Happy Thanksgiving, Flyers fans! It’s been a bit of a rough go for us through this early part of the season; the Flyers aren’t winning very many games, and even when they do, we’re bored at best and completely apathetic at worst. It’s not an ideal way for us to be experiencing our favorite team playing our favorite sport.
So today, the day on which we are supposed to step back and give thanks for all of the joy in our lives, let’s find ten things about the Philadelphia Flyers for which we are thankful.
Might as well start off the list with the funnest thing to happen to the Flyers in years, their new mascot Gritty. Sure, it felt weird at first; we’ve never had a mascot. Mascots are generally stupid. But one look at those googly eyes and one well-timed tweet and we were hooked. Now you’ll have to pry Gritty from our cold, dead hands.
Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird. pic.twitter.com/wLmGBa0Oyh— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
2. Claude Giroux
A lot of us rooting for the orange and black went into last season thinking Claude Giroux might be cooked. Age and injury had finally caught up with him and the inevitable decline had begun. And then...
All 82 games played.
ONE HUNDRED AND TWO points.
Our captain shut those doubters down and he shut them down hard. As it stands, Giroux is tied for second all-time in assists. Fourth all-time in points. The rest of the names on these lists are organizational — and in some cases, league — legends. Claude Giroux is a special player, and we’re lucky he’s playing for us.
3. Jake Voracek
I’m just going to say it: it’s very likely that you don’t appreciate Jakub Voracek enough. Perhaps you’ve packaged him up in a trade whilst armchair-GMing. Maybe you’ve complained about his cap hit and his contract length. You’ve definitely yelled “SHOOT” at your television as he’s carried the puck up the ice on a 2-on-1.
Voracek was a better than point-per-game player last season. As usual for him, the bulk of those points came from assists. Would it be better if he scored more goals? Sure! But you can’t discount the value of a good, reliable set-up man.
4. Jake Voracek’s beard
Beast mode indeed.
5. The Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny bromance
You might think this entry on the list is a little silly, but think back to the last time the Flyers were a ton of fun to watch. 2010 comes to mind for me, and you know what was very clear about that team? Those guys liked each other. They were friends. They had fun off the ice, and on the ice they’d battle for each other and bruise for each other and fight for each other. And it showed.
One hopes that Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick are two players that will make up the core of this team for years to come, and if they - and the rest of the young guys they’re coming up with - can build a bond that would have them go to war for each other ... well, that’s going to lead to good results on the ice. And a lot of fun for us.
6. Oskar Lindblom
Another player one hopes will make up the team’s core for the foreseeable is Oskar Lindblom, and his on-ice chemistry with Nolan Patrick is truly something to behold. Since Patrick came back from injury, Lindblom has a team-best 2.78 points per 60 at 5-on-5. Last season, Lindblom failed to make the team after a strong showing in camp and, to the displeasure of a lot of Flyers fans, started the year in Lehigh Valley. But after an injury to Wayne Simmonds opened up a spot on the wing, Oskar was called up and made the most of his opportunity, allowing him to remain in the lineup for the rest of the season. In his review of Lindblom’s 2017-18 season, Charlie lays out just how good the rookie was:
Lindblom also lived up to expectations that his high hockey IQ and physical strength would make him into an advanced stat darling at the NHL level. His very-strong 53.64% adjusted Corsi For Percentage at 5v5 topped all regular 2017-18 Flyers forwards with the exception of Read, and his absolutely stellar 57.90% performance by Expected Goal differential (which weighs each individual on-ice shot attempt for location and quality) led all Philadelphia forwards, period.
It’s going to be a lot of fun watching Oskar Lindblom develop into what should be a very reliable - and possibly even dominant - NHL winger. And also, there’s this:
Amac: you gotta learn to slide in front of the goal if you wanna stay in the nhl— no more flyers plz (@pleaserdeleteme) November 11, 2018
7. A non-reactionary general manager with a long view
As things continue to go poorly for the Flyers, the magnifying glass has started to shift from the coaches to the general manager. After all, he’s the final say in how this team is put together, how it is staffed, the systems it runs, etc. That’s fair. The buck stops with the boss, and if things continue to go this poorly (looking at you, the penalty kill), the heat on Ron Hextall will only get hotter. He’s also made some questionable decisions during his tenure; signing Michal Neuvirth to a new contract, with a raise, after Neuvy was the worst goalie in the league. Giving that fourth year to Dale Weise. Signing Brandon Manning on three separate occasions.
But we aren’t here for the bad stuff, not today. Ron has done a ton to help this team. He got them out of salary cap hell with deft moves like dumping Chris Pronger’s salary in Arizona and getting rid of Vincent Lecavalier. He performed wizardry by getting a third round pick for Zac Rinaldo. And most notably, he calmed the franchise down. For a long time the Flyers had been an organization that responded to adversity with big sweeping changes and moves that eventually landed us in that aforementioned cap hell. And, while clearing all of that cap space, Ron has also done a very, very good job restocking the farm. We owe him a lot, despite the current situation the team is in.
8. The well-pressurized youth pipeline
If you’ve been a Flyers fan for any length of time, you know that this organization has never had a talent pool this deep when it comes to prospects. If you look back at our 25 Under 25 archives, you’ll see that it wasn’t long ago that Petr Straka and Nick Cousins were top prospects on this team. Times were dark, friends.
Now, we’ve got guys like Philippe Myers, Mikhail Vorobyev, Carsen Twarynski, and The Germ knocking on the door after just a couple of years in the minors, not to mention players like Wade Allison, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Tanner Laczynski killing it in their respective junior/NCAA leagues. And then there’s Carter Hart, who could quite possibly be the best thing to happen to this franchise in a generation. Ron Hextall did all of this in a matter of five years. It’s impressive as heck and we should truly be thankful for the fun to come when these kids break into the NHL.
9. A messy and (currently) under-performing Metropolitan Division
It’s Thanksgiving, and The Hockey Men always like to throw out that little nugget about teams who are out of the playoffs at Thanksgiving almost never make it in by the time the season is over. Well, the Flyers did it last season, thanks in large part to the late-season heroics of the top line and Nolan Patrick. And this year, despite all of this messiness, the Flyers are only three points back from the reigning Stanley Cup champions for third in the division and only six points back from Columbus’ spot at the top. Will this change? Of course. About a million times between now and April. But for now, it’s nice to know that the Flyers are still in it and if things turn around, we’ll be seeing bonus hockey come springtime.
Oh ... and the Pittsburgh Penguins are living in the basement with no signs of turning it around any time soon. We can all enjoy that for as long as it lasts, right?
10. Well ... the Flyers.
There’s a lot of apathy surrounding this team right now, and if we’re being honest, they’ve earned it. And the apathy is so much worse than anger or disappointment, because those feelings are born from passion and love. It’s tough, we know. But take a second and think about all of the fun you’ve had because of this team. The friends you’ve made because of this team. The life experiences you’ve been able to live because you want to enjoy this team.
Remember those feelings. That passion. It still lives in you. Don’t let it die because this team is having a moment. They’ll be better soon and we will have so much fun. Give a little bit of thanks today for the Philadelphia Flyers: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.