1989-1994: The Last Time the Flyers Were This Bad
Philadelphia sports fans are known for two things: being rowdy and being knowledgeable. They are not your fly by night, bandwagony fans. Nope. We know what’s up. We also know our history. Flyers fans who are in college now can tell you about the legends of the Broad Street Bullies, the tragedy of Pelle Lindbergh, and how Patrick Kane scarred us all for life in 2010.
Being a Flyers fan has been kind of a bummer the last few seasons. The last three of them have seen Philly miss the playoffs as well as missing them five of the last seven years.
However, history is normally on the side of the Flyers and their fans. The worst record in team history (until 2021-22) was a last place finish in 2006-07. After some great draft picks in the next few seasons and some great acquisitions, such as Chris Pronger and Daniel Briere, the Flyers bounced back and went to the Eastern Conference Finals the next season and the Stanley Cup Finals two years later.
If, however, you are looking for a dark period in Flyers history, it would be the five season stretch from 1989-90 to 1993-94 that provided an era of futility. And as we look at how the team is going, there are a lot of parallels. Let’s examine them
Cam Atkinson, Ryan Ellis, and Sean Couturier all missed the season. Travis Konecny missed significant portions of it. Many other players spent times on the injured list as well.
Well, the late 80s, early 90s Flyers were no exceptions. Key players like Tim Kerr, Eric Lindros, Ron Hextall, and Mark Howe were injured a lot. It’s something that teams have to deal with. Good teams can overcome some injuries. However, most teams can’t overcome everyone hurt. At one point, the Flyers had two complete lines that were down…and they weren’t the scrub players either. Injuries happen and it sucks when it affects so many players.
A Team in Transition
The Flyers of that time period had been playoff contenders just about every year. They were used to making deep playoff runs. They lost two very competitive Stanley Cups to the mighty Edmonton Oilers. This was not the Bullies Era squad, but a team that featured Kerr, Howe, Brian Propp, Ron Sutter, Pelle Eklund, and other players. This was a squad that the Flyers relied on for a while. Those deep runs in the playoffs took their toll. When you add in the cost of injuries, this version of the Flyers couldn’t do it anymore.
Over the next few seasons, you saw the veterans slowly replaced with Rick Tocchet, Mark Recchi, Rod Brind’Amour, and Lindros. The team moved from the post-Bully Era to a what would become the Legion of Doom Era.
Likewise, we see this now. Paul Holmgren put together a strong core of guys that just couldn’t get over the hump. Scott Laughton and Couturier are still here, but gone are Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn. And it is looking extremely likely that James van Riemsdyk is soon to be gone as well.
This team is trying to find an identity. It is not sure what it is yet, but with new team leadership, it might not be hard to find soon. This team has some good players on it. Konecny is a legit star. Couturier and Laughton are a steady influences on the team. Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, and Joel Farabee are trending in the right direction. Overall, this team is not as bad as we think they are.
After the famous Recchi for John Leclair/Eric Desjardins trade, Philly was in the playoffs for the next 11 straight seasons. That stretch included five losses in the Eastern Conference Finals and one loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. It is one of the greatest runs in Flyers’ history; even if they never brought home the Stanley Cup for themselves.
In that sense, we don’t know what is building here at the Wells Fargo Center. There is a lot of young talent to be excited about. There are some veterans who are entering their prime. Maybe the turnaround won’t be that bad. We have to be realistic about it, but this team could be ready to be back in the playoffs relatively sooner than we think.
If we are patient, good things could come soon. All we have to do is look for Flyers history for inspiration.