It was just three and a half years ago that the Flyers were two wins away from the Stanley Cup. It was just two and a half years ago that the Flyers clinched the Atlantic division to finish second in the Eastern Conference. It was just a year and a half ago that the Flyers dispatched of the Penguins in dominating fashion.
Fast forward to now, and the Flyers are a disaster.
It's very hard to pinpoint just exactly where the Flyers came off the rails. Was it getting ousted out of the 2012 playoffs by New Jersey? Was it missing out on Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? Was it losing their groove during the lockout?
The fact is that there is no specific moment; this has been two years in the making.
Ever since Philadelphia traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not the decision was right or not. In 2011, everything was picture perfect for Philly; the young guys were scoring, the defense was rock solid, the goal tending was acceptable and the coach had his players around his finger. The Richard-less and Carter-less Flyers had high hopes for the 2011-12 season. Then disaster hit.
"I'll say it, Chris (Pronger) is never going to play again", Paul Holmgren.
Since that day in late November of 2011 vs the Jets, the last time we saw Pronger play hockey, this team has been on a downward spiral. It is not necessary to re-hash what has gone on since then, as I'm sure most of you know the story since then.
This no reason for an excuse as for what is going on now, but it is clear that this was the beginning of the end of Philly's time as a Cup-contending team. To give credit where credit is due, Holmgren has attempted to replace Pronger with his pursuit of Suter and Weber, but ultimately failed. The fact of the matter is this: Chris Prongers don't grow on trees. It's that simple.
Now the Flyers are in a rut, and it may take a couple of years to fix it. Unfortunately, every team goes through these kinds of periods no matter what. The top four teams in the NHL last season were the Kings, Blackhawks, Bruins and Penguins. The Bruins and Penguins were bottom feeders in the early 2000s, while the Kings and Blackhawks were basically forgotten up until five years ago. It happens to every team.
But the important thing here is that Paul Holmgren goes through this period correctly. This is not the time to expload the team. The Flyers' best bet is to sit through this and wait it out with their young guys. If things do not turn around by February, that's when you start unloading older players. Kimmo Timonen will be highly sought after as a rental player if he becomes available. Although it may be difficult, Scott Hartnell may be able to get some return if Holmgren begins to shop him.
The off-season would be the time for Philadelphia to make a big move. The Flyers need to move one of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, the ladder seeming more ideal. Unlike other years, it's fairly hard to pinpoint what exactly Philadelphia needs to fix the problem, but we have to trust the organization and hope that they make the right calls.