Big improvement years usually end pretty well for Flyers

Alain Vigneault

It’s hard to argue with that time-worn colloquial expression “there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’’ but we think we have one example that might defy that assertion.

That is, numbers/statistics do tell the truth when it comes to the Flyers having an average-to-unsuccessful season one year, bouncing back the next and performing quite well in the postseason.

We bring this up because it appears the 2019-20 orange, black and white crew is on its way to one of its best regular-season marks ever.

Winners of eight straight games heading into Saturday’s home contest vs. Buffalo, the Flyers had 15 games and a possible 30 points still left on the table.

If the Flyers were to somehow go something like 12-3 over that stretch, they would finish with 110 points, a total achieved by the franchise only seven times and not once since the 1985-86 campaign.

More significantly, reaching the 110 milestone would mark an improvement of 28 points over last year’s team.

Only one other time in Flyers history (excluding labor lockout-shortened seasons) have they exceeded that improvement – the jump from the dismal 2006-07 season (56 points) to the surprising 2007-08 season (95 points) – a difference of 39 points.

Second-year coach John Stevens used that turnaround to springboard the Flyers all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the Stanley Cup finalist Pittsburgh Penguins (who lost that year, but came back to win the Cup the next).

This scene has been repeated a number of times over the years.

In 1972-73, the Flyers managed to compile only 85 points. The following year, the total zoomed to 112 (a gain of 27 points) and all the Flyers did that postseason was win their first Stanley Cup under coach Fred Shero.

In 1979-80, Philadelphia put together a very respectable 95 points. Then Pat Quinn took over as head coach, led his team to a professional sports record 35-game (25-0-10) unbeaten streak, established an all-time high of 116 points (21 more than the previous year) and got all the way to the Cup finals before a six-game defeat by the dynasty-in-waiting Islanders.

And in 1983-84, the Flyers were again very good, bringing home 98 points. But then the Flyers hired an unheralded coach named Mike Keenan. He assembled a team which achieved 113 points (a plus-15) and that team went all the way to the Cup finals before losing to the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers.

Moving forward to the current team, can first-year coach Alain Vigneault somehow get his team to match those epic gains of bounce-back teams from yesteryear?

They’ve added some pieces – Matt Niskanen and Kevin Hayes come to mind. Yet for the most part, this is pretty much the cast from the .500 2018-19 squad.

Maybe Vigneault can pull off what Shero, Quinn, Keenan and Stevens did. The numbers would seem to indicate he’s headed in the right direction.

The other night, when James van Riemsdyk was asked if Vigneault deserved consideration for the Jack Adams Trophy (NHL coach of the year), the player made an interesting observation:

“You look at our team, from where we were last year to where we are this year – obviously we got some different guys but ultimately it’s a lot of the same ones, too,’’ JVR said.

“So certainly he’s pushed the right buttons that got more out of us this year to have more success. We still have some work to do to finish out the year strong but he’s been a big part of us turning things around.’’

Just winning a playoff series this season would be a respectable achievement. The Flyers haven’t done that in eight years, a franchise record for futility and something a proud organization certainly wants to get off its back.


>Fair weather fan base


Well, with the Eagles season over and the Phillies yet to start, February is usually dubbed “National Hockey Month’’ in the Delaware Valley. That’s because the local sports media show up at the rink to gawk for awhile before going back to their normal routine.

With the Flyers suddenly red-hot, though, we might have to add an extention to National Hockey Month. How about “March Hockey Madness?’’

Suddenly, radio talk show hosts are brushing up on their power plays and hat tricks. Callers are joining the fun. More fans are showing up at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. for Flyer practices.

It’s good to see hockey getting some attention around here again. But let’s not get this confused with Montreal or Boston. In these parts, hockey only draws the casual fan when things are going really well.

Anyway, make room on the bandwagon.




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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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