Things got really weird in hockey this weekend.
The Flyers, who have had absolutely nothing to play for going on a month now, decided to show up against the Washington Capitals and play spoiler – just so their hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, could win the division.
Yep. Really weird.
The Flyers didn’t have to do this. They could have just coasted into the off season and no one would have noticed. They could have tanked for a better draft slot. They could have called up a bunch of minor leaguers and given them a taste of the NHL.
Instead they played. Hard. And made life miserable for the Capitals.
The Flyers won a game Friday, 4-2 before losing Saturday in OT 2-1. The results guaranteed that the Flyers, even in this most dreadful of seasons, and lets not forget this season was an all-time low in so many ways, can finish no worse than .500 on a points percentage scale.
The Flyers have had just one sub-.500 points season (2006-07) since 1994-95.
That’s only a stat of note, not one you should be excited about. Mediocrity breeds apathy and some would argue that’s where everyone is with this organization right now after 10 straight seasons of alternating between making and missing the playoffs, and only three playoff series victories – all in the first round – since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.
But, it is what it is. and the Flyers face an uncertain future after the final game of the season Monday – and yes, we are down to one last game to go.
There are a few things to discuss here though:
1. Wade Allison
The kid scored two goals against Washington Friday. He now has four goals in the 13 games since he’s been called up to the big club.
Here are the two goals:
— TLY (@TheLibertyYell) May 8, 2021
give Wade Allison ANOTHER goal against the Caps: pic.twitter.com/vXg56Wv18D
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 8, 2021
The kid has a shot. The kid has deflection skills. He has chutzpah, as he goes to the net with confidence. He doesn’t fear the greasy areas of the ice. Oh, and he now has the same amount of goals as Nolan Patrick, for what it’s worth.
Seriously, Allison is on a scoring pace that, if he played an 82-game rookie season would have netted him 25 goals. That’s pretty darn good.
He is definitely a player Flyers fans can, and should be excited about for next season.
2. Cam York
Two games into his NHL career, the Flyers top prospect does not look out of place. He has a certain poise to his game where he’s able to slow it down in his mind, even if it’s going at break-neck speed on the ice.
Coach Alain Vigneault talked about how he’s really adept at making the first forechecker miss. That’s something the Flyers sorely need on breakouts.
Again, it’s been two games. He hasn’t done anything eye-popping, but he certainly didn’t look out of place either. You can probably count York in the mix for the Flyers top 6 on defense in 2021-22, no matter how his third and final game of the season goes on Monday.
3. Alex Lyon
Lyon played the best game of his brief NHL career Saturday, making 38 saves in the OT loss to the Caps.
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) May 9, 2021
Lyon is trying to make a late-season pitch to be in the mix for the backup goalie role for the Flyers next season behind Carter Hart. A performance like this does make his resume a little shinier but as great as he played, he gave up the tying goal with 38 seconds left in regulation and the OT goal with just under a minute to play, which is kind of what gives you pause as to having him as a full-time backup.
I know Lyon wants to re-sign with the Flyers after the season. And as a third goalie in the system, he’s fine. He’s a solid AHL goalie, and he’s proven that he can jump in and play at the NHL level in a pinch and compete enough to keep his team in the game.
Still, in 22 NHL games over the course of four seasons – a small sample, we know – His 3.21 goals against average and .893 Save percentage just aren’t good enough for full-time backup status.
He’s also 28-years-old now and the Flyers have a pair of young goalies in the system who are going to need time at the AHL level. Felix Sandstrom got a decent amount with the Phantoms this year and Kirill Ustimenko missed the season with an injury, but looked to be ahead of Sandstrom before getting hurt.
I’m betting the Flyers look for a veteran upgrade from Brian Elliott to backup Carter Hart on a 1-2 year deal at least, and that Lyon looks for work elsewhere as the Flyers try to develop goalies from within.
4. Alain Vigneault
This one is pure speculation. This doesn’t come from anyone inside the organization. And as you all know, I’ve been saying for the better part of three months that the Flyers aren’t going to fire the coach.
And they’re not. Chuck Fletcher is committed to AV as the guy to lead the team.
But, what if AV decides, on his own, to walk away?
Look, this has been the most frustrating of seasons for the seventh winningest coach in the history of the sport. It’s been stressful and it’s been trying on him. Maybe he’s worried that he’s losing his ability to connect with today’s player.
I chalk it up to AV being a teacher as a coach. He’s the kind of guy where although he is tough and hard on players, he gets the most out of his team during practice. There have been so few practices this season because of the schedule that it could have well pushed AV to the brink.
He was brought here to win a Stanley Cup. That’s it. You don’t hire a coach of his caliber if that’s not the case. And right now, the Flyers seem even further from the Cup than they were when he got here.
And that’s through no fault of the coach. The players on his roster have not developed as the Flyers would have hoped. And, yes, while it falls on the coach to get his team prepared and ready to play games, it falls on the players to also play the game the right way, which tends to be the most inconsistent thing about this Flyers group.
Couple all of this with a recent report from Larry Brooks in the New York Post that read:
We’re hearing that it is no sure thing at all that Alain Vigneault will return for his third season in Philadelphia next year. Hasn’t 2020-21 in Philly smelled a lot like 2017-18 in New York? And if not Vigneault, who in the organization is going to answer for the debacle that became Carter Hart?
The interesting line here is the part I bolded above. It was craftily written by Brooks. It’s not saying the Flyers are thinking of firing AV. Chuck Fletcher has flatly said “No,” when asked if he’d consider coaching changes. Chairman Dave Scott came out and supported the coach as well and said he wants to give AV all the resources he needs to succeed.
So why would they publicly say those things if they were considering making a change? Unless the change is going to be thrust upon them by a coach that walks away.
AV is a proud man and a good person. If, in fact he is thinking about this, it’s certainly weighing on him heavily.
Frankly, I think he deserves t least one more season, with a new-look roster and a regular schedule to see if he can right the ship.
But, if he walks away on his own accord, then what do the Flyers do? What voice do you bring in here to get it right?
Hey John Tortorella is out in Columbus. Tell me that wouldn’t be entertaining, eh?
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