Good Leadership but No Winning Mentality?

Noah Cates signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers on March 27, 2022, and less than a month after the ink dried, he already seems to have a good feel for what’s going on with the Flyers organization. After the Flyers lost both games of their back-to-back series with the Buffalo Sabres, he delivered a rather interesting postgame quote-

You have been with this team for a few weeks now, what do you think is missing?

“It’s obviously tough, but just trying to have the energy or the swagger and what not that winning teams have and expecting to win. When you are up or down you kinda play the same way. It is kinda hard as a younger guy to say some stuff or what not, so I am just trying to play the best I can in the time I have got. It is definitely hard as a younger guy to say something, but I think I just have to keep playing hard and chipping away. There are obviously great leaders in that room that are doing the same thing. So just trying to be on board with them and listen to them. There are so many good guys in that locker room that want to win and it is just frustrating that we are not. A little extra effort here and there will get it done.”

Typically speaking, rarely do you see NHL players deliver open and honest answers during media scrums. Even less frequently do you hear a rookie with 10 NHL games under his belt take a direct shot at the leadership of the team.

The end of that quote where he praises the good guys in the room feels like damage control by Cates after he flew a little too close to the sun with the swagger comment, but the crux of his comments pose a question that has been asked by fans all season long- How can there be good leaders in the room but there is no swagger or a winning mentality? That’s oxymoronic.

When the Flyers snapped their 13-game losing streak back in late January, Scott Laughton, who scored the game winning goal, credited the leadership on the team for getting them through that skid. Again, one of those times when you stop and think “wait a second, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Even if the players won’t directly admit it, the locker room is pretty clearly in shambles. It’s something that as a fan, we have to preface by saying we’re not in the room, but as Cates alluded to, the swagger and winning mentality is palpably missing from this team. That much is clear if you’re playing any attention at all.

If you’re a regular Brotherly Pod listener, the theory that’s been proposed in the past is a simple one- The old guard (Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, etc) prevented the young guys in the current core (Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov) from ever really stepping up to take the reins when they were younger. Now that the vets are starting to move on, the younger guys, now in their mid-20’s, don’t possess the skills to be real leaders. The gap between generations wasn’t allowed to flourish, thus creating the ooze the team is currently stuck in when it comes to true leadership.

Everybody is just friends. There’s no interest in critiquing each other for fear of hurting feelings. Thus it’s just a bunch of dudes who show up a few times a week to play hockey for fun. There’s no true competitive nature on the team, even if it exists within players individually, it gets snuffed out by the complacent locker room.

It means the basic mistakes that seemingly happen multiple times a game, the stuff these guys learn when they’re single digits in age, goes unchecked. The mistakes pile up and the otherwise avoidable losses rack up because of it.

The biggest problem is, there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix for that. Gutting the current team and bringing in leaders to help guide the next generation of players (Cam York, Noah Cates, Bobby Brink, etc) seems like the best course of action.

Every once in awhile, a player will pull back the curtain just enough to shed a glimmer of light on a very messy situation. Showing just enough for fans to realize just how massive the scale of disaster truly is. The Flyers are in for a very interesting summer one way or another. The poisonous locker room needs to be cleaned out of there’s any hope of salvaging this current team. The turnover is going to have to be extreme and proper leaders are going to have to be added and strong enough to instill new values that are sorely lacking. It’s the only way to save the Philadelphia Flyers.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: @NHLFlyers

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