When the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, it felt like they were on the top of the world with years of success ahead of them. Little did we know that was the last time the team would taste glory for the next decade. A string of unending horrible decisions, both intentionally and unintentionally, have set the franchise on a course that they’ve never been before. Now at seemingly rock bottom, looking back on the Philadelphia Flyers over the last decade-plus, we can track where things went off the tracks.
June 2010- Stanley Cup Final
The Flyers had a miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 and were one Michael Leighton save away from potentially securing the illusive Cup. The Cinderella run started on the last day of the regular season when they beat the Rangers in a do-or-die shootout, they handled the Devils in five games in the opening round, had a legendary three-games-to-none comeback against the Boston Bruins and followed that up by beating the Canadiens in the Conference Final, a series most notably famous for Mike Richards’ “the shift.”
Obviously they ended up losing to the Blackhawks, but it was the peak of the franchise in modern history. Little did we know at the time it’d be a benchmark they’d never touch again.
June 23, 2011- Trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter
June 23, 2011 is a day that will live in Flyers’ infamy forever. The organization traded away star forwards Mike Richards, who was serving as captain at the time, and Jeff Carter to make room for new goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov as well as forwards Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot as well as defeseman Andreas Lilja.
In various podcast appearances since, Mike Richards has talked about the trades, saying if they never happened he was convinced the Flyers could’ve won the Cup. The Richards and Carter trades individually were successes, but the overall picture wasn’t great. They traded away two key pillars of the team to take a massive gamble on a goalie that failed miserably. It didn’t help that Richards and Carter would reunite in LA and win two Cups in 2012 and 2014.
November 19, 2011- Chris Pronger’s Injury
13 games into the 2011-12 season Chris Pronger suffered an eye injury and ultimately suffered from serious post-concussion syndrome. He never returned and unofficially retired, joining the Flyers’ front office staff in a scouting role as they waited for his contract to expire. Even at 39 years old, Pronger was still one of the best defensemen in the league. His presence was difference-making. It was a huge blow to a team already reeling from the loss of Richards and Carter. It was the first real step of their Cup window closing.
April 2012- 2012 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals
The Flyers versus Penguins 2012 playoff series will go down as one of the most fun rounds of hockey in recent NHL history. The rivalry was at a boiling point after two late season meetings between the clubs. The famous image of Peter Laviolette and Dan Bylsma screaming at each other standing on the benches after a late hit on Danny Briere was the spark plug for the series. The high scoring affair was filled with memorable moments, most notably Claude Giroux “shift” from game six. A total of 56 goals were scored in the six-game series, 30 of which belonged to the Flyers. The two clubs also amassed 312 total penalty minutes, 163 courtesy of Philadelphia.
It’d be one last hurrah for the Flyers organization as the train was fully off the tracks just a short time later.
July 19, 2012- Shea Weber’s Offer Sheet
In desperate need of a top defenseman to replace Chris Pronger, the Flyers sent the richest offer sheet in NHL history to Nashville Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber. The 14-year, $110 million contract was shockingly matched by the Predators five days later and just like that, the Flyers were left out in the cold in a situation they thought wouldn’t even be feasible. Not only did the Flyers fail to secure Weber, they also failed to sign Ryan Suter or Zach Parise, as well as letting their own players Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr walk in free agency. They went big-game hunting to salvage the winning roster and failed on all fronts.
December 2, 2013- Peter Luukko Resigns
Peter Luukko, who held the title of President and COO of Comcast Spectacor as well as Flyers President unexpectedly resigned from the role after being associated with the team since the 1980s. He was second in command to Ed Snider, and seemed destined to take the reins as Snider would step away just a short time later to battle cancer. While the full details still haven’t come to light, his leaving gave room for Dave Scott to enter the picture, as well as significant personnel changes from tenured veterans within the front office to new, non-hockey people. It was a huge move with massive consequences that ultimately shaped the miserable state of the modern day front office.
Dave Scott was named team president upon Luukko’s departure and was promoted to president of Comcast Spectacor upon Ed Snider’s passing in 2016.
2013-2014- Last Days of Paul Holmgren
Paul Holmgren’s early days as general manager in Philadelphia painted a renaissance for the club. The summer of 2007 was a huge overhaul that sent the team on the right path for the following five seasons. Though when the downward spiral started, he got desperate and his moves went from borderline genius to questionable at best. He traded James Van Riemsdyk to Toronto in exchange for Luke Schenn, He signed washed up Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract, he gave up two second round picks for Nick Grossman and acquired and re-signed Andrew MacDonald. The moves were made with the best of intentions, but ultimately set the franchise back even further.
May 7, 2014- Ron Hextall Takes Over
Nothing like a good snake oil salesman to lead someone astray. Ron Hextall, who had returned to the Flyers organization in July of 2013 after winning a Stanley Cup as an assistant GM with the LA Kings in 2012, was given the title of “director of hockey ops” during his return to Philly as well as “assistant GM.” At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Holmgren was promoted to team president and Hextall was coronated as the new general manager.
June 23, 2014- Scott Hartnell Traded Away
One of the first things Ron Hextall did upon his arrival to Philadelphia was trade longtime fan favorite forward Scott Hartnell to Columbus for salary reasons. In the process he took away a key player from not only the roster, but from the locker room as well. The return was RJ Umberger, who was an unmitigated disaster in Philly and ultimately bought out. Hartnell was eventually bought out of his contract in Columbus as well, but he posted two more 20-goal seasons first.
July 1-2, 2015- Oshie and Kessel Trades
In 2015, there was still time to save the main roster and make a few additions to help out Giroux and company. When two top wingers became available for trade, Phil Kessel from the Leafs and TJ Oshie from the Blues, and were completely ignored by the Flyers, it was a beacon that the Flyers were actually in for a long haul “rebuild” rather than winning games.
Both Kessel and Oshie would win Stanley Cups with their respective new teams.
April 11, 2016- Ed Snider Passes Away
The heart and soul of the Philadelphia Flyers left this earth on April 11, 2016. The man responsible for bringing hockey back to Philadelphia and crafting the team into a well respected, feared and beloved franchise that it became was no longer here. He had been away from the team for much of the previous two years battling cancer, but now he was actually gone. The Flyers dedicated their short lived playoff run in 2016 against the Capitals to Mr. Snider, and wore shoulder patched in his honor during the 2016-17 season.
The new regime, featuring Dave Scott at the helm, would go on to ignore Snider, not mentioning his name until the fan backlash grew to high levels in 2022. The urge the organization seemingly had to bury the past, especially when their current state is so bad, has left a bad taste in the mouths of an already tired fanbase.
June 23, 2017- 2017 NHL Draft
The Flyers got lucky and cashed in on their 2.4% chance and hopped from 13th overall in the 2017 draft all the way to second overall thanks to the lottery. They drafted Nolan Patrick second overall, immediately traded away Brayden Schenn and then took Morgan Frost with one of the two first rounders they acquired for him. Not only did Nolan Patrick end up being a complete waste of a pick, dealing away Brayden Schenn was completely contradictory from the direction the franchise was supposed to take. Selling a player when go time is on the horizon was a costly mistake. Morgan Frost, who had a successful junior career, has not made an impact at the professional level, furthering the insanity that emerged from this draft. It only gets worse when you realize Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson were drafted immediately after Patrick.
July 2018- Ron Hextall’s Last Offseason
When Ron Hextall finally made a big money addition to the Flyers, it backfired big time. They inked James Van Riemsdyk to a five-year, $35 million ($7 million aav) contract which he has never lived up to. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ryan O’Reilly was traded from Buffalo to St. Louis, a deal in which Hextall “didn’t think made sense” despite their clear need for center depth, and they opted to go into the season with a goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. Elliott was coming off core muscle surgery in the offseason and Neuvirth couldn’t make it more than a few games without getting hurt. They ultimately burned through eight different goaltenders during the 2018-19 campaign. All Hextall’s moves, or lack thereof, sealed his fate as general manager just a few months later.
November 26, 2018- Flyers Fire Hextall
While hiring Hextall seemed like a great move at the time as he had his “process” plan in place, he never properly tore down the team and ignored the main roster, which still had plenty of promise. He attempted to build from the draft, but with way too many off-the-wall picks in the first round and way too conservative in the later rounds, very little was actually accomplished, on or off the ice, during his tenure. Not to mention his behind-the-scenes antics, like his refusal to leak plans outside his inner circle and shutting out the Flyers’ alumni.
December 3, 2018- Flyers Hire Chuck Fletcher
Ron Hextall’s replacement was named a few days later in former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. He has led a very hot-and-cold team since his arrival, making more moves and changes in a few years than Hextall did during his entire tenure, but at the same time seemingly choosing wrong on many occasions.
December 17, 2018- Flyers Fire Hakstol
After three-and-a-half seasons behind the Flyers’ bench, Hakstol was finally fired. It was a move that was long overdue. His last game behind the Flyers’ bench was a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, a game in which he sat Oskar Lindblom in favor of Jori Lehtera. Going out the same way he spent his entire tenure in Philly- loving his washed up veteran players.
July 2019- Offseason of 2019
The summer of 2019 was Chuck Fletcher’s first at the helm of the Philadelphia Flyers, and it was a busy one. Andrew MacDonald was bought out and Kevin Hayes, Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen were brought in. All the moves led to the best Flyers’ season in quite some time and there was a slight bit of promise for the first time in years.
February 23, 2020- 2020 Trade Deadline
The Flyers had caught lightning in a bottle as the 2019-20 season progressed and seemed poised for a decent playoff run. To reinforce the team, specifically addressing their lack of center depth, Fletcher acquired Nate Thompson and Derek Grant from the Canadiens and Ducks respectively. Granted, there was a pandemic which stalled any momentum the Flyers had from the regular season upon their arrival in the bubble, but it’s clear the two additions weren’t good enough. Grant especially was a disaster and Thompson was thrust into a role well over his head. Had there been no pause and the Flyers continued at the level they were at pre-pandemic, they may have had a better go, but it was a failed push that could’ve been so much better had real depth been added at the deadline.
October 9, 2020- Offseason of 2020
The Flyers followed up their trip to the second round for the first time in eight years by doing… nothing. The only change came in the form of defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who was an unmitigated disaster and only played 24 games with the club. The inability to pounce on their best season since 2012 in the 2020 offseason by hitting free agency and the trade market hard was a huge mistake. Some have attributed this to the failings of Chuck Fletcher, but the more likely scenario is the Flyers organization was stingy as a result of the pandemic and empty arena.
December 6, 2021- Alain Vigneault Gets Fired
The man who was marked guilty for the entire team, Alain Vigneault got canned in early December as the team was entrenched in an eight-game losing streak. He coached 147 games in Philly with a 74-54-19 record, never once having a normal 82-game schedule to work under. Nothing really got better after his dismissal, as his replacement, Mike Yeo, struggled just as hard to squeeze a worthwhile effort out of his roster.
January 26, 2022- Dave Scott and Chuck Fletcher Press Conference
Just when things were seemingly at their lowest, the owner of the Flyers Dave Scott and GM Chuck Fletcher sat down for a press conference at the mid-season mark and it made an already messy situation worse. Chuck Fletcher tried his best to massage in a potential “building through the draft over the next few seasons” mentality and was shot down by Scott, who claimed to have a blank check and would be looking to ice a competitive team in 2022-23. The differences of direction drove a wedge even further between the fans and the franchise as well as leaving a murky future for the Flyers overall.
July 13, 2022- 2022 Free Agency
The Flyers had already made a questionable move at the draft a few days prior when they traded three picks to the Hurricanes for the signing rights to defenseman Tony DeAngleo. They signed him to a two-year, $5 million extension which ultimately limited what they could do during free agency. They were unable to sign South Jersey’s own Johnny Gaudreau, who wanted to come home and play for his favorite team, then followed that up by signing enforcer Nic Deslauriers to a four-year, $1.7 mil aav contract. It was a completely horrible mis-management of funds and the organization totally walking back their “aggressive retool” stance they were supposedly entering the offseason with. A complete disaster from every front of the organization.
March 3, 2023- 2023 NHL Trade Deadline
After a third consecutive season where the Flyers are on track to miss the playoffs for the first time in over 30 years, Chuck Fletcher sat down with the media a few days before the trade deadline and announced that the franchise was selling. The problem? Nobody was buying. The deadline came and went and their top trade chip James Van Riemsdyk was still on the roster. Fletcher took the stand to face the media after the 3pm deadline and made excuse after excuse for the reason JVR was still on the roster despite the fact that over 50 trades happened across the league in the hours, days and weeks leading up to the March 3 deadline. While getting a random mid-round pick for a pending UFA is not the end of the world, it proved that Chuck Fletcher is unfit to lead the Philadelphia Flyers (as if that needed to be proven again) as he’s incapable of doing the absolute bare minimum. What the organization chooses to do next will be critical because they’re on the titanic and taking on water fast and are watching the lifeboats leave one by one until their only option is to go down with the ship.
March 10, 2023- Chuck Fletcher is Fired
After four and a half years at the helm of the Flyers when the organization took a fall from grace, Chuck Fletcher is finally relieved of his duties as general manager.
March 27, 2023- Dave Scott Retires
Dave Scott announces his plans to retire and step down as Chairman and Governor of Comcast Spectacor and the Flyers. Dan Hilferty, who was brought into the organization earlier in the year, will succeed him in both roles in April and July respectively.
May 11, 2023- Keith Jones named President of Hockey Ops, Briere GM
What? Two months after Fletcher is fired and the president and GM roles are once again split up, the Flyers named their TV color commentator to fill the presidency. He has never held a front office role prior to his hiring. Meanwhile, Briere loses the interim tag, completely uncontested. Theoretically the two men running the franchise and neither one of them has any experience in their new roles. All this under Dan Hilferty, who doesn’t have any experience as an NHL governor either. What could go wrong?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com / cbs.com