When a team fails to finish with a record over .500 on home ice, there’s no mystery why it winds up not making the playoffs.
Such was the case with the Flyers last season, who managed to record a mediocre mark of just 12-12-4 (in the pandemic-shortened 56-game season) in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center.
It became the first season the Flyers haven’t cracked the even standard since way back in 2006-07 when they recorded the worst overall record in team history.
But the Flyers are hoping all that changes this season when they welcome back their faithful, starting with training camp, which opens on Thursday, Sept. 23 at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said he’s looking forward to seeing plenty of fans and playing before a full house in Philadelphia when the regular season gets underway on Oct. 15 against Vancouver.
And even before that.
“I can’t wait to see the fans here on the 23rd,’’ said Fletcher during a media Zoom call on Tuesday. “Just having energy in our building, our practice rink. It’s huge. We’re only in this game because of the fans. They support us, they foot the bill so to speak and we all make a living off it.’’
Toward the end of last season, several thousand fans were allowed into the Wells Fargo Center but although the crowd was boisterous it wasn’t like having 19,000-plus orange-clad patrons screaming their heads off.
“Last year was a tough year,’’ Fletcher noted. “I said it several times, once we allowed some fans back in the building there was some energy. But there’s no question having fans adds a whole different element. You watch college football or the NFL over the last couple weekends, seeing Virginia Tech and Michigan with the folks there, it’s just crazy what a different atmosphere can be when you have a full house. I know our players are extremely excited about getting back and having a mostly normal season.’’
Rookie camp gets underway on Thursday at the Skate Zone. Fans will not be able to attend that four-day event due to health protocols.
When training camp gets underway, Fletcher said the Flyers will probably ask fans to wear masks. At the present time, there does not appear to be a vaccination mandate. The Flyers will announce any necessary safety precautions prior to the start of camp.
The Flyers rookies will practice for two days, then take on a team of Rangers rookies in a home-and-home weekend set, starting on Saturday in Tarrytown, N.Y. and finishing back at the Skate Zone on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Some of the big names include first-round draft picks Morgan Frost (2017), Cam York (2019) and Tyson Foerster (2020), plus Wade Allison, Jackson Cates, and Egor Zamula.
“Rookie camp serves many purposes,’’ Fletcher said. “There’s an evaluation process involved. We’re hoping they can put their best foot forward and show us what they can do. It’s a chance to get their feet wet and get rid of the nerves before regular camp starts.’’
>Flyers will be fully vaccinated
Fletcher said the Flyers will be fully vaccinated by the start of the season.
“We’re basically there now,’’ he said. “We’ve had a great response from staff and players. We’re looking forward to having a much more normal season.’’
>Rookie injury update
Prospect Zayde Wisdom (shoulder injury) will attend camp but only for meetings as he continues his rehab. Assistant general manager Brent Flahr said he will be out until December.
Tanner Laczynski (hip surgery last April) is scheduled to meet with doctors on Friday and is expected to be cleared for contact. He might be able to play against the Rangers.
Maxim Sushko (knee surgery) is skipping rookie camp but is hopeful to take part in the regular camp.
>Offseason training improves
The Flyers’ preparation for the 2020-21 season was hindered somewhat by pandemic restrictions on ice rinks and gyms for the players.
Fletcher hopes things were different this past offseason.
“A few of the veterans have trickled in and they all look great,’’ Fletcher said. “Oskar Lindblom, (Travis) Konecny, (Travis) Sanheim all look great. Everybody’s put a lot of time in. Once we get into the testing next week and see them on the ice we will have a better feel. I think everyone had an opportunity to get back to normal. Coming off last season, there was a focus on being prepared as much as possible.’’
Fletcher made it a point to go out and get a handful of veterans such as defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle plus forward Nate Thompson during the offseason. The Flyers probably needed some more experienced players for leadership roles.
“You go back to last offseason, and this falls on me. . .Matt Niskanen retired, Thompson we let go and we didn’t sign Tyler Pitlick,’’ Fletcher said. “We lost some players that were kind of low maintenance/high character veterans and replaced them with some younger players. Last year when things started to go awry we lost our way a little bit. Then there was the pandemic and I thought maybe we were a little too young to get through it. I think we’re a deeper team this year.’’