Defeating the Demons of Western Canada

The Flyers are about to embark on a three game road trip to Western Canada to face the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and the Calgary Flames. It’s the first road trip of the season for the new look Flyers and a lot of the fanbase is anxious to see how this team fares on the road after a good home stand to open the season. It will be interesting to see how this new group of Flyers handles the pressures of a road game with a full arena of hostile fans ready to make their life difficult. The Flyers have been an average road team in the past, with a fair share of ups and downs, but one road trip they have particularly struggled with is…you guessed it…the trip to Western Canada.

For whatever reason the Flyers have struggled with their trip out to Western Canada. It might be the jetlag that comes from the approximately 7 hour flight from Philadelphia to Edmonton. It might the be lack of things to do in a city like Edmonton that is usually covered in copious amounts of snow. It might even be that the Flyers just don’t play well in the areas filled with ravenous fans who love their hockey. Whatever the reason is, the fact of the matter is that the Flyers don’t have a good track record of playing the Western Canadian teams when they go to visit their friends up north.

Look at the Flyers records in Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary going back to the 2013-2014 season (the first season after the lockout shortened season where the Flyers played these three teams on the road every season).

EdmontonVancouverCalgary
2019-203-6 L2-3 L SO1-3 L
2018-191-4 L1-5 L5-6 L OT
2017-184-2 W4-1 W5-2 W
2016-173-6 L3-2 W1-3 L
2015-162-4 L1-4 L1-2 L OT
2014-154-5 L OT1-4 L1-4 L
2013-144-3 W SO4-3 W SO4-1 W

Looking at that table, there are only two seasons out of seven where the Flyers have had a winning record and the Flyers have had an overall record of 7-10-4, which equates to a winning percentage of about 33%. Whether you want to blame the lack of talent in the Hextall era or any of the other numerous excuses that have come up over these past few years of Flyers hockey, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the Flyers have struggled on the road in Western Canada and that it has to stop this season. This new group of Philadelphia Flyers need to defeat the demons of Western Canada.

Despite their less than stellar track record, the Flyers this season are set up to be able to handle this type of daunting road trip and in theory seem competitive against three teams that are playing well to start the season. Firstly, the Flyers brought in a ton of veteran leadership this offseason with players who have played a lot of games in the NHL. Players like Brassard, Yandle, Atkinson, and Ellis know how to play tough teams on the road and in tight matchups, so they wont be phased by fanbases that are loud and make it hard to think on the ice. This will help some younger players on the team who might be thrown off in this type of environment. Secondly, this team has a lot more talent then some of the Flyers teams of the past few years. When you’re playing players like Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Dale Weise, Jori Lehtera, and Christian Folin, it isn’t hard to see why the Flyers might have struggled a bit to win hockey games. Compare that to players like Cam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis who have made an immediate impact on this team and have contributed to the team both from an offensive and defensive perspective. Finally, the Flyers have an experienced head coach in Alain Vigneault and a coaching staff made up of former head coaches that have all had head coaching jobs in the NHL. They know what it takes to prepare for a road trip like this and will have the plyers in the best position to play up to their competition. Gone are the days of a Dave Hakstol lead squad that saw the team frequently ill prepared to face the rigors of long and arduous road trip that usually ended up with the Flyers being blown out.

This road trip is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. The Flyers first opponent on this trip are the Edmonton Oilers who haven’t lost a game this season and whose roster contains two of the bet offensive players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Vancouver Canucks have a decent record of 3-2-1 and did beat the Flyers in their home opener about a week and half ago. The Calgary Flames have a strong record of 4-1-1 and have won 4 straight games as of this writing. Add the fact that the Flyers are still dealing with some injuries to a few key players like Ryan Ellis (who will miss his second straight game) and Kevin Hayes and you have an uphill battle to climb to make sure that this road trip doesn’t get out of hand.

Time will tell if this upcoming road trip will end up being worth the late nights and large pots of coffee. History hasn’t been kind to the Flyers when they fly out to visit the three teams from Western Canada, but it’s time that the Flyers put to rest their demons and come out looking competitive and with a winning record. With the rest of the Metropolitan division off to a hot start, the Flyers can’t afford to have a road trip that has ended like so many of their previous road trips before. The Flyers have the experience and talent to make this a competitive road trip, but the question is…can they outrun their past and slay the demons that have haunted them for the better part of 7 years? Let’s hope so. If not, the front office better find their local exorcist to lend a helping hand.

By: Steven Appleman (@Snapp1eApp1e)

Photo Credit: NHL.com

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