The Philadelphia Flyers’ hopes in 2021-22 may have already sailed given the rash of injuries, COVID outbreaks, a lack of care honoring their alumni, and a rare midseason firing of their head coach.
Okay one of those things isn’t real, but the reality remains that the Flyers’ season might seem left for dead but it’s really anywhere but finished — for better or worse, there are a ton of questions out there for a team seemingly going nowhere.
With rescheduled games, the Flyers still have 46 games as they their season from hell meanders on in the midst of a pack of teams fighting for what looks to be playoff spots inching further out reach by the calendar day.
There are more questions than answers, and while it’s easy to get caught up in old draft debates about Cale Makar’s and Nolan Patrick’s and whether or not Ron Hextall was a double agent as a result of the Flyers’ trade for Eric Lindros all those years ago — there’s still a damn lot of hockey left to play.
Are we ready to be hurt again? Absolutely.
On paper the Flyers are only seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot, but are in the wrong pack of four teams within two points sitting distantly out of playoff positioning. Even with how uneven the Flyers’ play has been through 35 games this season so far, a healthy team on paper is talented enough to at least be capable of a run to make things interesting for the Bruins or play spoiler or even just figure out some things in terms of who goes up on the chopping block before 2022-23 kicks off.
Soliciting a run towards a playoff spot seems like a tall task for these Flyers, but we’re hopeful to learn at least something about some of these guys moving forward out of their latest COVID-related pause. Will there be fight as the schedule gets tougher and truncated? Do players like Ivan Provorov and Carter Hart turn their frustrations of the COVID protocols onto opponents or continue mailing in subpar campaigns? Can Cam York stick it as a regular? Why are the Flyers doing this to Kevin Hayes? Are they really going to trade Claude Giroux? Can interim head coach Mike Yeo — 5-4-3 since taking over for the fired Alain Vigneault — finally connect with these Flyers and squeeze out consistent efforts period to period and game to game?
And that’s not even the half of the questions we have with this mind numbing club, but perhaps the best place to start is the here and now — what the Flyers will look like out of their latest pause with demanding opponents like the Bruins and New York Rangers waiting before a bit of a reprieve with the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres ahead.
Yeo’s Flyers will be tested right out of the pause as Tuukka Rask makes his season debut for the Bruins after missing time due to surgery for a torn labrum — he’s 19-2-4 in 26 career games against the Orange and Black with a .927 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average. The Bruins will be on the heels of a back-to-back after rolling over the hapless Montreal Canadiens last night, but the Flyers haven’t given any indication thus far that they’re equipped or capable to make a good team like Boston pay on short rest.
Boston is a tall task themselves, never mind the Flyers are already 50% of the way to another ten-game winless skid and haven’t played since a crushing overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks after giving up three goals in the last six minutes of regulation and overtime to complete another collapse.
Then Saturday brings the Rangers with an offense that will test a shoddy Flyers defensive corps that has badly missed Ryan Ellis, who doesn’t have a return in sight. Their young goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, has been properly supported on the ice while the Flyers’ Hart has been left exposed to a slew of dreadful team performances helping lead to a dip in his numbers and play — with frustrating bleeding in the form of some poignant comments about the NHL’s COVID protocols.
Considering the fact that Provorov's comments today pretty clearly echoed those of Carter Hart a couple weeks ago (the "it's gotta change" wording was basically identical), one can guess this sentiment is all over the Flyers' locker room. They're obviously frustrated with it all.— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) January 12, 2022
First it was Hart sounding off on the protocols and then his top pair defenseman joined in shortly after — with the losses mounting and frustrating seemingly starting to boil over are the Flyers just headed for another tailspin like back in early December?
And maybe they are, but it’s time to get pulled back in, see what happens and hope for the best because not watching the Flyers with all these games left just isn’t an option for most of us no matter how bad things get.