It’s been a long decade of uphill battles for hockey in Philadelphia. Coming down from the high that was the Stanley Cup appearance in 2010, to surviving Ron Hextall and his patented process, to coming to the sad realization that all of Fletcher’s hard work last summer was just too little too late to save the Philadelphia Flyers.
Another underwhelming season has forced the Flyers into a corner when it comes to their approach moving forward. Do they admit defeat and start selling and enter a rebuild, or do they try once again to salvage this current team and continue to make veteran additions? Despite the obvious answer for long term success is a rebuild, it doesn’t quite feel like the organization is too keen on waving the white flag just yet.
From a business perspective, the hesitancy is simi-justified. Even though Comcast generated $103 BILLION in total revenue in 2020, The empty halls of the Wells Fargo Center last season definitely put a ding in Spectacor’s very fat wallets.
From a team perspective, they’ve done almost everything they can to force change on its own. Fletcher flipped almost one-third of the roster during the offseason, bringing in veteran leaders from across the league in moves that were all individually well received, They fired Alain Vigneault in early December with seemingly no on-ice changes in the wake of a the transition of power, and after all that, the Flyers are still dwelling in the basement of the NHL, racking up two separate 10-game losing streaks and continuing to play some of the worst hockey in the history of the franchise.
Now as the Wells Fargo Center is seemingly at about half capacity for homes games and very few interior players left to recall to save the day, the Flyers have to seriously consider tearing the current team down and starting fresh.
The trade deadline is about two months away and Chuck Fletcher should be in full-on sell mode when it comes to pending free agents. Claude Giroux, Rasmus Ristolainen, Justin Braun and Martin Jones are the highlighted players that could fetch the Flyers the biggest returns. Stockpiling on picks and hopefully executing drafting with a higher success level than Hextall did during to of the deeper drafts in recent history will build a strong foundation to rebuild on.
If the organization, for whatever reason, decides against a teardown, they need to do absolutely everything in their power to actually make the team competitive again. The moves Fletcher made last season were all very good in a vacuum, but they were all complimentary player additions when the Flyers desperately need star power. They need legitimate top-six centers and a bonafide scoring winger and defenseman. Finding those pieces via trade or free agency is borderline impossible, let alone all those stars aligning in the same summer. The uphill battle the Flyers would have to embark on to truly save the current roster is a feat that no team could reasonable do.
The pros and cons of rebuilding seem to lean in a pretty obvious direction at this point, but it’s one that doesn’t seem favorable from the front office perspective. Waiving the white flag and making the necessary moves to sell the current players and hoard picks and prospects for the next few years isn’t good for business in the short term, but it is undoubtedly the only way to paint the best picture for the future.
It’s going to suck, there’s no other way to say it, but at this point, it seems as though a majority of fans would be totally fine suffering through another few years of losing as long as there is a proper plan in place. Right now, long losing streaks when the team is supposed to be in the playoffs is killing moral around the franchise, seemingly from fans and players alike. If the organization comes out and acknowledges that the team is screwed and that a rebuild is the next course of action, they can at least get fans to start buying into a new “process,” as painful as it may be.
It’s time for the front office to do the right thing and start rebuilding the legacy of the once-great Philadelphia Flyers. If they handle this right, constructing a competitive roster from scratch is realistically feasible in a few short years. They’ve learned what not to do from the Hextall-era process, so weed out the failures and and rebuild success.
Food for thought.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: istockphoto.com