To continue the trend of doom and gloom in Flyerland - because, let’s be real, it’s all deserved - let’s talk about pain today. Pain that we as a fanbase have suffered through over the past three seasons of Dave Hakstol, not even the older stuff. 2015-16 was pretty fun, but it ended in pain with a first round exit in embarrassing fashion at the hands of the Washington Capitals. 2016-17 saw missing the playoffs, and our coach benching the team’s best defenseman at the time in Shayne Gostisbehere for multiple games. It also saw Travis Konecny benched, and younger players punished for straying away from the system. The team went on a 10 game winning streak in late November to mid December and still missed the postseason.
Then came 2017-18. The team improved, made the playoffs, then got their faces kicked in by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did that happen, Travis Sanheim was essentially forced to the minors because his coach wouldn’t play him over Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning, despite his playing much better than the two. We’ve seen Nolan Patrick paired with Dale Weise, Ivan Provorov and Gostisbehere sharing time with MacDonald for “veteran leadership” reasons, and rookies constantly forced into a vanilla based system with no creativity.
So when Dave Hakstol says, via Bill Meltzer, “Sometimes to be successful, you’ve got to go through a little bit of pain,” excuse me if I get a tad bit frustrated. I don’t know what Dave Hakstol thinks the past three seasons have been, but I do know that we were preached patience when Ron Hextall became General Manager and a philosophy of building through the draft was instilled. We all wanted that philosophy, we wanted our team to become smarter and stop spending $20 million on Vincent Lecavalier, or giving up anything of value for the corpse of Pavel Kubina, or best yet giving Ilya Bryzgalov the sun and the moon while we traded our captain and top goal scorer.
We wanted this.
What we didn’t want however, was what we have now. I’ve rolled my eyes plenty of times at the people who continually poke and jab at the Flyers patience as being “two years away from being two years away.” But at this point, I think that maybe, just maybe, those people are right. This is year FOUR of Dave Hakstol’s tenure as Flyers head coach, and year FIVE of Ron Hextall’s tenure as GM. We have been patient, we accepted and welcomed the rebuild. Now? Now it’s time for the pain to end. We have already endured pain, we have seen a system that is so bland, and flawed, that even the best teams in NHL history probably couldn’t overcome. We have seen this team not even reach game seven of a first round series, let alone the second freakin’ round. We have seen Claude Giroux’s and Jakub Voracek’s prime years virtually wasted by a garbage team around them, and now a coach who has no idea how to get the most out of his players.
Mike Babcock issued a similar statement to Dave Hakstol’s when he was hired in Toronto prior to the 2015-16 season. Toronto has had similar results to the Flyers over the past few years, if we’re being fair. Missed the playoffs in year one, made the playoffs in year two and was defeated in six games by Washington, then lost in the first round in seven games to Boston last year. The difference is, Dave Hakstol is talking about enduring pain ten games into his fourth season as head coach, Babcock said it before he even coached a game for the Leafs. If Dave Hakstol, Ron Hextall, and the entire Flyers brass does not understand that we have been dealing with pain for the past four years, three of them under Hakstol, then they can all hit the road.
Patience is a good thing, and something needed in the sports world and especially the hockey world. But these are the Philadelphia Flyers, the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup, and yeah, we might have been spoiled all these years routinely making the playoffs. This does not change the fact there should be an expectation of winning with this team. But you know what I really want? This team to be fun again, for there to be a sense of anticipation with every single game, to maybe see something insane happen whether it be skill based or a fight, ANYTHING. Look, sometimes a bit too much is made out of Dave Hakstol not showing emotion on the bench, but you know what? No. If THIS is his response after getting absolutely dominated by the Bruins, showing no fire whatsoever, no heart, NOTHING. Peter Laviolette has his share of issues, and had them while he was here, but you know what I never questioned with Lavy? His passion. And I have a pretty good feeling he wouldn’t say some lame duck answer like this the day after a disgraceful loss in Boston.
I began writing this on Friday, the day of the quote, since then the Flyers got killed at home 6-1 at the hands of the Islanders. Think we’ve had enough of this whole “pain” thing, Dave.