Mediocrity, Disappointment, the Philadelphia Flyers

That definition of mediocre is, “of only moderate quality; not very good.” That is a perfect definition of the Philadelphia Flyers.

With the Flyers 6-4 loss in New Jersey on Tuesday to the Devils, some would say the Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 season is all but done for. How could a team that was so deadly last year come out so flat this one? It has been yet another disappointing season for Flyers fans and I am starting to believe that if they do not get out of this rut soon, they may be trapped in it forever.

It has been seven years since the flyers qualified for the playoffs in consecutive years. Their mediocrity is something that all Flyers fans are sick of and dying to leave in the past. No matter how good the team is and regardless of how high the expectations are before the season begins, they always seem to let us down and come up short in the end.

It seems like ever since their cup run back in 2010 this team has been stuck in infinite limbo. It is quite embarrassing for the team that has the 3rd highest winning percentage in NHL history to also have the second longest cup drought in the league.

Sure the fly guys have been able to put together some strong cup contending teams throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, but recently, the team has been completely abysmal when it comes to meeting expectations. However, before we look at the team now and really dive into what exactly went so catastrophically wrong this season; we first must go back and examine what made their last team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals so special. 

I hate to be that fan that is stuck in the past and can’t seem to move on, but this 2010 team was really something to see. Now I was only 8 at the time and I barely remember going to the games with my dad and watching it on TV, but from watching the hundreds of highlights on screen over the years, it is truly unimaginable to see how far the Flyers have sunk since Patrick Kane sent us into infinite mediocrity 11 years ago. 

The team consisted of top key players such as Mike Richards, Chris Pronger Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere, while also having a young Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyke playing key roles. You see, the difference between this 2010 team and the squad the Flyers sent into the bubble 10 years later in 2020 is pretty obvious. Goal scoring.

Last year the Flyers top 3 offensive players, Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny, combined for 3 goals in 13 games. In 2010, the Flyers top 3 offensive players, Briere, Richards, and Giroux combined for 29 goals in 23 games. Jeff Carter also scored 5, despite battling an injury for the majority of the playoffs.

Some may argue that the squad the boys sent into the bubble last season was far more talented and deep than the one they sent 10 years prior. However, at the end of the day, it does not matter how much talent you have on your team, all that matters is if they produce in the clutch and are healthy and ready to play come playoff time. 

Take the Tampa Bay Lightning for example. All throughout the 2010s, Tampa consistently put together one of the most talented rosters in the entire league year in and year out. In 2019 their record breaking squad entered the playoffs with a 62-16-4 record, good enough to win the Atlantic Division and the Presidents Trophy. Their historical regular season campaign that was led by league MVP Nikita Kucherov and longtime team captain and goal scoring machine Steven Stamkos, took the lighting into the playoffs as the #1 seed to face off against the #8 Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Some saw this series as a guaranteed lock for the Lightning to move on and advance to the second round despite dealing with some key injuries that they suffered down the stretch of the season. Tampa’s roster on paper just seemed far too talented and deep to lose to a team of Columbus’s caliber that early in the playoffs. However, the Bluejackets shocked the world and not only defeated the Lightning, but swept them handily in 4 games. Now I am not trying to discredit that 2019 Lightning team at all but what I am trying to say is that there are many glaring similarities between that Lightning squad and the playoff teams the Flyers have put together over the past decade. 

Even though the 2012 Philadelphia Flyers did not make it as far as they did just 2 years prior, the team they had this time around seemed to be even more stacked. They had a beginning of his prime Giroux who was eager and hungry to get back to the finals along with other key pieces that they had in their last deep playoff run such as Briere, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and Brayden Coburn. The team also added young studs in Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmons, and Jakub Voracek. Another key piece that they added in the offseason was returning veteran and NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, who although struggled early, made an immediate impact for the orange and black.

It seemed that heading into the playoffs the Flyers had a real chance to upset some teams and make a run to get back to the finals, despite being the 5 seed. Giroux powered the boys past the cross state rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and they were red hot heading into round 2. Then disaster happened yet again. The Flyers were routed by the Devils in 5 games. However, the future still looked incredibly bright. Most of the Flyers top performing players (Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, JVR, Simmonds, Schenn, and Matt Read) were all 25 years or younger and about to enter their primes.

So what did the Flyers do in the following years with that young core?

*2013 – (23 -22-3 / 49pts ) Did not qualify for Playoffs

2014 – (42-30-10 / 94pts) Lost in 7 to New York Rangers

2015 – (33-31-18 / 84pts) Did not qualify for Playoffs

2016 – (41-27-14 / 96pts) Lost in 6 to Washington Capitals

2017 – (39-33-10 / 88pts) Did not qualify for Playoffs

2018 – (42-26-14 / 98pts) Lost in 6 to Pittsburgh Penguins

2019 – (37-37-8 / (82pts) Did not qualify for Playoffs

Total(s) – (257-206-77 / 591pts) 3 Playoffs Appearances, 0 Playoff Series Wins

* = lockout season

Throughout those 7 years, the Flyers managed to make the playoffs only three times. In the years prior, since 1995, the Flyers qualified for the playoffs 16 out of 17 seasons. The franchise’s winning history was going downhill fast. In those 7 years the team recycled through 3 coaches, 2 general managers, and many stereotypes about the team were born. “Giroux can’t perform in the playoffs”, “The Flyers can’t win in a shootout”, and “We will never have a decent goaltender”, have haunted the Flyers for what seems to be forever now.

When looking for the root of the problem with today’s team, you can look at many things. One many people like to point out is management. Like mentioned before, the Flyers have recycled through 5 coaches in the past decade. (Peter Laviolette, Craig Berube, Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon, and Alain Vigneault) AV has been the coach for 2 years now and the turn around he caused right from the jump was pretty immaculate in my opinion. He took the Flyers from dead in the water in the Metropolitan division the year prior to immediate cup contenders the following year. It is hard to argue that if it was not for the late season pause due to Covid, the Flyers would have won the Metro with ease and made a deep run into a normal Stanley Cup Playoff format.

Nonetheless, this season has obviously been a different story. However, at what point is it not the coaches fault anymore? The media has not seemed to take the team’s struggles out on AV like they may have done to coaches in the past. It seems that the media has been placing almost all of the blame on the players instead this season. I believe the fans and media have finally reached a point of realization where they understand that it has not entirely been the coaching all along, but more of the core players Philly has been rostering since 2012.

Giroux, Couturier, Voracek, and JVR are names Philadelphia fans have heard for forever now. No matter how much you love them, the fact of the matter is, they have brought 0 championships to Broad Street. It is time to break up the core of this team. Nobody should be safe this offseason. This season was such a disappointment that in my opinion everybody besides Couturier and Provorov should be on the chopping block this summer.

You can make an argument for second year goaltender Carter Hart as well, but has he shown you enough to make you feel confident enough in his abilities that he is truly the franchise goaltender this organization needs? It can honestly go either way. But I get it, in reality you aren’t going to ship away your entire roster in one off season, and it may be too early to give up on a guy you have invested so much in. So for this scenario he gets a third season to prove himself. Now what happens if he lets the fans down and disappoints again next season as well though? Then the Flyers have a real situation on their hands and they may be wishing that they shipped him off when his value was a lot higher.

Another tricky one is with team captain Claude Giroux. The guy is 33 years old now and maybe has 2-3 years left of high level play. G is one of the most highly talked about and debated players in all of Philadelphia. It seems that you either love him or hate him. Nevertheless, It is still incredibly shocking to me how some fans do not respect him.

Giroux is the longest tenured Philadelphia athlete and has been around since 2008. In the 2010’s, that’s right the entire decade, he was third in the entire NHL in points only behind Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. G, at the moment, is 3rd in Flyers history in points and has potential to finish 1st if he finishes the rest of his career with the squad. He has scored countless overtime winners and is ranked top 2 in all time adjusted assist, points, and goals created in franchise history. Here is where G ranks in all the main statistical categories in Flyers history:

*Games Played: 936 (3rd)

Goals: 271 (9th)

*Assist: 580 (2nd)

*Points: 851 (3rd)

Power Play Goals: 81 (8th)

Game Winning Goals: 45 (7th)

* = In range  to finish 1st before career ends

Love him or hate him, you have to respect him. I get it though, Philly fans have a very “what have you done for me lately type of mentality”, and with Giroux’s 0 cups, it is hard for some fans to back his credibility. But at the same time, if you have that point of view, do you respect Allen Iverson? How about Donovan McNabb or Charles Barkley? Or any Eagles player in the history of the franchise before 2018… At the end of the day, Giroux will arguably be a hall of famer and it is possible that his number will be retired by the franchise as well. Now if he does manage to win a Stanley Cup before he retires, then it is not even a debate. So yes, I would resign G in 2 years and keep him on the team as well as a veteran presence for the young guys.

Other than that, everything is fair game. Konecny, Patrick, Sanhiem, as good as they are, should not be safe. How long are you willing to sit in this limbo of mediocrity for? At some point you have to blow it all up and start from the ground up. Trade some of these guys for goal scorers who you know are not going to fold on you in the playoffs. For once sign some guys that are going to make an immediate impact on your club. Not guys like Erik Gustafsson and Nate Thompson. 

I have said it once already and I will say it again. It is truly embarrassing to let your fans down year in and year out. No matter how high the expectations Especially in a major market city like Philadelphia. No matter how high they are projected in the standings, the Flyers always seem to find a way to disappoint. At some point something has to change.

It has been 16,774 days. 551 Months. 46 Years. 

It has been that long since the Philadelphia Flyers last accomplished the main feat that they are here to do. Win a Stanley Cup.