Now that another inglorious Flyers season has come to an end, it’s probably the right time to put this latest flame-out in proper perspective.
That is, should we go so far as to say the Flyers have just about reached the low point in their history?
Some will be quick to point out the early ‘90s – in which the Flyers missed the playoffs five straight seasons – would qualify as the worst era ever.
Yet keep in mind this recent span of futility has now covered seven seasons without a playoff series victory.
Meanwhile, the 1989 team made it to the Eastern Conference finals, as did the 1995 squad.
So one could make the argument that missing the playoffs four times (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019) along with first-round ousters in 2014, 2016, 2018 might be the bottom of the barrel.
A frustrated Jake Voracek has gone so far as to suggest that maybe the Flyers should break up the core of the team. Wayne Simmonds has already been traded and there are some out there who think that other core players such as Claude Giroux might not be around long enough to taste the fruits of this youth movement.
The 2018-19 season was like so many others in that the Flyers got off to a slow start, both record-wise and at the beginning of games.
Does this sound like a broken record?
Giroux, 31, has been captain now for longer than anyone in Flyers history not named Clarke, so shouldn’t he bear some of the responsibility?
He implies some of it has to do with a crisis of confidence.
“It took us a while to believe that we can be a good team,’’ he offered the other day. “I think guys were ready, early on it was tough. We tried to battle back and made a comeback in the standings. We were last in the league and then to get within three or four points of the playoffs -– we battled hard for about two or three months there. It took a lot out of us.’’
Voracek will be 30 this summer. The years go by and the promise begins to fade.
“So many slow starts in the past, and we started slow again this year,’’ he said. “I think we got it into our heads a little too much instead of just go out there and play. We lost so many games we shouldn’t have lost.
“Another big reason is I think we were pretty bad at home. I think we had a losing record. If you want to be a good team and be in a playoff spot, you have to have to be good at home, which we weren’t.’’
When the Flyers let ex-GM Ron Hextall go back in late November, ownership gave the impression it wanted to see an accelerated timeline for getting back into serious contention.
For this past season, there wasn’t a whole lot Chuck Fletcher could do to make improvements. There were so many goaltender injuries, it just didn’t make sense to trade away young players, prospects of draft picks in a desperate attempt to make the playoffs.
But starting with the 2019-2020 season, Fletcher is going to have to take a little more ownership for what happens by this time next year.
He does have Carter Hart in goal, a number of good young defensemen and a mix of youth and experience up front.
That said, what’s to make us believe the Flyers will be good enough to break what could be an eight-year drought of no playoff series wins?
There’s talk of bringing in some new, perhaps proven experienced hands to help the cause. And with approximately $15 million in salary cap space, one would think a star or two could find their way to Philadelphia.
Bring in all the talent that you want, though, and it won’t make much difference.
Not if you don’t have enough players of high character in leadership roles to change this franchise’s fortunes.
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