Despite the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers having some success, this is still a team that’s too inconsistent to win a Stanley Cup.
We are starved for a winner in this city. There is no denying it. The Eagles went in to this past season with huge expectations. A lot of people mentioned them in the same breath as the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks when talking about who would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Birds fell well short of those expectations, finishing the season at 7-9 in an extremely weak NFC East division. Your team, your town, your 76ers sit at 6-38, last overall in the NBA. The Philles had yet another last place finish in their long storied history of last place finishes. The Philadelphia sports fan has been absolutely desperate to find something positive to latch on to. So for a rare time during the regular season, all eyes turned towards the Philadelphia Flyers.
With all of the drek the Philadelphia sports fan has been dealing with over the last few years, it is of my opinion that we have severely lowered our expectations when it comes to our sports teams. There is no doubt the Flyers have been playing some good hockey over the last few months. The have the third best record in the NHL since Thanksgiving. They just had an impressive four-game winning streak where they beat some good teams like the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings.
The addition of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has given the Flyers an element they have lacked for ages: a quick skating, puck moving, game changing defenseman. Michal Neuvirth has solidified the Flyers backup goaltending spot. The Flyers now have one of the top goaltending duos in the league. If Steve Mason should go down for any extended period of time, the Flyers won’t miss a beat with Neuvirth in net. Most importantly for me, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn seemed to have turned the corner and are showing signs that they are finally developing in to consistent NHL players. All positive developments.
With all of that said though, let’s put the brakes on the optimism surrounding this team. I know those who know me are thinking “There he goes again being negative.” but truth is truth. Over the last two games and throughout the season, the Flyers have shown that they are too inconsistent to make the NHL playoffs. They followed up their four game winning streak with a 3-2 loss to a bad Toronto Maple Leafs team and then followed that up by blowing a two goal lead and eventually losing 4-3 to a mediocre Pittsburgh Penguins team. The Flyers still continue to play to the level of their competition. They play great hockey against the better teams in the league but play down to the bottom feeders of the NHL. It’s the same pattern they have shown over the last three seasons. Sure, everyone has a let down every once in a while and will lose a game to an opponent they should beat. But for the Flyers, this has been a consistent pattern. Your can’t be that inconsistent if you want to be a playoff team.
As has been case over the last three seasons, it comes down to talent. The Flyers simply don’t have enough of it. I was watching Al Morganti on the Flyers post game show and he made a great point when it comes to the Flyers lack of talent. He said in so many words that the Flyers aren’t good enough to win when they don’t have their A game. If they have even a slightly off night like they did against Toronto, chances are they will lose. I think it goes a long way towards explaining the Flyers propensity to play well against the better teams in the league and play poorly against the bad teams. It’s easy to get up for the good teams and bring your A game. It takes a little more effort to do that against the lesser lights like the Toronto Maple Leafs. With there being so much parity in the league, if you’re a team like the Flyers whose talent level is average, if you have an even slightly off night against even a bad team, chance are you will come out on the short end of the stick.
Here is another thing I’m noticing when it comes to how the fans perceive this year’s version of the Flyers, especially when it comes to fringe hockey fans. I think a lot of people hear the chatter about the great job Flyers GM Ron Hextall has done at turning the Flyers organization around, which he has. But let’s not confuse the job he has done restocking the Flyers farm system with a substantial amount of talent with what is going on with the current team. You hear a lot about the “progress” this team is making. The Flyers now sit in 13th place in a 16 team Eastern Conference. They are now seven points out of a playoff spot. They are 24th out of 30 NHL teams, much closer to the bottom than the top.
I know everyone is going to accuse me of raining on everyone’s parade, but facts are facts. Although the Flyers are improved, they still are not a good hockey team. I think the Philadelphia fan is so desperate to watch a winner, or even a competitive team that they have fooled themselves in to thinking this version of the Flyers is better than it actually is. I also think that because of the extremely poor performances of our other three Philadelphia teams, we have lowered our expectations when it comes to our teams. I hear a lot of people say “Well, at least they’re fun to watch.” Has it gotten to that point in this city that we are going to settle for that?? We are now satisfied with that? I thought the idea was to win a Stanley Cup? Not just to be competitive or make the playoffs??
In the countless amount of debates I have gotten into with people who say my view about this Flyers team is too negative and that I should want them to just make the playoffs, the argument I get from just about all of them is “Well, if they get in to the playoffs, it will give their young players playoff experience.” or “It will show this team has made progress.” This, in my very humble opinion, is where fans are really missing the boat when it comes to this team.
To the point of it will give their young players experience. Other than Gostisbehere, all of the young players on the Flyers, Jake Voracek, Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, they have all experienced playoff hockey before and have even won a round in the playoffs. It isn’t a case where the Flyers have a bunch of rookies on this team who have never experienced playoff hockey. So rooting for the Flyers to just make the playoffs and get throttled in the first round makes no sense to me. I’m not saying they should tank. I’m just saying as a fan, I can’t get excited about a team that, at this point, is no where close to being a Stanley Cup contender.
To the point of “Well, at least it shows this team is making progress.” THIS team isn’t the team that is finally going to contend for a Stanley Cup. The team that finally contends for a Stanley Cup will look very different from this particular team. When you look at the current Flyers roster, as many as ten players that are on the team now will be gone two years from now when the Flyers figure to make their first run in the playoffs. So when the argument is made for this team getting in to the playoffs, I just flat-out don’t see it. Your talking about a team making progress that won’t even exist two years from now. Mark Streit, Nick Schultz, R. J. Umberger, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Ryan White, they all figure to be gone a few years from now. It’s not like all those guys are building blocks who will be around two years from now that the playoff experience will help a few years down the road. They are all guys who are fringe NHL players who either won’t be with the Flyers two years from now or will be out of the NHL all together. And like I had stated earlier, the building blocks that they do have like Schenn and Couturier have playoff experience already.
So what exactly is it that I’m supposed to get excited about when it comes this team? If guys in their system like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Travis Konecny were on this team right now, then yes, you could make the argument that you want to see this team in the playoffs. Even if they played Washington in the first round and got swept, it still would be beneficial for the young players. They would at least get a taste of what the playoffs are all about and what it’s like to play in games that have such high intensity. It would be a growing experience for them.That isn’t the case when it comes to this team though. It’s a team that is in limbo waiting for the transition to the young players they have in their system to happen.
People get mad at me and accuse me of being a wet blanket for not getting excited about this team. A below average NHL team. People hate when I say that but it’s the truth. The standings prove that. When the Flyers roster starts to turn over in the next couple of years with the purge of the Umbergers and Streits of the world and the arrivals of the Provorovs, Sanheims and Konecnys of the world, then we can talk playoffs and progress and things like that. Until that process starts though, it’s all just idle talk.