Flyers Rot Goes Straight to the Top

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline, USA TODAY

It was June 9, 2010 when Michael Leighton gave up what was then just the latest in ridiculous, embarrassing playoff goals in the franchise’s brutal goaltending history. Seeing that one cost the Flyers the Stanley Cup was especially galling. Little did any of us know that, years later, that low moment was as good as it would to get for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday night’s desultory, disinterested 3-1 home loss to the San Jose Sharks left the Flyers buried in the basement of the Metropolitan Division and losers of nine straight games. A home date with Boston followed by three games in four nights in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are coming up. That’s not a stretch where a turnaround is apt to begin.

This season has been ugly. The real tragedy, though, is that this Flyers team, despite what its record would suggest, is not in a rebuilding mode. Shockingly, pathetically, this bottom-feeding team was built to win now.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, while anyone casting an objective eye on the roster last season could see that it was past time for them to move on from the core of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds – a trio that has led the Flyers to one first-round playoff exit in three seasons – the Flyers themselves didn’t see it. Those three are being paid a total of $23,750,000 this season.

Giroux will be 30 in January. Simmonds will turn 30 in August right after Voracek turns 29. It’s fine for the Pittsburgh Penguins to build around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as those players roll into their thirties because they’ve won consecutive Stanley Cups. It’s fine for the Washington Capitals to continue to build around Alex Ovechkin because, well, the time to trade him was five years ago, so there really is no turning back for the Caps now.

But the rest of the successful teams in the Eastern Conference this season are built around youth, speed, and skill – in many cases, traits that are all found in one or two transcendent talents. Auston Matthews in Toronto. Steven Stamkos in Tampa. Taylor Hall in New Jersey. You would have to name 50 such players in the league before you could consider naming one Flyer.

The Flyers actually had a player like this, until they traded him for a lesser, older talent and two first round picks. Brayden Schenn may have underperformed here, but apparently all it took for him to remember how to play hockey was to go somewhere else. Schenn’s total of 30 points through 25 games for St. Louis this season suggests that he’ll annihilate his prior high point total of 59 from two seasons ago.

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry, USA TODAY

Before you chime in with “well, at least they can build through the draft with those picks,” let’s tick through those first-round selections in the past seven seasons: Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, German Rubtsov, Nolan Patrick, and Morgan Frost. From that list, only Couturier and Provorov have been productive Flyers thus far. Everyone else on that list is a ‘maybe’ or a ‘sort of.’

And then there’s the goaltending.

When you see the latest new Flyer netminder, Brian Elliott, languishing in 28th place among NHL goalkeepers in goals against average while former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky maintains the top spot for the division-leading Columbus Blue Jackets, I mean, it’s like the Flyers’ handling of goaltending encapsulated in one screenshot.

It’s to the point now where you have to wonder why you would go to a Flyers game. Who are you there to see? What satisfaction are you going to derive from, say, watching them blow a two-goal, third period lead or get blanked by the Minnesota Wild?

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall (who conceded some pretty memorably atrocious playoff goals in his own right) is in full “we’re all all right” mode:

Not playing poorly? The team hasn’t won in three weeks. They blow leads. They’re bad at home. They’re bad on the road. They’re bad. That’s it.

Recently my colleague Anthony SanFilippo called for head coach Dave Hakstol’s job. Anthony’s take is spot on. It also, to my mind, didn’t go quite far enough.

Look at the team’s org chart. Seriously. Three of the top hockey operations men are Paul Holmgren, Hextall and Bobby Clarke. Hakstol wasn’t the one who gave Giroux the contract which pays him superstar money when he isn’t a superstar anymore. Hakstol wasn’t the one who overpaid Voracek, either.

When Ed Snider was alive, you knew that he was always going to take care of his own, and that an unavoidable consequence of this would be seeing former Flyer greats installed in various capacities in the organization without term limits, like they were Supreme Court justices.

Somehow, even with Mr. Snider having ascended to the astral plane where his team always wins and his wives just get younger and younger, this team is still being run by the old Flyer guard.

Firing Hakstol for failing to win with this team is like firing a chef for failing to keep your restaurant open after you gave him some expensive ingredients whose expiration dates had passed and bought the rest of the kitchen stock at Aldi.

The Flyers need to accept that they are in a rebuilding mode now despite not knowing or appreciating it until it was too late. The rebuilding, though, shouldn’t start on the ice.

It should start in the suites.

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30 Responses

    1. Hahahahahaha this comment made my morning.

      “you pass, you shoot, you score! It’s that simple!!!!” – lady at a game 6 years ago.

  1. The Flyers aren’t very good, but they definitely aren’t built to win now. They have two rookie defensemen on the roster and the team is ridiculously young. They do need to get some forwards in the pipeline for down the road. That is a major concern that hasn’t been addressed very well.

  2. Wow. What a hilariously bad take. This guy must be a faithful Cataldi follower.

    1. The flyers top guys(G, Jake, Simmer) have carried the load while the rest of the team has been riddled with the likes of Matt Read, Vinny Lecavalier, Chris Vandevelde, Max Talbot, and so on for years now. All of which have taken turns on the second line. When you have no depth, defenses can focus on stopping guys like G. It’s actually quite impressive that he has been able to put up the points he has over the years with not even a full second line behind him(read:third in points over the last 5+years).

    2. If you think the Schenn trade was about anything other than picks your insane. Agreed, he is talented, but with no depth and no cap space, Hextall HAD to move him for futures and he’s proven he is a good talent evaluator. All of those picks you have mentioned have been doing nothing but prove their worth at the minor league level and then some. Patrick and TK at their age are going to see bumps along the way, but you were likely saying TK was the next Danny Briere last year when he was lighting it up out of camp, weren’t you? Otherwise, Sanheim has proven himself at the NHL level, Morin, if you have paid attention is more than ready and simply stuck in a numbers crunch. Long and short, the Schenn move for picks, fits into the timeline of where the future of this team currently sits, and that is at the minor league/rookie NHLer level.

    3. Your hate of G shows you don’t actually know how the sport of hockey is played and you likely have never laced up a pair of skates before. You’re DEFINITELY the jackass who yells shoot at games. Definitely

    4. You’re an asshole for talking ill of Ed Snider, regardless of how he ran this team. He brought the Flyers to Philly, so have some fucking respect.

    1. Your blind faith is typical of a Flyers fan. Here’s a hint G – win something! Anything! Make the playoffs, score a few goals, lead. This team has been unwatchable for a decade. Your keen insight is worthless. Glad you know so much about the sport of hockey that you can blindly support a team that has been awful for longer than you can count.

    2. I know this is you, Myrtetus. Stick to planning fake calls to your radio station.

    1. Lol, agreed, Aldi gets slept on, and it’s good sh!t. Stay away from the bananas though, always looking beat the fuq up whenever I’m in there. If you eat clean and don’t feel like going broke on food, Aldis ftw

  3. What Phil said above. This article is trash. What are all your great ideas once all of the god awful management is ousted?

  4. God, Flyers fans are such sensitive pussies. They suck, they need a new a direction. Get it over it.

  5. I agreed with the rebuild approach and was okay missing the playoffs last year. But going into this year, they needed to make strides forward. You cant do that with guys like Elliot, Dale Weise, Andrew MacDonald, Brandon Manning, Raffl, and Gudas. They all do not fit with the rebuild strategy. They suck. Why Sam Morin isn’t playing over Manning or MacDonald is insane. And don’t tell me he hasn’t been that bad this year. He sucks. He constantly is chasing forwards and turning over the puck in his own zone. Hextall was a company man, a Flyer guy as some would say. But he wasn’t supposed to be like the other guys they hired like Clarke and Holmgren. He actually went somewhere and was a part of building a 2 time Cup winner. It’s ridiculous that a team like the Flyers can go through rebuilds like this in this market. I have the same frustration with the Phillies. How can they just suck after having such a good team. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Giants just keep bringing in more talent to replace the old. Same thing happens in the NHL. Teams like the Red wings, Blackhawks, Penguins, Rangers, and all the big markets besides Philadelphia continue to reload.

  6. I never want to read an article this poor on this site again. This is an absolutel failure. The team sucks right now but this is a poor take on overall situation. This is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to leave a commnent in my tenure as a reader. More staff is great. This article is not.

  7. After next season there are only 3 forwards under contract: G, Voracek, and Coots. That means there is a ton of cash and space to fill the roster. The defense is one of, if not thee, youngest in the league and there is real talent there. Provorov will be a league standout for years to come Hagg is a rookie and already an asset on D. Then you have Ghost, Morin, and Sanheim to continue to develop. Most national announcers will tell you the Flyers are stockpiled with great talent in goal at the junior level. Carter Hart will most likely be the starting goalie for Team Canada in the next junior tournament. Hart has also set his current franchise record for shutouts. This team is being built to be good for a long time, they are not built to win this year. Are they built to have more than 8 wins so far this year, absolutely. We waited out the SIxers because they had a plan to stuck to it. 8-9 players make up a good NBA team, so the turnaround is quicker than a 20 player NHL team. This team, along with Toronto and NJ will be the elite in the eastern conference soon. We have the Eagles and Sixers to keep us happy for the next year or so, let’s give this team the time they need. They are clearly headed in the right direction.

  8. Build around Schenn… right. The guy could only score on the PP and take penalties. He was a nice player and is doing well on a better team. The move was about cap space and picks. I assume you’re just trolling with this article

  9. I think its funny you blast the “core” for being bad, when right now those guys are the only fucking people doing anything. Giroux and Voracek are both in the top 10 in the NHL in points you fucking monogoloid. Their depth and coaching are abysmal, but their core guys are actually having the best season that theyve had in years.

    Terrible fucking take.

    1. It’s the same lazy approach people have. I’m surprised he didn’t suggest they “take the C away” from Giroux too.

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