The Flyers have just won four straight games. And while they sit at 14th in the Eastern Conference, they could soon jump ahead of the Florida Panthers (who saw that coming?), Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres. That would put them just out of contention for the playoffs. As it sits now, the Flyers are 11 points behind the number eight position currently held by the New York Islanders.
Even with this improvement in play, there are some Flyers fans who are upset at this. After losing 10 games in a row, there were some fans who wanted to cash in on this season and just start Tank-a-Thon-2023. Let’s blow this year off and hope we can get that top draft lottery pick. Because, you know, once we get Connor Bedard, EVERYTHING will change. But would it?
Flyers: The Risks of tanking
Let’s take a look at tanking. The Philadelphia 76ers tanked for a good part of a decade. It hasn’t brought them any closer to a championship. Heck, the Phillies and Eagles have been closer to a championship without trying to lose games on purpose. How many quarterbacks have the New York Jets gone through as “their savior” only to ditch them two years or so later? Sam Darnold is already out and the backup in Carolina while Zach Wilson seems as if he is on the way out this year as well.
Let’s take a look at draft picks as well. Yes, you could end up with an Eric Lindros, Connor McDavid, Austin Matthew, Patrick Kane, or Sidney Crosby. But you could also end up with Alexander Daigle or Nail Yakupov. There is no guarantee that anyone is going to come out of the draft that they will be the stud that will change this team’s fortunes.
Noah Cates was a fifth-rounder and is far outperforming Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. He may have a greater upside than Morgan Frost. Justin Braun was a seventh-round pick in 2007 by the San Jose Sharks. He’s had a much better career than 2008 first-round pick Luca Sbisa, 2007 second-round pick Kevin Marshall, 2005 third-round pick Oskars Bartulis, and 2001 first-round pick Jeff Woywitka.
Not every first-round pick has been a success. Woywitka and Sbisa never showed us much. Hyped-up goalie Maxime Ouellet only played in 12 games in the NHL and only won two of them. Patrick, hampered by injuries was a loss of a pick. Sam Morin also lost his career to injuries sustained in the AHL. Steve Downie was ok at best, but not worth a first-rounder. German Rubtsov decided that playing in Russia was better, was traded with Claude Giroux to Florida last year, and is now a free agent.
My point is, you never know what you are going to get in the draft. Some guys rise up from the bottom levels of the draft and become superstars. Local kid Mike Piazza was the like guy picked in the draft and became a hall of fame catcher. Jason Kelce and Tom Brady were later picks. Both should make it to Akron one day. Some first-rounders are busts. Some get hurt, which is out of anybody’s control. Some are just not what you thought they would be (Daigle….looking at you).
Flyers: The risks of tanking
There are three major risks when it comes to tanking.
First, you really risk alienating the fan base. Now, Flyers fans, like all Philly fans, are among the most loyal in all of sportsdom. However, you don’t want to turn a fan base off by losing on purpose. How energized was the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center when the Sixers were in the middle of “The Process?” Not so fun, were they? Why wait for years to lose on purpose to build a team half a decade from now? It was like watching the Phillies in the late 90s…and they weren’t tanking…just cheap.
Secondly, what if you don’t end up getting the spot where you need to be? In 2017, the Flyers somehow magically got the right bouncing balls and ended up second overall in the draft. Then they picked Nolan Patrick. So, ok…maybe that didn’t work out. But we can see that in hindsight. But what if the Flyers lost on purpose and ended up with the 10th pick? All that work and aggravation for nothing!
Finally, think of what a losing mentality does to a team. I know the sports gods haven’t always shined upon Philly. But can you imagine for a moment being a fan of the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns…or in hockey terms, the Arizona Coyotes or Ottawa Senators? Can you imagine following a team that will never, ever, ever win? A team that never even produces a culture of winning?
That was one of the things that Coach John Tortorella said he was going to fix. Even when losing, Torts praised this team for never giving up. We knew this year was going to be rough, but it’s not terrible. Injuries killed this team.
But there is something more important: pride. These Flyers hustle and try to win every, single night. That might not pay off this year, but with the younger guys like Frost, Cates, and Joel Farabee, that will pay HUGE dividends in the next few years. Nobody has pride in a team that sucks for the sake of being a sucky team.
For example, look at how the Flyers played when they lost 6-5 to Carolina when Hart got hurt. The team almost came back. Did you see the Coyotes do then when the Flyers beat them 6-2? Not at all. Not even close.
Flyers: In conclusion
Tanking creates a culture that losing is ok. We don’t want that in Philly. Maybe Bedard is worth it. Maybe he isn’t. He could be a bust, he could get hurt, he could be a hall of famer. Who knows? As we have seen, the draft, in any sport, is kind of a crapshoot. You never really can be sure what you are going to get.
Still, I am proud to be a Flyers fan. I am proud of how they played this year, even during the dark times. I don’t want to see them embrace losing as part of who they are and I can bet everything I own that Coach Tortorella and his players don’t want that either. For that reason, I strongly feel that tanking does more harm than good. I’d rather see this team put in their best effort every single night and create a winning culture that cares about how well they perform.