When’s the last time you turned on a Flyers game and said to yourself, “man I can’t wait to see this guy play tonight“?

If you’re a hardcore hockey fan, that was probably Claude Giroux, but for casuals the feeling likely hasn’t surfaced since the Legion of Doom era.

That’s arguably what the majority of Philadelphia sports fan are – casuals. Not casual in the sense that they don’t know what they’re talking about, but casual in the thought that they’re not watching 82 Flyers games a year. We can safely assume, at this point in time particularly, that most Philly sports fans will watch every Eagles game, then have a favorite among the Flyers/Sixers/Phillies/Union, and only pay half-attention to the other, less-preferred sports while obviously hoping those teams win. That’s what The Cuz was talking about when he coined the four-for-four phrase many years ago.

Over the past decade or so, the Flyers have become more of a niche team in this town, partly because they’ve been wretched and partly because the other four teams have been good. Those are natural ebbs and flows of sporting success, exemplified when the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. Back then, everybody was out on South Philly street corners celebrating like they would for any other team. There just hasn’t been a reason to do that in the 13 years since.

Maybe Matvei Michkov is that reason, and while it seems ridiculous to suggest that a teenage Russian on a Dario Saric migration path would fill that void, the fact of the matter is that the Flyers haven’t drafted a prospect like this in a long time. Nor have they had anyone on the roster who would even try this shit in a game:

 

The Flyers have had some skilled offensive players on the roster over the past 10+ years. Giroux and Jake Voracek certainly fit the bill, but was anyone other than diehard Flyers fans tuning in on a nightly basis to watch those two lead the line? Probably not. It’s a far cry from 25 years ago, when most area households would watch Allen Iverson’s Sixers on a Tuesday, then tune in for Eric Lindros, John LeClair, and Mikael Renberg on Wednesday. Anyone who was alive back then can confirm that the Flyers were appointment viewing.

Inevitably, when you wade into this topic, it spins off into a Giroux argument, and there is certainly no disrespect for G, a seven-time All Star who gave essentially his entire career to this organ-i-zation. Say what you will about the front office failure to surround him with the right players (it’s a totally legit point), but in a vacuum, was G a tier-1 superstar in the 2010s? Did we look at him the same way we looked at Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby? I know I didn’t. If there’s a level somewhere between Tier 1 and Tier 2, that’s where Giroux existed. He was in the sub-tier just below that small batch of generational stars.

Maybe a better way to frame the topic is to ask yourself if G resonated with Philly casuals in the same way as past Flyers, and the answer is no.

Hopefully Michkov can be that guy, a generational superstar who gives this town something to talk about. Something to look forward to. That’s the first part of this, the existence of a rebuild focal point and a good topic for sports talk radio and the Inquirer as well as websites like this one. Remember how much we talked about the Process even while the Sixers were getting smoked on a nightly basis? Michkov is a guy who helps the Flyers break into the news cycle again, because all we’ve had for the last two years is pithy Torts quotes and brown bag memes. When Michkov finally comes over, jubilation for all! And if he never does, then it doesn’t change anything. Danny Briere’s gamble was worth it, because if Michkov pans out, he’s the kind of guy who can lift hockey back into the Philly mainstream, where it belongs.