I usually don’t have an agenda when writing about the Flyers.
It is my intention to always provide an informed opinion or analysis based on data or conversation with people in the know – even if the opinion is unpopular.
But heading into last night’s game in New York – I will admit – I had it in my head that I was going to write a story with a specific, predetermined angle.
I was going to sit down at the keyboard and tell you how impressed I have been of late with the Flyers. After coming back from a bye and playing a very strong game against New Jersey Saturday. I was going to talk about Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek being overlooked as All-Stars in the NHL this year. I was going to talk about the improved play of young guys like Travis Konecny, Jordan Weal, and Nolan Patrick.
I had the whole thing planned in advance. It was going to be the perfect catapult into the lovefest that will be the Eric Lindros number retirement ceremony tomorrow night.
Then the game happened.
The Flyers were completely outworked and buried by a divisional opponent – in a matchup that is critical to the playoff race, no less – for the second time in six games.
And my plan was blown to smithereens.
It’s no wonder I tend to skew toward skepticism with this team.
And I’ve got to tell you, it’s difficult.
I know what you’re thinkin: “Cry me a river SanFilippo. It’s sooooo hard to write about sports for a living.”
And on that level, you are 100% right, and I have no reason to sit here bitching.
But, when you cover an inconsistent team, it is as equally frustrating on the writer as it is on the fan – and I’m pretty much only writing on game days (to this point anyway…)
And it’s why, when anyone asks me – on Twitter, in the comments section here on Crossing Broad, or in line at the Springfield Wawa – what I think about the Flyers, I say I don’t think they are a playoff team.
And it’s because you can’t be this inconsistent and expect to be there.
Yeah, they’re only three points out. Yeah, they’ve played pretty well overall since the 10-game losing streak.
But it’s also easy to get caught up in a smaller sample without taking the bigger sample into consideration:
But that just basically means they're a 500 team, no? because I can just as easily say they've lost 15 of their last 27 games if I wanted to push a more negative narrative.
— Anthony SanFilippo (@AntSanPhilly) January 17, 2018
Update: They are now 12-5-1 since the 10 game losing streak and have lost 16 of 28.
And there’s no reason to recap the 5-1 loss last night. The Rangers were the better, more determined team. Brian Elliott didn’t have a good game, but his defense left him on an island to face breakaway after breakaway.
The Flyers were as awful as they were against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas continue to defy logic by playing, and playing poorly, while Travis Sanheim sits in the press box.
And it was another game where, if Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek don’t create offense, no one else really picks them up.
So yeah, there’s your takeaway from the game.
But it makes writing something new and interesting about this team all the more difficult.
I can sit here and rehash the reasons why I don’t think they’re a playoff team, but I did that in November, and again a couple weeks ago.
I can sit here and criticize Dave Hakstol again for allowing the same foibles that bite the team consistently to continue to occur, and I can suggest that he isn’t the right man for the job.
I can sit here and wonder what exactly Ron Hextall’s plan is with this team as he throws some young players right into the fire (like Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick), declares a need for patience with others (like Sam Morin and Oskar Lindblom) and lets others wallow as a repeated healthy scratch (Sanheim) while replacement level players get time ahead of them.
But that starts to become old. That starts to become predictable.
There is also the possibility that the Flyers youth isn’t as good as it has been purported to be. That’s not to say that the young players are going to be busts – I think Ivan Provorov is going to be a star and Shayne Gostisbehere has already showed us what he’s going to be, but everyone else has left us with unanswered questions. But because of their youth we have to wait and see if those questions eventually get answered.
Meanwhile, a lot of other young players are in the NHL and thriving in other organizations – which makes you wonder if the plan, while prudent to a point, may be too conservative.
Maybe my mistake, though, has been assuming I have to be the person who imparts wisdom onto the Flyers fans with each of these posts, but that once they get past their Twitter-induced vitriol, they’re actually pretty savvy and don’t need me telling them what they need to hear.
Take @Tidal22 for instance:
Kyle, I don’t know this guy from Adam, but we should give him a forum. He can be my backup if I have a conflict!
But he’s not alone. There are others out there. Other smart fans who see what the reality of the Flyers situation really is:
Talk about wasting an opportunity and announcing that the Flyers are not ready for prime time.
— Don’t Stand So Close To Me 78 (@BLitt1978) January 17, 2018
Brett brings up a legit concern. The Flyers have looked dreadful in the two most important games of January so far – a home game against Pittsburgh and the game last night in New York. Maybe it’s just Tuesdays that are an issue (I kid) or maybe the games against the teams they are chasing cause them to play a little too conservatively.
I know, they played a pretty good game against the Islanders last week, and while, yes, the Flyers are chasing the Islanders too, there’s something different about approaching the Islanders, who have a dreadful defense and horrible goaltending, and going against the Penguins – who are two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, and going up against the Rangers in New York where the Flyers have won two games – in seven years!
The schedule doesn’t get easy. In fact, it’s daunting. A lot of good teams coming up.
The thing is with the Flyers, sometimes they outplay good teams (St. Louis, New Jersey in recent games), and sometimes, they get badly outplayed (as we’ve already discussed).
Which is what makes them, ultimately, a .500 team.
The Flyers are where Sixers fans didn’t want to see the Sixers before the great Process commenced.
They took a different path here, for sure. And this is technically supposed to be on the way back up in the process, however, if the Flyers miss the playoffs this season, it’ll be the first time they missed in back-to-back seasons in 25 years – which flies in the face of Process-understanding logic.
So, how do you get out of this repetitive circle of inconsistency and mediocrity?
Something has to change. I don’t care what it is. Make a trade. Fire a coach – even if it’s not the head guy.
(I’m a big Ian Laperriere fan. I actually think he’s a good coach and communicator. However, the penalty kill is abysmal. It might be the worst penalty kill unit in Flyers history. In the last 11 games, the Flyers have allowed 11 power play goals in just 31 attempts [PK% of 64.6]. That’s abysmal. They’re only slightly better for the whole season [74.5%] and something needs to change here pronto. So if it’s Lappy, it’s Lappy. But ignoring it is perplexing.)
Waive a veteran (Jori Lehtera anyone? He’s playing in all three phases of the game and hasn’t scored a goal and only has three assists in 26 games this season).
Otherwise, this will be a repetitive spin cycle for another four months… both on the ice, and on this blog.