Back in 2019 the future looked quite bright for the Flyers.
According to The Hockey News at the time, the Flyers ran the No. 1-ranked development program in all of hockey. A year later, they fell just one win short of reaching the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals.
Then, for whatever reason, things took a sharp turn the wrong way. Their prospects list fell to eighth in 2020, 17th in 2021 and 27th in 2022.
This year saw a modest bounce-back to 21st, but the fact remains there’s probably been a correlation between a declining farm system and a continuation of a playoff drought which has now reached three seasons, second-worst in team history.
So what’s being done about it?
Well, you could look to the upcoming NHL Draft for starters.
The Flyers have two picks (7 and 22) in the first round and 10 overall when things get underway at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday night.
New general manager Daniel Briere is well aware that while his organization does have some promising players in their formative years, the depth of the talent pool is still a bit shallow.
That’s partly why this draft is so critical.
Assistant GM Brent Flahr, who has overseen scouting since former general manager Chuck Fletcher started his tenure here in 2018, acknowledges that.
“We’re not that deep at any position,” Flahr admitted at a Thursday press conference in the Flyers Training Center at Voorhees, New Jersey. “We have some holes to fill and we’ll evaluate that.”
It’s no secret the Flyers would love to add a third first-rounder to their list – the type of player who might have some impact in the near future and push for a job the way defenseman Cam York and right wing Tyson Foerster have.
Briere isn’t going to sell the farm to pull off such a manuever but, as mentioned, he does have some resources to work with. And he’s willing to admit he’s been working the telephones to try to pull off such a deal, even if it’s a long shot.
“If someone wants to give us another pick, we’ll gladly take it,” he said with a smile. “We’re having discussions with different teams. I’d probably say it’s not likely but we’re definitely looking at every avenue and I would love to give another jolt to our amateur scouts to dive in even deeper in our list.
“We’re trying, no doubt about it. But you need a dancing partner as well, so I don’t know if it’s realistic.”
Whichever way it goes, the Flyers need more quality players in their system and for them, Wednesday can’t get here soon enough.
>Policy change for Pride night jerseys
Sometimes it only takes a small minority of dissidents to get a policy change.
Such was the case with the NHL this week when it decided to not allow teams to wear rainbow-colored Pride jerseys before games anymore, stating they were too much of a distraction.
No doubt this is disappointing to a player like the Flyers’ Scott Laughton, who has led the inclusion movement in Philadelphia.
Two ex-Flyers, defenseman Ivan Provorov and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, were part of a handful of players who refused to participate in pre-game Pride night activities.
The league’s Board of Governors agreed Thursday with commissioner Gary Bettman’s view that the refusals overshadowed teams’ efforts in hosting Pride nights that in some cases included auctioning off the warmup jerseys. All 32 teams held a Pride or Hockey is for Everyone night.
Said Bettman: “That’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are. We’re keeping the focus on the game. And on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”
According to the Associated Press, teams will still celebrate Pride and other theme nights, including military appreciation and Hockey Fights Cancer. They’re also expected to still design and produce jerseys to be autographed and sold to raise money, even though players won’t skate around with them on during warmups.
You Can Play, which has worked with sports and leagues – including the NHL – to help them grow more inclusive for members of the LGBTQ+ community, said it was “concerned and disappointed” by the decision.
Provorov was the first to decline to participate back in January. Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox religion and was defended by coach John Tortorella.
Others later joined, including San Jose goaltender James Reimer, brothers Eric and Marc Staal of Florida (religious beliefs) along with Russian players Ilya Lyubushkin of Buffalo, Denis Gurianov of Montreal and Andrei Kuzmenko of Vancouver.
The New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild opted out of wearing Pride jerseys after previously advertising they would.
From our perspective, the NHL could have done a better job with the whole situation by checking with all 32 teams first to make sure that everyone was on board with the plan.
Provorov’s actions caught everyone off-guard and made for a public relations black-eye. If the NHL had come to the Flyers first and found out Provorov was not going to participate, a simple press release explaining the defenseman’s position on the matter probably would have defused the situation and not caused a “distraction.”