Flyers’ early 2020s starting to look like early 1990s

Sean Couturier
      They’re halfway there. Well, almost.
      The current Flyers regime, which has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and is well on the way to a third, still has some ground to cover before getting in shooting range of the franchise record set back in the early 1990s.
      But that record – five straight dark springs between the 1989-90 to 1993-94 campaigns – is suddenly starting to feel reachable.
      While the team insists it is putting an emphasis on developing its young talent, the question remains when these potential stars will be ready to make a difference and put the team back in contention.
      Of course, long-term injuries are playing a big role in the expected demise of this year’s outfit, namely Sean Couturier (back surgery), Ryan Ellis (hip, groin, etc.) and Cam Atkinson (upper-body injury).
      In some respects, there is a silver lining to this messy situation. Young players such as Noah Cates, Cam York, Egor Zamula, Tanner Laczynski and Morgan Frost are seeing a lot more playing time. No doubt this will accelerate the maturity process.
      It was a different situation back with those ‘90s teams.
      After making the playoffs 17 straight seasons (from 1972-73 to 1988-89), the Flyers found themselves with an aging, injury-prone roster.
     Stars such as Dave Poulin, Brian Propp, Ken Linseman, Tim Kerr and Mark Howe were all getting a bit long in the tooth. Up-and-coming young goalie Ron Hextall missed all but eight games with a variety of groin and hamstring injuries after holding out from training camp due to a contract dispute.
     In that 1989-90 season, the 34-year-old Howe, the 30-year-old Propp and the 29-year-old Kerr each played only 40 games. Linseman, 29, skated in only 31 games and Poulin, 30, in just nine.
     That team would go on to finish with a 30-39-11 mark and a sixth place finish in the Patrick Division.
     The next four years the Flyers played very consistently – consistently bad.
     They registered seasons of 33-37-10, 32-37-11, 36-37-11 and 35-39-10, finishing last or next to last in the division standings.
     It wasn’t until team owner Ed Snider brought back Bob Clarke for a second tour as general manager and agreed with the hiring of Terry Murray as head coach that the Flyers got back on track again.
     As for 2022-23 and beyond, the Flyers do have some proven young talent in place, including goaltender Carter Hart, forward Travis Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov.
     Even if this season is a washout, many believe general manager Chuck Fletcher (if given the chance) can add some more pieces and work with head coach John Tortorella to move the team back in the right direction.
     However, the cry of “wait ‘til next year” was heard each and every year in the early ‘90s. It took a long wait for a good year to arrive. The Flyers are hoping the early 2020s aren’t a repeat of that debacle.
     >84-game season proposal
     Several media outlets are reporting the National Hockey League is considering an expansion of its season from 82 to 84 games in an effort to create more regional rivalry matchups.
     This is a topic we discussed in a column earlier this season. You would be hard pressed to find a Flyers fan who would prefer to face division foes such as the Rangers, Penguins and Capitals fewer times just to make sure the schedule is balanced.
     This year, the Flyers travel only once to Madison Square Garden, where some of the greatest Philadelphia-Rangers battles have taken place.
     Or how about this: The Islanders and Rangers will face each other on Thursday for the final time this season and they both have New York in front of their names.
     It’s sort of a hit-or-miss arrangement, where division teams can play each other either three or four times.
     Adding two games would mean the Flyers would play each Metropolitan Division team four times.
     According to a story on the ESPN website, one league proposal would have the preseason shortened by a couple games to accommodate the new regular-season slate.
     The proposal most likely will be discussed at length when the NHL general managers get together in Palm Beach, Fla. in March.
     This wouldn’t be the first occasion the NHL played an 84-game schedule. One other time, from 1992-94, the NHL added two “neutral site’’ games to each team’s schedule.
     In order for the proposed schedule to be implemented, it would have to be approved by the NHL Players’ Association.
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About Wayne Fish 2444 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.