Mike Sielski vs. Flyers Twitter, Again

Eric Hartline - USA Today Sports

It’s been a somewhat slow day in the Philadelphia sports world, but a perusal of the hellscape known as “Twitter” reveals that Flyers fans once again appear to be at odds with Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski.

Mike has generally been critical of the franchise since his return to the region, and that’s refreshing in a way, since condemnation of that under-achieving organization had been previously scarce. It’s the old trope about “Stepford” beats and fans, which may or may not be true, depending on how one looks at local hockey landscape from afar. Recently, Jake Voracek called Mike a “weasel” who writes “fucking shit,” which Sielski then explained in detail via this here website. He also has lighter sparring sessions with Flyers fans and today is once again in the spotlight for this column:

The paragraph in dispute appears to be this one:

“Ron Hextall was given less than five years to reverse a decade-long trend, and he repeated a mistake with Jake Voracek that his predecessor, Paul Holmgren, made with Claude Giroux, allocating too many years and too much of the team’s salary cap to a player who couldn’t quite meet the measure of so great a commitment. The question is not whether Giroux and Voracek are good players. The question is whether they’re good enough to take up so much precious cap space for so long.”

Hmm, well this basically takes us into the territory of “are Giroux and Voracek good enough?” People like to argue about the “core” of the team, and Flyers fans, for the most part, take umbrage when somebody questions Giroux. Our Flyers writers, I believe, are pro-Giroux, and I know Anthony has written ad nauseum about his value to the team. Others look at Giroux and wish he was Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, or Connor McDavid.

Which brings us to this tweet:

Writes Meltzer:

1. Giroux was just coming off a Hart Trophy finalist season at the time the deal was signed. He was 25. To get cost-certainty on him for eight seasons, and keep it under $9 million for the duration of his prime, was exactly the right thing to do at the time.

2. He’s delivered plenty of value over the life of the deal. That included his career-best 102 point season in 2017-18 where it was a travesty that he was only 4th in the Hart Trophy race and had an especially spectacular stretch drive. Made anyone who played with him better.

3. Hexy spent four years focused heavily on a (needed) farm-system rebuild. The biproduct: GM was content to keep just enough in place to be a bubble team at the NHL level so long as it didn’t cost the team picks or prospects to aim beyond reaching the first round.

All valid points.

Thing is, Mike’s take isn’t necessarily a hot take. It’s not popular, but it’s not unfair. I think Flyers fans sometimes become a little overly-defensive RE: these perceived slights, to the point where people begin tweeting stuff like this:

Sielski always takes these criticisms in stride, and he’ll respond with some goofy self-deprecating humor, or things like this:

Here’s my uneducated take as the resident basketball/football/soccer guy:

  1. Giroux lived up to his contract.
  2. He has not consistently been a tier 1 NHL player over the course of his career (and from 2013 to 2018 he wasn’t Kane, Kucherov, Benn, etc). He’s more like an A- when other superstars were getting A+ grades.
  3. The Flyers were not stocked with talent during the Hextall rebuild years.
  4. They also didn’t have a franchise goaltender during Giroux’s prime.
  5. This isn’t like basketball or football, where singular stars are carrying teams to trophies.

I think all of those bullet points can true at the same time. Sielski’s argument isn’t even necessarily that controversial, I think it just gets blown out of proportion because he goes harder at the Flyers than most people, and that draws the ire of a portion of the fan base, which is understandable. I don’t think either side is necessarily out of line here, and now we can all carry on and enjoy the rest of our day.