Well, shit. It’s not every day I, of all people, am left speechless.
A season is filled with ebbs and flows and big losses are expected every now and again. The Flyers have suffered multiple 6-1 losses this season and got completely embarrassed in the Stadium Series game in Lake Tahoe, but there was always some kind of excuse. They played the outdoor game with half of their normal forward group on the sidelines with covid and played the early part of the season without star forward Sean Couturier. But Wednesday’s 9-0 loss to the Rangers didn’t have any excuses. They just sucked. It felt different, it’s the kind of game that has a feeling of an imminent coaching firing or major trade, yet we know nothing like that is coming.
The Flyers have opened the 2021 campaign 14-10-3, but the way they’ve been playing tells a much darker story than their record shows at face value. Once the Rangers started to run away with the game, 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 Buchnevich scored his second of the second period to bring the game to 4-0. As the saying goes, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I had an epiphany during the second period. Something in my mind just clicked- “what am I doing?” I thought “Why am I watching this game?” I’ve been a lifelong Flyers fan who was born into a family of die-hard Flyers fans and never really questioned my fandom before. Granted, I may take the “negative” approach more often than not, but that’s just based on the lackluster team we’ve watched for the most of the past decade.
Yet the thought wouldn’t leave my mind. I’m not having fun anymore. I’m not happy watching them anymore. It’s quickly becoming a chore just to watch hockey every night. I absolutely hate that I felt that way, but for the fandom fog to part for just a minute it really opened my eyes. Holding onto hope that things will just magically get better is something we’ve been told for years now, yet seemingly no magic is on the horizon.
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. Does he give up multiple assets for a single player hoping that one player can turn an entire organization around? Probably not. Especially risking having to expose that player at the expansion draft where they’d lose the assets AND the player they acquired. Yet at the same time, he can’t go on with this roster without making some kind of move, but if it’s nothing substantial, legitimate change may never come.
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 this summer, 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 blowout loss they take.
By:Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: businessinsider.com