It’s over. Pack it up. Pull the golf clubs out of storage. Get excited for baseball season. Prepare for spring cleaning. Do anything and everything else other than worry about the Flyers and any potential post season run.
After losing to the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 Wednesday, the Flyers are officially cooked.
Oh, they’re still just three points out of a playoff spot and they have three games next week with the team they are chasing – the Boston Bruins – so I’m sure you’ll hear about if they play the right way in those games, they can flip the script, but frankly, it’s just talk.
Because you can’t be this bad against the worst team in the NHL.
- the Sabres had lost 18 straight games before Wednesday – and still outclassed the Flyers
- the Sabres have just seven wins this season – and two of them were against the Flyers, by matching 6-1 scores
- the Sabres have mustered just 19 points this season – six of them against the Flyers
- the Sabres have points in just 12 games this season – four of them against the Flyers
- the Sabres are a league-worst minus-46 in goal differential this season, but against the Flyers, they are just minus-1 in seven games
- the Sabres have scored just 58 goals in 28 games against the rest of the division, an average of 2.07 goals per game, but against the Flyers they have scored 19 goals in seven games (2.71) and that includes the Flyers shutting them out three times!
The Flyers are toast.
And no, this is not some cruel April Fool’s joke Philadelphia – although, can you imagine just one month ago being told the Flyers would go 6-10-1 in March and give up a franchise record 75 goals in the month (an average of 4.41 per game)? You’d have to think this was some kind of Sidd Finch-like story, right?
But it is the truth. The Flyers just endured one of the worst months in franchise history and it has all but killed their season.
Even the six wins were riddled with angst:
- a come-from-behind victory in Pittsburgh after trailing 3-0 to win 4-3
- a come-from-behind victory over Buffalo after falling behind 3-1 to win 5-4 in a shootout
- a come-from-behind victory in New York after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Rangers 5-4 in overtime
- a late victory in New York over the Islanders after blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period to win 4-3 in the game’s final minutes
- a nail-biter over the Rangers, in which Sam Morin had to provide the late-game heroics with his first NHL goal to win 2-1
- a come-from-behind victory in Buffalo after falling behind 3-0 after two periods to win 4-3 in overtime
When you look at it, it was really possible for the Flyers to lose all 17 of these games in March. Because it’s not like the losses were all that close. Maybe only the 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on March 6 and the 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders on March 22. Those were close throughout. The other one-goal losses were the Flyers trying to mount comebacks like the wins listed above only to fall short. But those followed listless performances for at least one period, but in many cases two.
The reality is, the Flyers were outscored 53-19 in their 11 losses in March. Think about that disparity. That means, on average, they lost games in March by three goals per game.
That’s not just bad luck. That’s just bad.
And I can’t get away from those six wins being as close as they are. I look at those comebacks and I see the same players – and the ones often most criticized – busting their tails to help the team come back and win. In each of those games the Flyers had to scratch and claw for the two points led by Claude Giroux, who had five goals and two assists. Jake Voracek had a goal and four assists. Sean Couturier had two goals and two assists. Ivan Provorov had a goal and three assists Travis Konecny had four assists. The rest of the team – not so much.
But really, without the core of this team pulling out wins from the jaws of defeat, the Flyers could well have the second-worst record in the NHL right now. That’s not a narrative. They are that close to being that bad.
Hell, maybe they are that bad. It’s unfathomable to think that a team can go from having the best points percentage in the best division in the NHL to being the second-worst team in the span of a month without any crippling injuries, and yet, here we are.
There’s no reason to recap the game. It was dreadful for most of the night. Once again defensive coverage was terrible. Forwards didn’t back check. There were too many turnovers. The goalies were terrible – that part is the same song on repeat, 35 times over so far this season and counting.
Question: why does this organization seemingly tolerate this? Why won’t they just admit it isn’t working and take a step back, as that appears to be the only way to eventually move forward?
— Mike Aceto (@Flyer_AF) April 1, 2021
Good question, Mike.
What’s more important to focus on now is the next 12 days. General manager Chuck Fletcher needs to overhaul this roster. That’s not to say it needs to be torn down and the team needs to be thrust into another rebuild, because it doesn’t. There are pieces you can win with here. Coots is a true No. 1 center in this league. Giroux has one year left on his contract and still plays at a high enough level to be a quality top-6 forward. Joel Farabee is coming into his own as a sniper. Ivan Provorov will be so much better with a competent partner. Carter Hart will figure it out over the summer and be back to his old form by next fall. You can compete with these players, some other young pieces that are coming, and sprinkle in some veteran presence into the lineup and the Flyers can be right back to where expectations had them entering this season in six months.
But Fletcher needs to act. He needs to start reshaping this team of his predecessor’s unfulfilled promise and turn it into his own roster – and he needs to start that in the next 12 days. He’s been relatively quiet as a GM so far, but the spotlight now shifts to him.
This group doesn’t work together. Fix it.
One bright spot
With Shayne Gostisbehere clearing waivers, as expected, the Flyers sent him to the taxi squad. This roster flexibility also allowed the Flyers to sign 2019 first round draft pick Cam York to his entry level contract.
The interesting thing is, when most prospects sign their ELC this late in the season, it’s usually slated to start the next season so the team doesn’t lose a year of control of the player. The Flyers are eschewing that luxury to get him playing right now.
That has to mean they feel the defenseman, who had a strong sophomore season at the University of Michigan, but more importantly captained the U.S. World Junior team to a gold medal in January, is ready to play professionally right away and that they don’t think he’ll need much time in the AHL before he can make his NHL debut.
I would bet York plays no more than a handful of games with the Phantoms (maybe even less) before we see him don a Flyers sweater for the first time.
I also expect, as the Flyers continue to fade out of relevancy as far as the playoffs are concerned, that we will see Phantoms players like Tanner Lacynski and Wade Allison get a shot with the big club. Maybe even Yegor Zamula.
Because it’s all about 2021-22 now. And beyond.
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