On Monday night, the Philadelphia Flyers won their second straight game for the first time since they won back-to-back games on February 27th and 28th. They fought back in the third period to tie the game after starting that period down 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres.
Ivan Provorov scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give them a much-needed two points and put them, at the time, one point out of a playoff spot. Even though the they won that game, it did not feel like a win.
To dive into the deep problems with the Philadelphia Flyers, we as a fanbase have to remember their last postseason run where they won a playoff series, not counting the 2020 win. Their last playoff series win came all the way back in 2012 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a series that fans will most likely never forget. Between that playoff series win and the bubble win against Montreal, the Flyers had:
- 3 playoff births in 7 seasons
- 5 head coaches
- 3 general managers
When looking at those numbers, the problem seems to lie with the owners and president for not being able to hire the correct personnel to help the team succeed. While that may be the case in some of the situations, there’s an underlying problem on this team. And that is the core players.
Let’s look at what players the Flyers currently have that have been on the team since 2015:
- Claude Giroux
- Jake Voracek
- Sean Couturier
- Michael Raffl
- Shayne Gostisbehere
- Scott Laughton
Since 2012, it’s only been Giroux, Voracek, and Couturier (James van Riemsdyk partially counts because he got traded but came back). Those three names mentioned above should be the main leadership voices in the locker room given that they are the ones with letters on their jerseys.
Now with all of that in context, we bring it back to the second intermission of the game against the Sabres. From that second intermission all the way back to their first game in the month of March, the Flyers went 4-9-1 while being outscored 69-41. For a team as talented as they are on paper, those numbers should horrify any fan, and have.
In those 14 games, three of them ended in 6-1, 8-3, and 9-0 losses for the Flyers. Coming off of an emotional win against the Rangers who had beaten them in the previous two meetings by a combined score of 17-3, the fire was supposed to be lit under the veterans by AV before the Sabres game.
When the Sabres took that 3-0 lead with one period remaining, AV put all the responsibility on the players and made sure the vets on the team knew they had to fix the problem by… not even going into the locker room…
Then in the 3rd period, he shortened the bench by sitting arguably the team’s best player in Joel Farabee, as well as Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick, again leaning on the vets and leadership letting them know it was on them to fix this.
They did end up winning, but for the first time in NHL history, a win only frustrated fans even more. The players on this team prove almost every single game that they can kick it into gear and ferociously score when down. The question that kept being asked is “why can’t they play this way for a complete 60 minutes?”
This question has been asked since Dave Hakstol took over as the head coach in 2015. At the time, some thought the young semi-rebuilding team with young prospects along with veterans would take a couple of years to develop. And at about this time, they would be the team that we all thought would become a perennial contender. That has not happened, and we as a fanbase took it out on Hakstol and then Flyers GM Ron Hextall.
They both were run out of town, along with one of the better goalies the Flyers had in recent memory, in Steve Mason. Both Hakstol and Hextall were fired and then replaced with Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault, showing the Flyers were in a win-now mode. Fletcher was aggressive in his first off-season by signing Kevin Hayes and trading for Matt Niskanen and of course, signing Alain Vigneault.
The first season looked like the Flyers turned the page, as they were a fun hockey team and won a lot. This season looks like Dave Hakstol’s ghost is haunting the bench at the Wells Fargo Center. But maybe there’s more to it than that.
When Fletcher let go of Hakstol in December of 2018 he had something that while he was impressed with Dave as a human being, there was a disconnect between what he was preaching and how the players were playing. Fast forward and we seem to have the same problem, with the coaching staff and the players not on the same page.
Many players who had breakout years last season are regressing (Hart, Myers, Sanheim, Aube-Kubel, and Provorov just to name a few). The power play and penalty kill have gotten significantly worse, and the shots for versus shots against this season compared to last season are atrocious.
The core players have been here for a long time, and the same problems have kept showing up over and over again throughout the past nine years. At what point do we ask/realize: is it really the coach and front office, or is it the players?
For the same problems to happen over and over again with different coaches, the problem may not have been the coaches in some cases (I will still never be a fan of the Dave Hakstol idea of point shooting the other team to death), the problem is the players who play the exact same way with every single coach that has come through with no improvement, except for one season.
The Flyers should build around a new core of Couturier, Farabee, Provorov, York, and Hart, and let everyone else be available. Yes, even the captain Claude Giroux. A new regime will bring in a new culture, one that obviously has been needed for a longer time than we’ve realized. If the Flyers do move on from the coaching staff, GM, and the players and restart a new culture that will take over, the team will hopefully work out better in the long run.
The first step of a possible blow-up is underway though as the Flyers have put defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere on waivers, with the possibility of another big move on the way.
If this does happen and a big move does take place, don’t be surprised if a couple of well-known names are on their way out of Philadelphia.