The last time the Flyers won a playoff round, Peter Laviolette was their head coach, Chris Pronger the captain, and Ilya Bryzgalov the goalie.
That was 2012, eons ago by NHL standards. Since then, the orange-and-black have gone through three coaches, one captain (although I do not blame Claude Giroux for this mess) and 17 goalies — eight of them just this past season.
They’re none the better for it. The latest embarrassment sputtered to an end last weekend with the Flyers losing 10 of their final 13 games, the sooner to line up off-season tee times. There was a sense among fans and media the players had just given up, a notion disputed by Sean Couturier, the leading goal scorer.
“I don’t think it’s a question of effort,” he said. “I think it’s more of playing the right way and being a little smarter.”
Ahh. That makes me feel much better.
Couturier is among a small group who gets a pass for the team’s ineptitude. Add in rookie goalie Carter Hart, defensemen Radko Gudas and Travis Sanheim, along with Giroux. Maybe one or two others. You could squeeze all the positives into one Mini Cooper.
Twelve years a Flyer, Giroux continues to hustle and put up points. He’s also got a no-movement clause but, really, what purpose does he serve here at this point? He’s 31 now. By the time a contender is built, will Giroux still be a productive player?
You should expect to see Jakub Voracek move on, based on some of his coded comments about teammates. And after a dismal year of turnovers and bad angles, Shayne Gostisbehere may have tested his bosses to the limit.
It speaks volumes that Gudas — nothing more than an honest plugger — collected the award for the team’s top defenseman as Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov stood watching on Fan Appreciation Night. Those two, projected for stardom, should be ashamed of their seasons.
The big question for the seventh straight offseason is where is the franchise headed? There are a handful of competent players, the promise of a few prospects and Hart — maybe, just maybe the goalie we’ve been waiting on for three decades.
But is there a plan? Starting at the top, we have no idea whether Dave Scott the Comcast-Spector poohbah now heading the franchise, has the sense of how to run a hockey team or the passion to do so. Below him is president Paul Holmgren, a Flyer for life who seems to have used up his chances to solidify the franchise.
Chuck Fletcher, the new GM, has a solid resume, but much to prove in this hockey town.
At season’s end, players rallied for interim coach Scott Gordon, in their words, though absolutely not through their performance. I can think of no worse endorsement. Why would anyone listen to what these underachievers have to say?
Meanwhile, Joel Quenneville — everyone’s pick for the job — is headed for the Florida Panthers. It’s a sad state of events when the best man for the gig chooses an NHL outpost in Sunrise, FL without even taking a look at this once-great hockey town.
It’s been 44 years since the Flyers won their second Stanley Cup and they continue to sink into irrelevance — around the NHL and even locally, where stars like Joel Embiid, Carson Wentz and Bryce Harper own the market.
Instead, the Flyers closed out their desultory season with a skit featuring Gritty the Mascot fighting 10 pretend goalies. Fans in the half-empty arena laughed in delight at the hijinks. Kind of says it all.