It certainly was the Flyers’ winter of discontent but there might be a silver lining to the once cloudy outlook.
When the season ended, the Flyers appeared to be a long way from any sort of credible contention.
After all, powerhouse teams abounded. Tampa Bay had set a record for regular-season wins with 62. Calgary, Nashville and defending Stanley Cup champion Washington all looked like world-beaters.
But then the Flyers took a first step by hiring a proven coach in Alain Vigneault.
While that was going on, the dominoes started falling: The Lightning, Flames, Predators and Capitals all bit the dust, a couple in rather embarrassing fashion.
You could throw Winnipeg and Pittsburgh into the mix as well.
So now, the Cup competition looks rather wide open.
What’s the lesson to be taken from all this?
Well, this isn’t the NBA or MLB. This isn’t where darkhorses are virtually non-existent. In the NHL, piling up gaudy win totals and securing home-ice “advantage’’ really don’t mean that much.
Thus, if the Flyers fancy themselves as a future contender (they do have the No. 1-ranked development system), they should realize they might just have to get into the playoffs and then let the dice roll down the table.
Team ownership made it clear back in November when it released Ron Hextall as general manager that it didn’t want to keep ambling along at a snail’s pace on a possible road to greatness.
New general manager Chuck Fletcher would appear to have some of the pieces in place to re-join the postseason party and remember that he has some $15 million in salary cap space to add a couple of bona fide skilled players.
What seemed like a bit of a gloomy situation after five straight losses to end the season and the coaching picture up in the air, now seems a little brighter.
Vigneault said as much when he was introduced as the new coach last week.
He alluded to New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz and the quick turnaround he was able to execute – taking a team which was last in goals allowed in 2017-18 and making it first in 2018-19.
“First of all, the job that Barry did in Long Island is an incredible job,’’ Vigneault said. “An experienced coach that went in there with a definite mindset on what he felt needed to be done. Got to give him full credit and full marks for what he did.
“I believe that I know what it takes for a team to have success on a consistent basis and that’s what I intend to do here with the Flyers. I believe that with the proper direction, proper coaching staff, a coaching staff working with management, that the Flyers with the potential that is on this team will be a very good team in the near future.’’
Clearly, the word “near’’ resonated upstairs in the office annex adjoining the Wells Fargo Center.
Vigneault is one of those guys who not only can identify a problem but find a way to fix it, as he did with Vancouver and the New York Rangers.
His mission is to make the Flyers a more consistent team: No eight-game losing streaks, followed by eight-game winning streaks, followed by. . .
“From the outside, from talking to different people, (the problem was) probably a lot of inconsistency. . .being able to win quite a few games in a row but then losing quite a few games in a row,’’ Vigneault said.
“I want to get to know the players. I’m not coming in here with any preconceived notions about anybody. They can come in here and show me the type of player they are, but also what type of person they are. Team first attitude. I will do anything I have to do to make this team win.’’
This doesn’t mean the Flyers necessarily have to go out and set the world on fire during the regular season.
Borderline playoff teams such as Columbus and Colorado are proving you don’t have to run up a hundred-and-something points to have a shot at the Cup.
Just something to keep in mind when the Flyers hit the ice in October.