This team’s performances over the last week have been nothing short of pathetic. In normal circumstances, given all that Flyers fans have gone through over the last decade, an apology would perhaps be in order due to the angry tone which starts this article. It isn’t as if the Flyers have been a contender for the Stanley Cup, nor even competitive for that matter. However, this year was supposed to be different. A fantastic 2019-20 regular season, ended abruptly, was preceded by a painful playoff series victory and a painful playoff series loss, and from there after, we were looking at a new Flyers. We were supposed to be looking at a contending Flyers that would take a step forward in this strange shortened 2020-21 season. However, perhaps the previous regular season was the anomaly after all.
Perhaps another apology is due, as well, for what could be perceived as over-reacting. The Flyers sit 5th in the East Division, only three points behind the Boston Bruins (though Boston have a game in hand on the Flyers). As well, the Flyers didn’t have the worst of beginnings to the season. It was average, but not outright bad.
Well, regardless of any of this, the time has come where process over results cannot be ignored because the results no longer pacify the process. There was a time when the Flyers were winning in spite of their playing poorly, but now, they are playing poorly and getting the doors blown off them. The Flyers, in their last three games, have been outscored 18-5, and have given up the 6th most goals against in the NHL.
On top of this, the Flyers’ power-play, once considered a key strength of the Giroux-era, has faltered once again as they sit at a dismal 21st ranked power-play. However, perhaps the worse issue is their penalty kill, which sits at 26th overall. To be fair to the Flyers, it has looked better recently, but that cannot excuse past performance when the same overall issues that are about to be discussed still linger.
It isn’t exactly evident, as some might wish, that adding more “toughness,” in the form of a “tough guy” player, would solve any of the Flyers’ problems. As the Tampa Bay Lightning have evidenced, skill, speed, and execution wins games and therefore Stanley Cups. This isn’t 1995, and we don’t need four to five enforcers on the ice at any time, nor do we need huge bruising players who can’t skate. The Flyers already made that mistake after the 2004 lockout and paid the price for it.
However, there comes a point where mental factors that coaches would deem “determination”, “grit”, or even “toughness” come into play. This is not a call for throwback “tough guys” to be inserted into the line-up, but as was mentioned at the start of this piece, the Flyers have simply been pathetic. Not only has their execution on plays been outright bad, but they look slow, consistently fall guilty to puck-watching, and when they are faced with even the slightest bit of adversity, they give up. This isn’t the Flyers under Dave Hakstol. We moved on from that, or so one had thought.
This really evidences what one can only call a lack of drive fueled by playing passively. That is perhaps the most apt word that can describe the Flyers right now: passive. They simply let the game come to them, and if they can’t respond in their normal fashion of doing so, they have no shot of coming close to winning.
This has impacted nearly every facet of their play, though especially their defense and goaltending (but primarily the defense, both from the defensemen and forwards). From then, even more obtuse is the lack of response when other teams take liberties with the Flyers. Most obvious is the lack of any consequences for Curtis Lazar when he WWE-style flipped Scott Laughton on-to the ice.
Whether it’s a big hit on a Flyer player, or a quick goal being scored on them after a good run of play, these current Flyers show no “toughness” both physically or in mental fortitude. When Oskar Lindblom of all players is the one who decides to take matters into his own hands by fighting, your team clearly have a larger issue at hand.
Therefore, a change not only should happen, but needs to happen if the Flyers are going to have any shot at making the playoffs. One of Michel Therrien or Mike Yeo need to be let go, because this team need to be taught that how they are playing right now is not acceptable. I’m sure every one of the Flyers right now knows that they are not playing at an acceptable standard, but there comes a time where action is needed over words. If it were up to pure fairness, Michel Therrien would be the one let go, as the Flyers’ greatest weaknesses have come defensively and on the penalty-kill.
The Flyers’ reckoning is here, and if Chuck Fletcher doesn’t show a “bias for action”, then the playoffs will surely become quickly out of reach.