Throughout history, when something goes bad, there's usually a reason. When Marie Antoinette stopped breathing, it was because she found herself on the business end of a guillotine. When the Home Alone franchise went bad starting with the third installment, it was because it lost the underrated albino presence of Macaulay Culkin. In the above picture, Hiroshima was adversely affected because a rather large bomb was dropped on it.
When a building burns down, some expert is able to look through the rubble and realize that the conflagration was caused by faulty wiring in the coffee machine on the third floor (or something). The Flyers were a strong building with seemingly excellent coffee machines, racing out to a 12-5-1 start good for fourth place in the East. But something has short-circuited, and the same team that less than three weeks ago was in position to have home ice in the playoffs is now several teams away from even being in playoff contention.
With that in mind, I'm trying to figure out why this team is going down in flames while the fires are still burning.
Here are a few possible sparks that could have triggered this inferno:
It happened when the Sharks embarrassed the Flyers repeatedly. Having won seven of their last eight and six games over .500 at 12-5-1, the Flyers flew up to the Shark Tank of HP Pavilion, and played like chum. With their new, Olympic caliber line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley, the Sharks skated circles around the Flyers, repeatedly scoring embarrassingly pretty goals that saw the Sharks have obscene amounts of time to set up a waiting Heatley on the doorstep.
The second such goal was even more embarrassing, as it was of the shorthanded variety.
Tough to imagine any two goals more demoralizing than those two.
It happened when a perceived offsides non-call froze the Flyers and lost them the game in Phoenix. With the game tied at 1-1 late in the third period,
It happened when Ray Emery stopped being a reliable starting goalie/got injured/was overworked/lost his rhythm/etc. Emery started (and completed) sixteen of the Flyers of the Flyers first seventeen games, going 11-4-1 in those games. His incredible start generally stunned the league, and it looked like the Flyers' gamble on him had paid off incredibly.
But then it all went to hell. Emery has lost his last five, twice being pulled and thrice having a save percentage under 80%. Some say he is injured, but there is not any visible sign of that from watching his play. His confidence, on the other hand, is clearly severely contused.
While exhaustion was clearly a risk because of how many games he was playing, it's interesting to note that Emery's play didn't really deteriorate until he stopped getting starts. Boucher's start in Los Angeles was the first game Emery had sat in in a non-back-to-back situation, possibly throwing off his rhythm or confidence just enough to get him off the rails.
It happened when Darroll Powe and/or Blair Betts got knocked out for a month plus. Even though he generated about as many headlines as a city council meeting on tree care, Darroll Powe was a pretty big part of the Flyers' early successes this season. He scored six goals in nineteen games, which is just about a goal every three games. Without him in the lineup since he got hurt vs. San Jose , the Flyers have averaged only 1.5 goals a game.
And Blair Betts' contributions to the team are incredibly well documented. Before he allegedly dislocated his shoulder while reaching for a puck early in the game in Phoenix, the Flyers were an incredible 10-2-0 with Betts in the lineup. Without him, they are a decidedly less incredible 3-11-1.
It happened before the season ever started. Some may argue that despite this team's impressive 12-5-1 start, they were doomed from the beginning. Nothing in particular pushed them over the edge, but rather this was an organization set up to fail, and the beginning was a mirage.
It happened because after seeing Randy Jones in Los Angeles, they realized how much they missed him. After they allowed themselves to get lost in the eligible bachelor's blue eyes, memories flooded back and drowned the orange and black in a tidal wave of emotions. Since the reality of not having Jones in the organization sank in on that warm California night, the Flyers have earned only two points in nine games.
So what do you think made the Flyers make a sharp 180 turn from elite to suck? A specific play like in the San Jose or Phoenix games? The Emery bubble bursting? Injuries? Flaws all along? Jonesing for Jones? Or something else entirely?