Philadelphia Hockey Fans Deserve Some Answers Now: Thoughts After Sabres 6, Flyers 3

Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s like we hit rock bottom. We can’t catch a break.” – Flyers captain Claude Giroux following the 6-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Saturday.

Don’t worry G, this team can sink lower. There are all-time records to break here. There are more and more seats that can be left emptied. And for those fans with absolutely nothing better to do with their lives that do show up, there are brown bags to wear over their heads.

Heck, there might be another promotional night or two to screw up. There’s still Marvel Super Hero Night on March 5 against Chicago where they could have Gritty dress up as Superman and throw pies in the face of in-arena host Andrea Helfrich dressed as Wonder Woman while they quietly hand out the “G-Lantern” rings to fans on the way out of the building because they traded their captain the night before:

The opening of this post may be loaded with snark, I admit. But there are multiple stages we all need to go through when dealing with horrible events. Heck, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

We’re still in stage two here friends, there’s still half a season to go.

We got through the denial part – when we thought this team was better than the outcomes on the ice. That they just needed time to play together and get a full roster back on the ice. Now, of course, that doesn’t matter. Not one lick. The Flyers are in last place in the Metropolitan Division. They are 16 points out of the final playoff spot and have played three more games than the team that comfortably sits there at the moment – the Boston Bruins.

And although their present record of 13-20-8 is technically better than the 2006-07 team (11-26-4 through 41 games), the worst in Flyers history – for a little longer anyway – the current team has already reached levels of futility that team did not.

For example, have a winless streak of 11 games. With the loss to Buffalo, who had not won a home game since Nov. 24, yes, before Thanksgiving, the Flyers are now one game away from tying the all-time franchise record for winless streaks at 12 games, which they can do Monday at Wells Fargo Center against Dallas.

They are also now tied for the 11th longest winless streak since the elimination of ties.  And only they and the 2005-06 Blues have had multiple winless streaks of at least 10 games with at least one of the streaks going beyond 10 games in that same time frame.

The Flyers’ current 11-game winless streak also matches the longest winless streak in the NHL this season, tying the Arizona Coyotes from October/November.

Yes, it’s that bad. And getting worse. As one former Philadelphia hockey scribe DM’d me on Twitter after the loss to Buffalo: “In short, this organization tossed aside 50 years of what Ed Snider had built to become the mid-2010s Minnesota Wild on the ice and the Washington Nationals off the ice.

It’s not just me saying it anymore friends. It’s permeating throughout the hockey universe. And most importantly, the fans are completely fed up.

It’s gotten to a point where certain people need to be heard from.

Chuck Fletcher

The Flyers General Manager usually gives a quarterly report for his team. The last time he spoke was after the 20-game mark. Since today is an off day and they have games Monday and Tuesday night before three days off in a row, I expect he will make himself available sometime in the middle of next week after the Islanders game.

It may be too little too late, but at least Fletcher sticks to a pretty routine schedule when speaking about the team, and who knows, maybe at that point he’ll be willing to talk about where the roster goes from here, even though the trade deadline is still two months away.

Dave Scott

Can we scare him out of hiding? After all, he is the chairman of this franchise. He can’t be happy with the on-ice product, but he also is responsible for the team and how it operates, and frankly, he can’t be happy with the bottom line either – seeing all those empty seats. Hearing all the fan frustration. Presiding over one faux pas after another off the ice. Will he take accountability for anything? Will he hold anyone accountable for anything? How much longer can he honestly think that doing nothing and saying nothing will allow for the news cycle to turn over and for everyone to forget the bad times? This is Philadelphia. The fans don’t forget anything. And right now, Dave is a primary target of their ire.

Brian Roberts

I can’t tell you the last time Roberts spoke about the Flyers. Maybe it was the introduction of Scott as the new CEO back in 2017. So to have him speak about the hockey team would be highly unusual.

But this is about more than the hockey team. This is about the deterioration of a brand. He’s had to have heard whispers at this point, if not had direct conversations with people he trusts that are pointing out the mess that is the Flyers organization right now.

I can’t imagine he goes to budget meetings and sees where things are financially and chalks it up to effects from the pandemic, or some freedom fighting fans who refuse to comply with the city of Philadelphia’s vaccine mandate. Besides, it’s almost a guarantee that the accountants and actuaries hired to design those budgets already built in pandemic and vaccine-related projections, even if they didn’t anticipate an Omicron outbreak or the city to be so stringent – and yet, it’s almost certain it wasn’t built in this low.

Roberts is a very smart man. You don’t get to be where he is with the company he’s with if you aren’t. And, from what I understand, he’s very measured, thoughtful and always does his due diligence before making any business decision.

As such, Roberts knows what’s going on. And if he feels change is needed, change will be made. There is no doubt. You just might not hear directly from him (save for a statement in a press release), or you might not get immediate satisfaction, because he’s not one to make quick, reactive decisions.

But Roberts will act if he feels action needs to be taken. Not sooner.

Alas, something needs to be said, and soon. Because this can only get worse before it gets better and it’s unfair to make Mike Yeo the highest ranking official who has to talk about this debacle on a daily basis.

Speaking of Yeo….

A decision to swing the game that no one talked about… 

We could get into the nitty-gritty of the breakdowns that led to Buffalo’s goals – and there were plenty. There were mistakes in coverage. There were turnovers. There was bad goaltending – as Martin Jones was way off his game. I mean, the Flyers gave up six goals to a Buffalo team that averages just over two goals a game. It’s pathetic, really.

And in just 89 seconds, the Flyers allowed the first goal of the game – again – which makes nine times in the last 11 games, and they lost – again – meaning they are now a woeful 2-18-3 in games in which they trailed 1-0.

But, it’s not like they panicked in this one. Instead, the Flyers answered quickly. They scored two goals 1:26 apart and took the lead.

First, it was Rasmus Ristolainen getting his second goal of the season, but more importantly for him, scoring in his first game against his former team:

Then Giroux gave the Flyers the lead with the first of his two goals in the game, deftly deflecting an Ivan Provorov shot past Buffalo goalie Michael Houser.

Couldn’t find video of that one, probably because the people who are used to clipping videos no longer care enough to do so all the time. Hell, not even the network the team was on put it out on Twitter.

But, because it won’t be long now before we no longer have clips of Giroux scoring goals for the Flyers, here’s his second goal of the game, also a deflection, this time of a Travis Konecny shot, that trimmed the Buffalo lead to 6-3:

OK… but lets go back to his first goal. That made it 2-1 Flyers at 12:44 of the first period. They gave up the first goal, but stayed the course, continued to play their system, and were able to get the lead.

They just needed to play another 7:16 of solid hockey and they would have come out of the first period with the lead, something they don’t do often enough, but are 6-1-4 when they do.

But a couple minutes later, Zack MacEwen took a hooking penalty and it led to a power play goal by Tage Thompson that tied the score at two.

Or did it?

Yeo decided to challenge that the goal should be disallowed because the Sabres entered the zone offside:

Just looking at the still in the video above shows that Yeo was right to challenge the call. It should have been offsides. The linesmen reviewed it for 12 hours (Ok, it was more like six minutes, but it felt that long), and decided there was not enough visual evidence to overturn the call.

So, the goal counts, and by rule, Yeo is assessed a delay of game penalty for challenging the call.

And just 24 seconds later, Thompson scored another power play goal, and just like that the Flyers 2-1 lead, which still should have been intact because NHL officials are truly incapable of learning how to pause video, was suddenly a 3-2 deficit… because NHL officials are truly incapable of learning how to pause video.

From there, Buffalo added a fourth goal in the first period, chasing Jones, and the Flyers, who are even worse when trailing after the first period than when allowing the first goal (now 1-12-2), were toast.

With as open and honest as Yeo has been in press conferences after games, we were sure to get a good reaction to the offside sequence.

Yet, it wasn’t addressed.

Not that we didn’t want to address it. Hell, I was on the Zoom call raising my hand like Arnold Horshack.

Problem is, because the Philadelphia Inquirer spent money to send their two reporters to Buffalo to cover the game, anyone who is covering the press conference via Zoom can view it in real time, but is not allowed to ask questions.

This rule is stupid while we are in a pandemic. If it were no pandemic, I’d be totally fine with it, but every other reporter covering the Flyers was tuning in on Zoom besides the Inquirer. So, the only questions asked of the coach and players were by the Inquirer.

Suffice it to say, Yeo wasn’t asked about his challenge and the subsequent penalty and goal that changed the game entirely.

None of the players were either. Thankfully, Giroux at least mentioned it.

“We challenged (their second goal) and it could have gone one way or the other, but to me it looked offside,” he said. “That kind of killed our momentum a little bit.”

Wade Allison’s debut… and subsequent injury

Wade Allison made his season debut in Buffalo. Allison was expected to make the team out of training camp, but suffered a high ankle sprain in a rookie game and took almost two months to get back. While playing in conditioning games in the AHL for the Phantoms, he took a hit on the wall, and suffered an elbow injury that knocked him out for about another month. He was back with the Flyers Saturday and looked good early… but then this happened:

That little slip is likely going to cost Allison time… again.

I’m hearing Allison is getting an MRI Sunday but that the initial belief is an MCL sprain. The Flyers are hoping it’s just a Grade I sprain, which is only a 1-2 week injury. But, if it’s Grade II, it could be another 2-4 week injury. They do not believe it’s Grade III which is usually 4-6 weeks or longer if surgery is required.

We’ll probably get an update on that injury late Sunday or maybe even Monday morning.

A Trade Sniff?

According to an NHL source, the Edmonton Oilers reached out to the Flyers about the availability of Jones to fill their desperate goaltending needs. From what I’m told, Edmonton made an initial lowball draft pick offer. The Flyers turned it down and countered with a higher draft pick request, which Edmonton turned down.

Edmonton will continue looking around, but not a lot of teams are willing to part with a goalie, including one who took a team to a Stanley Cup Final, this early in a season, and the Oilers are desperate and can’t wait much longer if they want to stay in the playoff race out West.

Might they change their mind and meet the Flyers demand for a higher draft pick? Might they be able to convince the Flyers to put some conditions on the pick related to games started, or Edmonton reaching the postseason? Possibly.

If the Flyers do trade Jones, they’ll likely give both Felix Sandstrom and Kirill Ustimenko a chance to get a few games in at the NHL level while backing up Carter Hart.

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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