A New Era or Should I Say Error?

The Philadelphia Flyers enter their 55th season with the hope of a new day and a new direction. This is the first full season without long-time captain Claude Giroux.  The 2021-22 season was a disaster. The Flyers finished in last place in the Atlantic Division with only 61 points. This is a far cry from the Broad Street Bully days, the Mike Keenan 80’s, and the Lindros era 90’s. Former owner Ed Snider must be looking down with disgust on his once proud franchise. The Flyers enter a new era, or should I say error?

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A New Era or Should I Say Error?

The Flyers were once a Gold standard franchise in the NHL. The Broad Street Bullies took the city and NHL by storm in the 70s by bringing a physical, exciting brand of hockey to Broad street. Jason Kelce said in the Eagles parade that No one likes us, and we don’t care; that phrase definitely applied to the Broad Street Bullies. Many long-time NHL fans from around the league hated the hockey brand the  Flyers played. Flyers fans reveled in the hate and embraced the great rivalries with teams like the Rangers, Bruins, Islanders, and Montreal Canadians, to name a few. The Spectrum was one of if not the most feared building for opponents to play at. The Flyers had a long run of success, particularly in the ’70s and ’80s. The Flyers captured the hearts of Philadelphia by winning back-to-back cups in 74-75.  They’ve also made an impressive 8 Finals appearances, 76, 80, 85, 87, 97, and 2010.

Longtime Since Glory

I’ve been a fan since I was 8 years old. This was the 86-87 cup run where the Flyers took one of the greatest dynasties of all time to a 7th game in the finals. That Edmonton team was loaded with future Hall of Fame players such as Wayne Gretsky, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey, to name a few. This Flyers team was led by a no-nonsense coach in Mike Keenan and a rookie goaltender named Ron Hextall, who was so dominant in the postseason that he won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP in a losing cause. After an Eastern conference finals loss to Montreal in 89, the Flyers had a few years of futility and rebuilding. The club turned it around in 1992 by acquiring the next great player of the time Eric Lindros. They missed the postseason his first couple of years but then had a long successful run of exciting hockey.  For most of my childhood, the Flyers were the most consistent team in the city and always had a chance to make a run.

Since the appearance of the last final in 2010, the Flyers have been the epitome of mediocrity. They’ve rotated seasons of making and missing the playoffs until the last 2 seasons, where they’ve missed 2 years in a row. Claude Giroux was a great Flyer. He ranks 2nd in Games, points, and assists and is 8th in goals in the franchise’s history. I equate the Claude Giroux era of Flyers hockey to the Andre Iguodala era of Sixers basketball. Two very good players, but the teams never advanced past the second round of the playoffs and making the playoffs was hit or miss.

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Poor Current Situation

Now we come to the mess that is today. I can’t recall a time in my life when I was less excited for a season than now. I’m a 4-for-4 sports guy, and the Flyers are a distant 4th.  Selling tickets for the Flyers has to rank as one of the hardest jobs in sports right now.  It’s really sad to think of how empty and quiet the building is now compared to the old days when it was rocking.

The man tasked to clean up this mess is long-time NHL coach John Tortorella. Tortorella is a fiery sort of coach, along the lines of a Mike Keenan for old-time fans out there. Tortorella brings an impressive resume of a Stanley Cup with Tampa in 04 and a long run of successful playoff teams. His teams compete and play hard though many will argue he has a certain shelf life as he can wear on players.  Assistant coach Brad Shaw comes with Tortorella and will oversee the defensemen and penalty kill. Shaw has overseen successful penalty-kill teams before in St. Louis and Columbus. The Flyers have had the worst penalty-kill rate in the league the last two seasons at 74.6 %. The Rangers were no 1 in penalty kill rate from 08-13 at 85.5%. Under Tortorella, the Flyers should be a much harder team to compete against this season. He stresses blocking shots and playing a more fundamentally sound defensive system.

Injuries

The Flyers come into the season with a lot of injuries, just like last season. Star center Sean Couturier is out indefinitely, Forward Joel Farabee is also out to start the season, and Defenseman Ryan Ellis may never play again. The main acquisitions of the off-season were a trade for Defenseman Tony D’Angelo from Carolina and free agent signee LW Nicolas Deslauriers who should help the checking line. D’Angelo should help the power play, as he had 51 points last season. Any success the Flyers have will have to come from a healthy Kevin Hayes, an improved Travis Konecky, and the improvement of the young guys like Morgan Frost, Wade Allison, Tippett, and others.

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New Era or Do You Say Error

Most publications predict a long season for the Flyers. The third straight missed postseason.  I’m done with the 7-8 seed or barely missing the playoffs carousel. The Flyers need to tear this down like the Sixers did and “Trust the Process.”  The franchise needs its own version of a Joel Embiid. Luckily, the Flyers can be terrible at just the right time. There is a young phenom coming out named Connor Bedard. He’s the kind of young talent that this team needs to build on. My hope for this season is a lot of losing, hopefully winning the Bedard sweepstakes and turning this thing around. I hope Tortorella can develop some of the young players and not win too much to screw up this pick. Get the tank ready and as Hinkie said, collect those assets! The Flyers enter a new era, or should I say error?

Joe Sullivan
Joe Sullivan

My passion for sports began at 8 years old when I won Sixers tickets at a father and son night. Since then, Saturdays meant Notre Dame football and Sundays were for the Eagles. My passion continues to this day and I have the great privilege to host the Sully Squad on Monday nights.

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