Yawn Night? Thoughts after Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1
Flyers Interim coach Mike Yeo has seen a lot of hockey.
As a player, he played four years of junior hockey for the Sudbury Wolves. He followed that with five years in the International Hockey League, where he played for the Houston Aeros. He spent part of one season in the American Hockey League with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
At that point, he gave up the ghost as far as making it to the NHL as a player, and pursued a different path as a coach.
He spent the next six years as an assistant coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, before getting the call up to the big club, where he spent four years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won a Stanley Cup in the process.
From there, he got his first head coaching gig back in the AHL with the Aeros, who had switched leagues, and took the team to the finals in his first season behind the bench.
So impressed was Chuck Fletcher, then the general manager in Minnesota, that he promoted Yeo to be head coach of the Wild.
Yeo spent a little more than 4 1/2 seasons behind the bench in Minnesota before being fired, but got a gig the very next season as the associate head coach of the St. Louis Blues, where, after a half season he was promoted to head coach.
After 19 games into his third season in St. Louis, Yeo was fired from a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup. (Play Gloria).
Again, he wasn’t out of hockey for very long and the very next season, he was hired again by Fletcher, this time with the Flyers, as an assistant coach. After two-and-a-half seasons, Yeo was promoted to interim head coach about six weeks ago.
I gave you his professional hockey biography to show you just how long he’s been around the sport – parts of every season for the past 31 seasons.
And so, it was after Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Flyers 10th consecutive loss and second 10-game losing streak in the past two months, that Mike Yeo was asked how high the frustration level was in his locker room.
“I think that it’s probably the highest that I’ve seen to be honest with you at any point,” he said. “Obviously we’re here, our job is to win and we’re not winning. And so there’s a number of players that take that very personally, so I can see the frustration.”
Yes. It’s visible. Yes, it’s palpable. Yes, it’s becoming difficult to write about, too, because it’s seemingly never-ending.
What can I tell you about this one? The Flyers and Blue Jackets played a pretty even game. The first period was a bit of a snoozer, but in the second period, things picked up on both ends, and both goalies were good. Carter Hart continues to be solid for the Flyers, despite the ineptitude of the team in front of him, and Elvis Merzlinkins was outstanding for Columbus.
Then, midway through the second period, Ivan Provorov screwed up royally. There’s not a good video to show you because, as this was happening Twitter crashed for several minutes, so no one could upload anything, but Provorov threw a lazy pass from the bottom of the left circle to Scott Laughton, who was standing still facing into the Flyers zone at the blue line.
That, in and of itself tells you there’s a good chance it’s not going to get out of the zone.
Sean Kuraly poke checks it from Laughton to Boone Jenner on the wall, Provorov then takes himself out of position to go after Jenner, who has his back to the net, leaving Oliver Bjorkstrand alone down low. Jenner makes a nice one-touch pass and Bjorkstrand does the rest:
Bjorkstrand backhand and a beauty at that‼️ pic.twitter.com/MwBk747wt1
— NHL (@NHL) January 21, 2022
You know what that means, right? Cam Atkinson does.
“There’s a statistic that if we don’t score the first goal our chances of winning are pretty much slim and none,” Atkinson said of the team’s now 2-17-3 record when giving up the first goal of a game. “We have to change that. No matter what happens, you take a deep breath and go out there and give it all you got, not be deflated. Our bench tonight was pretty deflated. No energy. No pop. You just have to stay positive at the end of the day. We’ll turn this around one way or another. True character shows at these times. We have to stick together.”
The emphasis there is mine, but those were the most telling quotes of the night. Atkinson basically calling out the team for growing accepting of losing.
Because 5:50 into the third period Columbus basically provided the dagger:
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 21, 2022
Sure, AHL lifer Gerry Mayhew would add a goal for the flyers with a little more than seven minutes remaining, his first NHL goal since October 26, 2019 when he was with Minnesota.
Of course he was with Minnesota.
But the Flyers would get no closer, and they made a little history.
- It was the first time in franchise history that a Flyers team had a winless streak of at least 10 games twice in the same season.
(Before I go further, it’s important to point out that these count as winless streaks nowadays because of the loser point in hockey. In other words, it doesn’t count as a “loss” in either overtime or the shootout. This is because prior to 2005-06, there were ties, which no longer exist. To rectify this, the league decided to count any game that goes into overtime now the same way it counted ties back in the day. Even though from 1983 through 2004 if you lost in overtime it counted as a loss, now it counts as a tie, because there are no ties anymore. Got that? Only the NHL can be this dumb. OK… back to the history books…)
- The Flyers became the first team since the 2010-11 Colorado Avalanche to have two winless streaks of at least 10 games in the same season. (That Avalanche squad parlayed that into drafting Nathan MacKinnon. Doubt the Flyers will be so lucky).
- The Flyers are just the third team since the institution of the shootout (and thus the salary cap era) to post two winless streaks of at least 10 games in the same season. Along with the Flyers and the aforementioned Avalanche squad, the St. Louis Blues turned the trick in 2005-06.
- Overall, it’s happened to a team 39 times in the history of the NHL. It occurred 14 times in the overtime-only era of 1983-2004, an additional 14 times in the post-expansion era through the institution of overtime (1967-1983) and an additional eight times in the pre-expansion era of hockey (1924-1967).
- The Flyers are the first team to have it occur with two different head coaches since the 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning, who actually tortured three different head coaches with their futility.
- There have been 40 winless streaks of at least 10 games in the shootout/salary cap era. The Flyers have had four of them.
- With so many games still to play the Flyers can have it happen again, potentially. Only six teams in the history of the sport have had it happen three times (1997-98 Tampa Bay, 1992-93 Ottawa, 1992-93 San Jose, 1985-86 Vancouver, 1974-75 Washington, 1967-68 Oakland. The 74-75 Capitals actually had four separate winless streaks of at least 10 games in the same season.)
- The all time record for most games without a win is 30, held by the 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets (the version that is now the Arizona Coyotes, for franchise record keeping purposes), so these Flyers aren’t close to that level of futility quite yet. However, the longest winless streak in the shootout/salary cap era is 18 games set by last season’s Buffalo Sabres, who you will remember, snapped the streak against the Flyers. Maybe the Flyers can return the favor in their next game – which is in Buffalo on Saturday.
The point of sharing all this history is this: This Flyers team is epically bad. It’s really hard to lose this frequently in the modern game because of shootouts and 3-on-3 overtime. If you get it to the extra session, more than likely you are going to pull one out at some point.
So, to be in the company with that Avalanche team, which won just five games after January 24, and only one of those five was in regulation (Feb. 22), or that Blues team, which lost 18 of its last 19 games, is truly pathetic.
The announced crowd for the game was 15,359. We know that’s not the actual number of people in attendance, that’s the number of tickets sold.
As for the number of people that were there… well… let’s just let this nice video the Flyers made thanking Jake Voracek for his 10 years with the team give you a sense:
— Anthony SanFilippo (@AntSanPhilly) January 21, 2022
Actual butts in seats? I’d say 8,000. I don’t remember any crowd smaller. I’m not the only one noticing this…
I haven’t seen this many empty seats at the WFC for a regular-season game on a good weather night in a long time. pic.twitter.com/R6gs3p9Saj
— wayne fish (@waynefish1) January 21, 2022
I think Wayne was covering hockey since the days of the Philadelphia Quakers. I kid he’s not that old. The Firebirds, yes. The Quakers, no.
The Flyers will publicly tell you this has to do with COVID. Some others will suggest this has to do with Philadelphia’s vaccine requirements.
And while there are people who might be staying away for those reasons, it’s not why upwards of 12,000 people are staying away.
The team being bad has a lot to do with it too, but the team’s been bad before and the attendance has never dipped to Miami Marlins level before.
This is the Flyers fans making a statement. Loud and clear. They are fed up. They don’t feel the team deserves their dollars. It’s a combination of frustration about the team being between mediocre and bad for a decade now and a distaste for the way the business side of the organization is being run.
Good for the fans.
This is the only way to bring about the change you want. You can scream from the rooftops on Twitter and in your Facebook groups, but as long as Comcast continues to make their goals and hit their budgets, nothing will change.
You start putting bottom line numbers in red, especially beyond the projections accountants came up with with the pandemic impact, that will get some people at Comcast talking. And if investors go to Brian Roberts and say, “what the hell is going on with the Flyers,” then he’ll have no choice but to consider what changes he might have to make to turn things around.
The fans need to stay vigilant. Stay away. Or, if you come, send a message. Like these people:
— Freddy Flyer (@playsomehockey) January 21, 2022
The Flyers promotional calendar had Jan. 20 labeled as “Jawn Night.” Here is how it was originally outlined by the team in their press release from September:
Thursday, January 20, vs. Columbus – Jawn Night
Jawn is the Philadelphia coined term that is undefinable but also all encompassing. A jawn can be anything, and Jawn Night will be everything. Fans will arrive early to receive one of four mystery jawn giveaways, purchase $1 jawns from the concessions, see their favorite jawns on the ice, and even buy exclusive jawns at the team store. No other team in the league can have this one-of-a kind night that will purposefully lean heavily into the ambiguity and all-encompassing nature of the term itself.
Emphasis, again is mine. You’ll see why in a minute.
Jawn night was promoted in-arena as recently as Tuesday’s home game against the New York Islanders.
Then, fans arrived last night…. And there was nothing.
@NHLFlyers it’s jawn night and there was no jawn handed out on the way into the game. Where’s the jawn?
— Edward McComb (@tmccomb329) January 20, 2022
I thought it was jawn giveaway night
— mike (@CAV_SANITY) January 20, 2022
was Jawn Night simply cancelled? @NHLFlyers
— Jawn B. Routledge (@RayRay_610) January 21, 2022
@NHLFlyers is it jawn night or not?
— Liv (@oliviaamerritt_) January 21, 2022
I’m at the game for jawn night and not a single jawn has been handed out?? @NHLFlyers ??? That’s the only reason I’m here????
— kate (@katemonster20) January 21, 2022
What about Jawn night?
— Tom D 🥏 (@TomDeCoursey) January 21, 2022
This team sucks. Wasn't there a give away tonight? A "jawn" night?
— dont (@ManwithBeard9) January 21, 2022
@NHLFlyers WHAT HAPPENED TO JAWN NIGHT?? It was literally on your site today when buying tickets. We get there and are told there’s no jawns?? What crap is this??
— Joe Simpson (@SadJediShark) January 21, 2022
At 8:11PM I texted a Flyers spokesperson to ask what happened to Jawn night. I got no response.
Interestingly enough though, about a half hour later, interns started handing out two giveaways to the media. They were a Flyers shower cup and Flyers finger puppets:
The same Flyers spokesperson who didn’t answer my text, showed up in the press box with a few minutes to go in the game and said, “The giveaways will be handed out to fans on the way out.”
That said, all night long, there was no mention of “Jawn Night.” No Lou Nolan, “Welcome to Jawn Night.” No in-arena hosts talking about “Jawn Night.” It just kind of was being glossed over… until it wasn’t at the end of the night when everything was harried.
Going back to the bolded part of the press release above where it said “fans will arrive early to receive one of four mystery giveaways,” well that didn’t happen. There were $1 pretzels… although the whole “Jawn Night” promotion wasn’t attached to it. There were supposed to be exclusive “jawns” in the team store, but if there were, no one knew about it.
And were these shower cups and finger puppets part of the original giveaway plan? Or were they an emergency fill-in? And if they were part of the original plan, where are the other two mystery jawns?
Maybe most people read it the way a lot of other languages pronounce the letter “J” and that’s with a “Y” sound, and got confused thinking it was “Yawn Night.” Because, that’s a better descriptor of what the experience was like for the fans.