Well, this certainly isn’t how I expected this season to go. The Flyers have opened the 2021 campaign 3-2-1, but the way they’ve been playing tells a much darker story than their record shows at face value. The Flyers have already taken two 6-1 losses, and the most recent one against the Bruins just felt different. It had the feeling of a game right before the coach gets fired, or the team gets a major shakeup to the roster, but yet, we know nothing like that is coming.
After the Flyers took their second 6-1 loss in the same week, I found myself uncaring of the outcome. I wasn’t angry, it was a feeling of total apathy toward the situation. “Yep, they lost again. What’s on Netflix?” Was the exact though that crossed my mind when Marchand scored the Bruins fourth goal early in the third period. At that point I was totally focused on the NWHL game I was streaming on my laptop, a close game between the Whale and Beauts that was far more fun and entertaining than their male counterparts.
Losing as a Flyers fan is nothing new. Hell, we just survived the Ron Hextall era where all we knew was losing. Yet, that was always kind of the plan. Tank for a few seasons, collect a few high draft picks and eventually those pieces come together and voila! Stanley Cups for everyone! And, for what it’s worth, sometimes that strategy pays off, but in the Flyers’ case, it doesn’t seem to be the endgame.
Ron Hextall sold us all a bill of goods and us fans ate it up like stray cats desperate for food. The point of the suffering under Hextall and Hakstol was to eventually have a successful team, but yet, that didn’t happen. The team still features most of the same players that have been around for a decade-plus now. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek, Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, James Van Riemsdyk are all players that have been here closing in on ten years, except for JVR, who is in his sixth season in Philly, non-consecutively, of course. Even the younger core has been has seen their fair share of time in orange and black already. Provorov and Konecny are entering their fifth seasons, both playing over 300 games, Lindblom is in his fourth season, Patrick is also technically in his fourth year, same for Hagg and Sanheim. With all the young talent in place and established, why is nothing changing?
The reality is, the players that were hyped up to be game-changing superstars, simply aren’t. Outside of Ivan Provorov and Carter Hart, most of the players Hextall drafted are perfectly fine, but nothing to write home about. Konecny, Patrick, Lindblom, Farabee make a fine supporting cast but they’re simply not good enough to carry the load on their own.
To Chuck Fletcher’s benefit, there is no easy fix here. It’s not easy to blow up your team, trade multiple aging, expensive pieces, especially in the flat-cap era we find ourselves in. Yet, it’s something that needs to happen. The Flyers saw up close and personal what holding on to a player too long looked like in Wayne Simmonds. If they dealt him a year earlier, they could’ve got a king’s ransom for a 30-goal power forward, but because they waited, they got Ryan Hartman. They have young pieces to build from, but they need a jump start to help take them to the next level.
Please, Chuck, I’m begging you to do something. Reunite me with the team I fell in love with when I was a kid. I shouldn’t dread having to watch the Flyers play every night. Make some changes, trade a few vets, sign a few big free agents, expansion draft and salary cap be damned. If they makes moves and still fail, at least they can say they tried, but if they continue to roll with a mediocre product, they deserve every 6-1 loss they take.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com