Following the Flyers overtime win versus the Arizona Coyotes last Thursday I was talking to a friend of mine, and when the game came up in conversation, they were taken back by me saying “yeah, they won in overtime” so unenthusiastically. Of course, that led to the obvious question of “why don’t you seem happy about that?” and the answer I gave was quite short. It was that with every game they win, it feels like they’re taking one step backwards.
Before we get any further I want to make it clear that if you’re expecting some kind of actual analysis about the team or the coach, you won’t find that here. We’ve talked a lot about the coaching staff over the past few weeks [x] [x] [x] [x] and it’s those pieces that will have what you’re looking for.
I’m also not trying to convince you to think this way, I don’t want to drag you down here with me. I’m just trying to put into words why I, and maybe others, feel this way.
Every win feels like a step backwards
At the surface, that’s a weird thing to say, you know? Because in reality, winning games is clearly a step forward, but with this iteration of Flyers it just doesn’t feel that way. It feels like they’re only pushing off the inevitable, and in this case that would be an overhaul to the coaching staff and maybe more. For the second - no, third time, sorry I’m still trying to block out their second Stanley Cup win - I find myself jealous of the Los Angeles Kings. Not only did they let go of their head coach, John Stevens, but they also moved on from one of their assistant coaches, Don Nachbaur, on the very same day. That’s the “inevitable” move I’m referring to here. A head coach, and an assistant coach. I don’t want this to come across as “the sky is falling!” because that’s not really it. Rather, it feels kind of like there’s a big rain cloud passing through, and while you know it’ll clear up one way or another down the road, you can’t see the end point through the current downpour.
I came into this season optimistic, I gave this team, and management, a clean slate. Well, sort of. It was a clean slate with a very short, delicate leash which has since been ripped in half, but it was a clean slate nonetheless. Then everything began to add up. Letting Andrew MacDonald rush back from injury weeks (weeks!) ahead of schedule, them looking totally lost in the defensive zone over the first few games of the season, seeing that the penalty kill really hadn’t changed at all since last season, and of course the 4-7-0 record through eleven games. I mean, I didn’t even react to Sean Couturier owning Chris Kunitz for a goal on Saturday afternoon. That play is what dreams are made of; that’s how much they’ve broke me.
I know it’s not me losing interest in hockey either, it’s just this team. That game between the Capitals and Penguins the other day? Awesome. The Maple Leafs putting up six goals on the Devils? Also extremely fun to watch. The Phantoms’ games have been enjoyable too, it’s really just the Flyers’ games that I can’t get into—and I don’t think it’s just my biases getting in the way either, there’s certainly been some tedious hockey helping along the way.
What it really boils down to is being fully convinced of the following:
- Every game they win increases the amount of time that Hakstol will be coaching here.
- The longer Hakstol is coaching here, the further they are away from a deep playoff run.
- The further they are away from a deep playoff run, the further along you are into stars like Claude Giroux’s career, and while he may have beat the aging curve last season, it will catch up eventually. It catches up to everyone, and the Flyers top four scorers right now are 30, 29, 25, and 30 years old. Only one is still in their age-related prime.
- If this goes on for much longer, we’re looking at a one, maybe two year window with this team before they lack that true star power that Giroux, for example, gives them; unless Nolan Patrick or Travis Konecny can get there, but that’s far from a guarantee.
That’s where I’m at. If I could flip a switch and have that all go away I would, but when I think about this team’s future, that’s just what I see. And the longer that it goes on, that dread, for lack of a better word, turns more and more into apathy. Jeez this is dramatic, I feel like someone needs to shove that “kids, could you lighten up a little?” meme from the Simpsons in my face before every game from now on.
What if that’s all wrong?
Some have suggested that fans who feel this way after wins are afraid of being wrong. Specifically, being wrong about the coach. So, I thought about it. Is that what this is? Am I, are we, for those of you who also feel this way, just scared of being wrong? I can only answer for myself of course, but what I landed on was complicated.
Am I scared of being wrong? I mean, yeah, sure, I think anyone who doesn’t have the utmost confidence in themselves is at least a little bit scared of being wrong whenever they put an idea out into the world, but the real question is whether or not that’s having an effect on my enjoyment of the games. To that I say I don’t think so, no. I don’t think so, because whether you’re fully behind the coach, questioning, or all aboard the “Fire Hak” train, we all want the same thing in the end. We all want to watch the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, and for it to happen as quickly as possible.
If I’m wrong about the coach not being the right person behind the bench to get them there, and this looks dumb in a year from now, I’d be ecstatic about it. Really, I don’t care if it looks dumb in as little time as a month from now, or that it probably looks dumb in the present. I’m fine with that, because this isn’t about being right or wrong about something—it’s just how a person feels, and sometimes I feel dumb things. Usually, actually, but that’s beside the point. Not that there is a point. Seriously what’s the point of this? I don’t know, I guess this is therapeutic for me to write, and possibly for you to read. There we go, there’s the point.
As I wrap this up, I think it’s worth taking a moment to take a look at the big picture here. There’s plenty of more important things in the world to be emotionally invested in, and sports are really just a distraction from real life things. So yeah, this feels a bit overly dramatic to write, because, well, it is. It’s just sports!
This isn’t how we collectively feel at Broad Street Hockey—this is how I feel. And I hope you don’t feel the same, because it’s not fun.