I know what you’re thinking – “here’s the basketball guy talking to me about ice hockey.

Maybe something from an outsider could be a “fresh perspective” on the state of the Philadelphia Flyers.

For starters, this team made the right move by firing Ron Hextall, but they can’t stop there. Dave Hakstol has to go and so does Ian Laperriere. Whomever is above Paul Holmgren needs to get rid of him as well. I guess that’s Dave Scott’s job.

Then you trade Jake Voracek for whatever he’s worth and see if you can get something for Wayne Simmonds before his contract expires. Claude Giroux has a no-trade clause and a contract that carries him into 2022, so he’s obviously going nowhere.

Why would you do this?

You do this because this Flyers team is the 2011-2012 Sixers. They are too good to be bad and too bad to be good. They cannot advance any further in the playoffs than the first or second round. That is their ceiling. They have reached their ceiling with this core of players, this coaching staff, and this front office situation, and they now find themselves in NHL purgatory.

It’s true that this club has more talent on the roster than what the Sixers had back then, which was basically an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday and a bunch of role players with an average head coach in Doug Collins. The Flyers have legit pieces in Giroux and Voracek and Sean Couturier and some of the younger talent that Ron Hextall brought into the squad, but you know as well as I do that this team is not Tampa or Toronto or Nashville. They are a six to eight seed playoff team that will not be favored to get out of the first round. They haven’t advanced beyond the first round since 2012 and there’s no reason to believe that they will do that this year or next year.

Sam Hinkie saw the writing on the wall, so he blew it up with the goal of becoming elite and not just decent. That was the whole point; he didn’t want to lose in the first round of the playoffs, so he tore it down with the endgame of winning a title. The process years were painful but ultimately worth it, as the Sixers now have three superstars on their squad and are infinitely more intriguing than any squad that was put on the floor from 2002 to 2012.

The Flyers did not see the writing on the wall. They did a half-assed pseudo-Process. Sure, Ron Hextall did a nice job of rebuilding the farm system and putting some talent in the pipeline. He got the franchise out of Holmgren’s salary cap hell. But he never found a legitimate goaltender and brought us multiple years of Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise. The head coach tinkers, fails to inspire, and can’t get his team to play consistent hockey. I’ve never seen a team go through peaks and valleys like this squad. And as far as Lappy, when your penalty kill drops from 20th to 30th over the course of four seasons, you don’t keep your job.

As for Holmgren:

It makes no sense.

Imagine if the Phillies replaced Ruben Amaro Jr. with Matt Klentak then promoted Amaro to President of the organization. A few years later, Klentak is fired and Ruben is then in charge of searching for a replacement for his replacement.


By the way, the philosophical differences on how to move forward are this:

  • Paul Holmgren and Dave Scott want to win now and put butts back in the seats because they are losing money and casual fans.
  • Hextall wanted to keep slowly rebuilding the squad while being patient with the likes of Carter Hart and others.

That’s it. That’s the philosophical difference. One side wanted to speed it up and the other didn’t.

But we don’t need a fresh perspective, right? Let’s just continue to recycle the same good old boys and ex-players who have won nothing since the mid 1970s. Let’s bring back Danny Briere to be the next general manager, then we can make Bernie Parent the assistant GM and Joel Otto can coach the Phantoms. Donald Brashear will become the next person to wear the Gritty costume.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purge yourself of anyone who has any longstanding connection to the organization and move the franchise forward. I mean no disrespect to Ed Snider (RIP), who did some amazing things here, but you need to prove to people that this is no longer the same club that just hires ex-Flyers over and over again. The network needs to be completely trashed and rewired.

Beyond that behind-the-scenes stuff, is the top-end talent even good enough to justify building around? I don’t know. You can’t tear most of it down just to construct a roster around Giroux, Voracek, and Sean Couturier. If we were sitting here looking at a half-rebuild, then I’d be fine with putting role players and a franchise goaltender around the likes of Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon or Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. I wouldn’t do it with this core. Giroux turns 31 in January and Voracek will be 30 in August. By the time you bring in a legit goalie and get the coaching situation straightened out, your top-end guys are going to be in their early thirties. Giroux’s contract carries him to age 34 and Voracek’s contract carries him to age 35.  JVR’s contract takes him to age 33.

Is that really the path forward? You have to get all of these guys on the same developmental timeline. You can’t have Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny and Carter Hart hitting their prime while Giroux and Voracek begin the down slope of their careers. You make the Jimmy Butler trade after building the young core, and not the other way around.

A quick note about Giroux, whom everybody loves:

Claude Giroux has 4 points in his last 12 playoff games, which spans two first-round exits. He was a -10 in the Pittsburgh series and shot the puck 12 times. He hasn’t done anything in the playoffs since the 2013-2014 season. Did the staff just burn him out with too much ice time concurrent with the hip problem? Should he have been wasting minutes on the penalty kill over the years? He’s been asked to do everything during his time in Philly, which isn’t fair. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t had a good playoff performance since game six of the Rangers series about four seasons ago.

I often ask people this question about the team, which is somewhat rhetorical but they answer it anyway:

“Who is the last Flyers player that you looked forward to watching?”

It’s not Giroux. It’s not Voracek. Mike Richards? Jeff Carter? They weren’t needle-movers, were they? People answer that question with Eric Lindros and John LeClair and guys who haven’t even been here since the 90s.

Speaking of 20 years ago, I remember my dad taking me down to the Spectrum in 1995 to watch the Flyers beat the Sabres in round one of the playoffs. Now that was a fucking atmosphere. That place was rowdy, the team was good, and they had guys who made you want to watch. These days, nobody say, “man I can’t wait to watch Claude Giroux play!” They just don’t. The Flyers haven’t had somebody like Carson Wentz or Joel Embiid or Aaron Nola in a long time, and maybe that’s just the nature of a game where the superstars only log like 25 minutes of ice time, but the point holds: there’s no star power on the Flyers. Giroux and Voracek are not Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or Patrick Kane, no matter how many points they put up in the regular season. I was at a game about two weeks ago and I’ve never seen any Philadelphia sporting arena be that dead before. You could hear a pin drop in the Wells Fargo Center, because deep down Flyers fans know this team isn’t good enough, even beyond the less-than-inspiring coaching and front office situation.

I don’t even know what the Flyers’ identity is. Are they fast? Do they have ton of skill? Do they beat up teams physically? Are they hard workers? Muckers and grinders? They don’t really do anything in particular. They’re just sort of out there on the ice.

I honestly think you just blow up this team and start over. Trade everyone with value. Keep Coots and Provy and Konecny and capitalize on the good things Hextall did with the farm system. Find a franchise goaltender for the first time in a million years. Load up the Ford F350 with money and back it into Joel Quenneville’s Illinois driveway. Ride out G’s contract and let him be the veteran guy who helps bring along a young team.

Sam Hinkie missed on a few things but he got more right than wrong, which is why Sixers are third place in the east with a trio of superstars and a manageable cap situation, even after the Bryan Colangelo fiasco. People sat here six years ago and said, “yeah but Jrue Holiday!” and “yeah but Thad Young!” and honestly thought the Sixers were moving in the right direction, but anybody who was paying attention knew that team had reached its ceiling.

That’s what the Flyers are in 2018. They can’t see the bigger picture. If Holmgren and Scott think this team is capable of winning right now, then that’s laughable.

For all of Hinkie’s faults, he was blessed with the gift of foresight. He knew the Sixers weren’t going to win a trophy with Doug Collins, Thad Young, and Jrue Holiday, so he blew it up with a larger goal in mind – a means to an end.

The Flyers tried to half ass it and now they’re in the exact same position they were five years ago. They’re a first or second round exit with no goaltending.

This is an opportunity for the Flyers to purge all of that mediocrity and shed the stereotypes that have followed this team for something like four decades now. Take the long view, make some hard decisions, and look to the future. That’s how you get people to start caring again, because right now they don’t.