From 1994 to 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs a grand total of one single time. One time in 17 seasons. They didn’t win a Stanley Cup in that time, and they only made the Final two times, but the team was consistently in position to make something happen come the postseason. If the team didn’t get the job done, we knew something would be done about it. Players would be traded, even fan favorites, to reach the end goal. The losing still stung then, but at least we knew management was putting in maximum effort to bring home a Cup.
It’s hard to win one after all, just look at the Lightning. They were contenders for the better part of an entire decade without winning one before finally taking home the hardware last season. Losing happens, but if the management is trying to fix it, whether they actually do or not, softens the blow even if we do not like to admit it.
From the lockout shortened 2013 season until now, the Flyers have made, and then missed the playoffs every other year. We’ve seen four head coaches, Peter Laviolette, Craig Berube, Dave Hakstol, and now Alain Vigneault. Laviolette was fired three games into the 2013-14 season, after missing the playoffs once and losing the first three of 2013. This was a coach who, although it seemed he had lost the team, was beloved in this city. The point was that failure was not going to be accepted, until it was.
After Ed Snider passed away in 2016, the team has endured one of the most frustrating periods in their history. Ron Hextall was given the reigns as GM in May 2014, hired Dave Hakstol one year later, and together helped waste the primes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. His work in building the farm system absolutely must be recognized, he did an incredible job, but from the time he took over, to the time he was fired, he accepted failure and did little to nothing to fix it.
He drafted young players, but wouldn’t fire the coach who refused to play them. He signed mediocre free agents, minus JVR who honestly has been quite the productive player since coming back to the team. We thought that when Chuck Fletcher was brought in, things would be different. If the team did not meet expectations, things would change. And to be fair at the start, they did!
Hakstol was fired, Carter Hart was called up, and the next season we saw countless call-ups of young players looking to give guys a shot. And he hired a man who would give them a shot, Vigneault played the kids more and more, put so much trust in guys like Konecny, Lindblom, Sanheim, Myers to an extent, and more. It looked like we finally turned a corner, and then we didn’t.
This season has been a nightmare. Dave Scott, Chuck Fletcher, and everyone else has done nothing to wake us up from it. Special teams has been atrocious all season long, and yet both coaches remain on the staff. The players are underperforming, and yet no one has been traded. This is not a “good team underperforming” anymore. This is a bad team that isn’t giving us any reason to believe they are anything different, and they don’t feel the heat to break out of it.
We have been force fed quotes from Fletcher and Vigneault alike that quite frankly excuse the bull that we have watched the past few weeks. The Flyers have won just three out of their last 12 games. How did they win those games you ask? A 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo in a game they looked awful in, but only won because they played the team so bad no superlative does it justice Buffalo Sabres, an overtime win over the Rangers, and an overtime win against the Islanders in a game where they blew a 3-0 lead. Not exactly inspiring wins.
Among the losses? 9-0 to the Rangers, 6-1 to the Islanders, 8-3 to the Rangers, and most recently, the worst of them all. The Buffalo Sabres came into yesterday having lost 18, EIGHTEEN consecutive games, but the Flyers lost to them 6-1. This team isn’t losing close games they hung around in to the very end, maybe lost because of some bad puck luck, they’re losing because they’re playing like shit, and now they just lost to a literal dumpster fire.
Every defensive mistake they make ends up in the back of the net, and normally that would mean you place blame on mostly the goalies, that would be the case if the defense wasn’t giving up 2-on-1’s like they’re going out of style. It’s not just the defense and the goalies though, as Jason Kelce said, it’s the whole damn team. The offense is coming from Joel Farabee, JVR, Sean Couturier, and Claude Giroux, that’s really about it! Sustained time in the offensive zone feels more of a miracle than Howie Roseman not making terrible GM decisions.
And while all of this happens, nothing changes. Fletcher has said that some kids from Lehigh Valley might get a shot soon and while that sounds lovely especially if it’s a Tanner Laczynski or Zayde Wisdom, who have been nothing but impressive, it’s not enough. They won’t fix this team. A shake up is needed and the worst part is I have zero confidence it will happen.
The value of an Ed Snider owning the team truly could not be measured. We criticized the move to trade Richards and Carter and bring in Bryzgalov sure, and that was warranted, but damnit the man cared, and that is sorely missed. He saw a team that was two wins away from winning the Cup get swept out of the second round the following year with a rookie goalie and aging vet backup in net and had the captain and leading goal scorer of the team traded. If that doesn’t send a “failure won’t be accepted” message I truly don’t know what does.
I just need to know that this team won’t be allowed to fail again with zero repercussions. Firing either Mike Yeo, Michel Therrien, or even Vigneault won’t fix everything, but it’s something. Trading a Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, or if we really want to spice things up a Jakub Voracek doesn’t fix things right away, but it’s something.
This is a lot of words to say we have reached the “change for sake of change” stage, but this has been a rough year in more ways than one, and a smidge of venting had to be done. I’m tired of hearing excuses, the same old excuses we’ve heard for years now, I want to be shown for once that failure won’t be accepted. Don’t tell me it won’t be, we’re passed that, speak with your actions.