All-Time Low: Thoughts after Rangers 8, Flyers 3

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Declarative statements like the one that is upcoming are called “hot takes” these days. But really, it’s not all that toasty.

In fact, it’s pretty cold. Stone cold even. Because there’s very little that can be argued otherwise.

However, after the Flyers’ latest embarrassment of a loss, this one 8-3 at the hands of the New York Rangers Thursday – the same Rangers team who just eight days earlier beat the Flyers 9-0 – it’s probably safe to say this is the worst time in the 54-year history of this franchise.

No, this team isn’t as bad as the 2006-07 Flyers. That was the worst individual team, by far.

This also isn’t the early 90s, where the Flyers missed the playoffs five consecutive seasons at a time when practically every team in hockey made it. But at least they were in it for a while in most of those seasons, or at the very least, didn’t have the city thinking they were a Stanley Cup contender right away, and the promise of the future was there for three of those season with a generational talent like Eric Lindros that made them worth watching.

But, this eight-year stretch of mediocrity is the longest such stretch in franchise history.

And, it’s hard to think of another season where expectations were as high as they were coming into this season and the team fell so dreadfully short. The closest is likely that 2012-13 season that started this death march to where they are today.

The team had just come off a season where they had beaten the hated Penguins in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out meekly to New Jersey in the second round,

But, as Mike Richards said on the Spittin’ Chiclets  podcast last year, when talking about his first season with the Los Angeles Kings after being traded by the Flyers, the first of two L.A Stanley Cup championship runs, he and his teammates, and a lot of people in the NHL, were convinced the Flyers were the best team in the East and would reach the final.

So, there was that notion that the 2012-13 team could be that team ready to take that next step.

But, then a lockout happened. A shortened season was required. The Flyers never seemed themselves, and they never really got themselves right enough to even make the playoffs.

But even then, the games were never this bad. The performances never this lopsided.

Yes, the Flyers lost 10 straight games a few times – most recently in the Dave Hakstol error era. But even then, they were competitive. They were bad, but they just kept finding new ways to lose a game.

Not like this. Never like this.

The Flyers are getting torched. They’ve now lost 10 of 14 games in March. They’ve fallen to sixth place in the division in a season where they entered as one of the favorites to win it outright.

They’ve also allowed 65 goals in March. That’s the most since 1993 for a month – and there are still three games to go.

Over the span of two games, the Rangers scored 15 unanswered goals against the Flyers. Think about that number and how staggering it is. And honestly, it happened in less than four total periods, because the first nine happened in less than two periods of play in one game and the next six happened in less than two periods of play in the next.

Oh, and if you couldn’t figure it out, that’s the first time that’s happened in team history. Or, for those of you who like your linguistics redundant, First. Time. Ever.

Mika Zibanejad had six points – in each game. That’s right. Six points last week against the Flyers and six points this week against the Flyers. He also had a natural hat trick in BOTH games:

With all that happening, quietly in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby registered his 1,300th point Thursday as well. But, he better not let his foot off the pedal:

Adam Fox became only the second Rangers defenseman to ever register a five-assist game Thursday.

In the last two games against the Flyers, the Rangers as a team are plus-58. The Flyers? Minus-60.

Carter Hart allowed five goals on 11 shots before getting pulled. Brian Elliott then surrendered three goals on 11 shots.  This was actually worse than the 9-0 game as Elliott allowed five goals on 13 shots in that game before being pulled and Hart surrendered four on 16 shots.

Hey, so maybe the team is trending in the right direction, eh?

Look, it’s bad. Really bad. And it’s almost comical that no one wants to say anything about it. Not the GM. Not the coach. And not players.

The Flyers are a bit head-in-the sand here.

And that’s where most fans have it a little wrong. They say they want to see passion from the team. They say they want to see a team that cares. They don’t want a team that quits.

Who can blame them? That’s exactly how they should feel. But Sam Morin getting into a fight at the end of an 8-3 game after trying to pick one at the start of the second period, it not working, him getting a penalty and it leading to the game-winning goal by New York, is not the way to do it.

The players don’t quit on the ice. Even down 6-0 they were skating hard. They continued to try to score. They continued to try to get back into the game. They outshot the Rangers 44-22. Teams that quit don’t do those things.

You know who quits? The Buffalo Sabres, who have lost 16 straight games and don’t have a guy with more than five goals scored this season in the lineup.

The Flyers aren’t quitters on the ice.

But off it, they just don’t say the right things – and that’s where you might find a need for change. Someone needs to crack heads. Someone needs to come out and be angry and say something that the rest of the team doesn’t like to hear.

This should have been the GM at his press conference Wednesday, but it wasn’t. Chuck Fletcher was mostly honest with us, but it wasn’t said with any kind of kick in the pants for his team. He supported the belief that they were close. He pointed out that they had played two really good games of late against the Islanders – a 4-3 win in which they blew a 3-0 third period lead and a 2-1 overtime loss.

When you are hanging your hat on those outcomes, you need a new rack.

How about the coach? After another dismal performance he chalked it up as a bad night, but hey, the team was going to finally get a chance to get back to practice Friday for the first time in 12 days, and they’ll finally be able to address what’s going wrong and fix things.

It was so perplexing that I had to ask Alain Vigneault this question:

I hear all the things you are saying, but when you consider you lost to this team 9-0, does the way you come out and give up another 8 goals, is that a little disheartening to you at this point?

“There is no doubt we came into this game tonight with the right intentions, in my personal opinion,” he said. “It didn’t go that way at all. Every opportunity we gave them early on they seemed to be able to capitalize on it. You know, you do what you can. What we can do, like I’ve mentioned a few times is focus on our day tomorrow and try to improve and that is what we’re going to try to do.”

Still not the right answer.

You know who had the right answer, and was the only person who has had the right answer for anything this season?

Shayne Gostisbehere, of all people.

Here’s a guy who is in and out of the lineup, who has been in the coach’s doghouse for the better part of two seasons, who has been a cause for a number of mistakes on the ice, mostly in his own zone, coming out with the most honest and direct answers that everyone needs to hear – that this team has “lost its identity.”

I won’t rehash them here. You can read Russ’s story about this that he excitedly posted right after the game, mostly because Gostisbehere dropped a couple of profanities as a response to Russ’ question and my partner got a little excited by that, but the fact is, this is a message that needs to be delivered by someone much higher up the food chain and it hasn’t been to this point.

In olden days, the chairman of the team would come out and tell you how he felt and crack a few skulls in the process.

These days the chairman of the team, Dave Scott, is more concerned with making sure his minions are pushing season ticket packages for next season onto fans and covering up the team’s ticket pricing faux pas this season by making sure enough comps are given out so there will be 2,800 fans in the stands to watch the dreck on the ice:

Of course, Scott has a track record of being an impatient man, and he could come out one of these days and make a rash decision and fire somebody on the hockey side – just because he isn’t happy, not because it makes any real hockey sense.  But we’ll see.

The whole situation is a mess. It really is. And like I said at the beginning, it really could be the worst time in the history of a storied franchise.

When Gostisbehere said the team lost its identity. He probably didn’t realize how right he was. It’s gone. Completely. Both on the ice and off it.

For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts   

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