He deserves it.
15. Eric Lindros is a Flyer again. The Alumni Game was great, but the real beauty of the entire Winter Classic experience was Lindros' integral part in it all. He was welcomed by the fans, welcomed by the organization and he even skated with the team at practice late in the regular season. Lindros is one of the greatest players to ever pull on a Flyers sweater, and he was gone for far too long. Welcome home, 88.
16. The future is bright. There are many changes that will come -- namely on defense, which all hinges on the scary uncertainty surrounding Chris Pronger -- but this team had more rookies on its roster than any other in the league. They will be a threat in the Eastern Conference next season and for what seems like many years to come. There is reason to be happy, and there's plenty of reason to be proud to have cheered for this team all year.
This isn't by any means a complete list. Feel free to add your reasons in the comments.