After a press conference by Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott that was the talk of the town, one of the big takeaways from the event was that a rebuild is seemingly off the table. The Flyers are focused on putting a competitive team in the ice as soon as possible, which may or may not be the right move long-term. With the attendance dipping and the once-great legacy of the Philadelphia Flyers in the toilet, the front office seems eager to put a high-quality product on the ice by handing out more massive contract to veteran players on the free agent market. The tried-and-true Flyers’ way.
The idea of a rebuild can absolutely be a frightening one. It can be a lot of losing for a product that never actually takes a step forward. You can spend years toiling away and ultimately turn into the next Buffalo Sabres or Arizona Coyotes. But there are success stories for rebuilding teams, too. Look at teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, LA Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and Tampa Bay Lightning. All have found success after years of cellar-dwelling.
Fans are clamoring for a short-term, high energy rebuild like that of the New York Rangers, but trying to copycat the Rangers isn’t the best strategy. Having a top-10 forward in the league and young Norris-caliber defenseman fall into your lap, not to mention back-to-back top two picks plus hitting on a multitude of other prospects as well are results that are basically impossible to replicate.
But settling in for a rebuild with the intention of taking a decade or more sets a horrible standard out of the gate. You can piss away multiple seasons with zero ramifications with very little progress to show for it. You could, say, have a bunch of mediocre drafts and simultaneously ignore the progression of the main roster, but because there is no official timeline or expectations, it’s nothing more than wasted time. Just chalk it up to “hey, this draft wasn’t great, we’ll try again next year.” We already lived through that once from about 2014 to 2018, not super eager to do it again.
It’s reasonable to hardcore suck for two or three seasons with the intention of securing a pair of really good top-five picks, plus any other picks they may add from selling. After the first couple years and a few foundational draft picks, then start focusing on making the main roster competitive. If they sell off properly, there shouldn’t be too much financial capital invested in the current roster, making the hunt for big-money free agents easier.
For a situation like that, look no further than the New Jersey Devils, a young team filled with drafted players, then they brought in top free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Then with PK Subban’s $9 million coming off the books this year, they’ll probably dip their toes in the free agent pool and go big game hunting once again. Drafting well and insulating those young players with top end talent. Smart.
People say the Flyers aren’t a destination team anymore, and right now I’d tend to agree, but if the organization could get their you know what together and show improvement and signs of what they once were, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they can start attracting big time free agents again. It’s still Philadelphia, when this team is rocking, there are very few places like it in the NHL. The group that will eventually (hopefully?) bring a Cup to Philly will be Gods among men.
“Rebuild” doesn’t have to be a scary word, they just have to stay on top of the process they’re undergoing. If you destroy the current roster and keep your fingers crossed for a generational star to fall into your laps like Edmonton, Arizona and Buffalo, it could very well take more than a decade. But if you’re drafting well and can recognize “go time,” then there shouldn’t be a problem staying on a tight course of a proper rebuild. If they sell properly, draft well, and sign a big free agent or two three to four years down the line, there’s no reason to think a rebuild should last beyond six years. It’s not short term, but it’s also not indefinite. Proactivity wins the day.
A rebuild won’t be quick, it won’t be painless, and ultimately there are no guarantees, but if handled properly there can be massive long-term success on the other side. Instead of wasting years trying to salvage this current disaster of a team well past its expiration date, why not waste a few years building for prosperity?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com