Before you write this off as some disgruntled blogger just venting because he has a platform to do so, let me explain myself. Yes, I love the Philadelphia Flyers. I will always support the Flyers, through good times, bad times, and these times. That doesn’t mean I’m excited to watch the product that they’re putting out on the ice night in and night out this season.
Forget their 19-17-6 record, as deceitful as it may seem. They’re worse than the above .500 team that they are. They’re not fun to watch. There is nothing about this team that makes you want to tune in at 7:00 every night they play. You can expect one of two things: a blowout loss from the get-go, or the Flyers to give you hope at the beginning only to crush your soul by the end of the game.
But they keep you coming back. You can’t help but tune in at the beginning every time they play. It’s a masochist’s dream. You know you’re going to get hurt, you just don’t know how. There are so many things that contribute to this feeling for me, and this is my attempt at trying to explain as much as I can.
Let’s start right at the beginning. The first period of late for the Flyers has been a giant pit of quicksand. They’ve failed to come out of the first period with a lead in 12 of their last 14 games. This dates all the way back to March 20th. To be fair, two of those occasions were ties, but it stands that this team just doesn’t know how to get out of the gates strong.
Out of their 44 games this season, they’ve scored first in 20 of them. While that’s exciting and all, they haven’t held the lead on eight of those occasions. If you want your fans to be invested, you get them interested from the start. That’s something the Flyers just haven’t done as of late, let alone the entire season.
This team has continuously come out flat. Tuesday night’s game against the Capitals is a prime example. The Caps first goal gave you the feeling of, “Here we go again…” Then, Sean Couturier evens things out at one shortly thereafter. The little bit of hope Couturier gave us was gone in a flash, as the Caps took a 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Those types of periods are deflating and don’t instill any type of confidence in the fanbase. Not to mention, the interest in the game falls off a cliff knowing this team isn’t prone to coming back from these types of deficits.
The Conundrum in the Crease
I mentioned on the Pod Street Bullies podcast awhile back that when Michal Neuvirth was in net, you got the feeling that any shot could go into the back of the net. After Carter Hart’s first season, that feeling had all but disappeared. Now it’s rearing its ugly head again, and it doesn’t sit well with me at all. We all knew that Neuvy was capable of stealing games, we just didn’t see it happen enough. We know, with certainty, that Carter Hart can backstop the Flyers to wins. He just has not shown it this season.
While Brian Elliott was great in relief of Carter Hart early on, he’s been the exact opposite as of late. Blame it on the defense, blame it on Alain Vigneault leaning too heavily on a 36 year-old backup goalie, the fact remains that it’s embarrassing. The defense aren’t helping out the goalies. The goalies can’t stop everything, which doesn’t help the forwards who can’t score. It’s a circle of crap. A circle of absolute crap.
Elliott has cooled down to a .894 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average. Carter Hart has a .872 save percentage and ridiculous 3.79 goals against average. Those numbers won’t win games. Again, you can blame the defense in front of the tandem, but at some point they need to turn pucks away. They need to command their crease and make the saves.
Need a Goal?
Scoring has been a problem for the Flyers. Yes, they sit at 13th in the league in goals per game, but it’s the timing of those goals that count. You watch these games and see the Flyers go down 1-0, then 2-0, then 3-0. When does the bleeding stop? Who steps up and says enough, and puts the Flyers on the board, or at least within striking distance? The guy leading the way in the goals department is a 21 year-old sophomore, followed closely by a 31 year-old veteran who was a hot topic in the trade discussions just last season. Kevin Hayes can score, so why hasn’t he? He’s too busy trying to dance around opposing players while maintaining possession of the puck. How’s that working out?
The Flyers missed out on the Patrik Laine sweepstakes. They never accomplished the pipe dream scenario of bringing in Johnny Hockey. Goal scoring apparently wasn’t a priority in the offseason, amongst other things that I really don’t feel like delving into right now. There was a need for a sniper, and it wasn’t filled. You can say that Joel Farabee has semi-filled that role, but he isn’t the elite-level goal scorer that this team needed to put them over the hump.
The fact remains that given the circumstances right now, the Flyers need a guy who can score timely goals that let everyone know that they won’t quit. That’s absolutely lacking right now, and it might just be the most infuriating part about this team. Nevermind the lack of physicality when they need an edge. Who cares about goaltending when you can put up five goals a game. We don’t have that though. We don’t have either of those things, and it’s hurting this team more and more as every game goes by.
The Announcers Aura
When was the last time you watched a game on NBC Sports Philly? Better yet, when was the last time you listened to Tim Saunders and Coatesy call a game on The Fanatic? More importantly, when was the last time you heard a shred of enthusiasm come of out their mouths when calling a Flyers game?
I totally get it. This isn’t as much a criticism of these guys as it is an indictment on the play of the team. How are you supposed to be enthusiastic about a team that doesn’t show that same level of energy? I was listening to a game about a month ago on WPEN and the Flyers scored. Tim Saunders basically had to be woken up to make the call, and I don’t blame him.
Jim Jackson is one of the best at what he does. Even he seems fed up with the performance of this team. It’s honestly sad, and I can’t say, once again, that I blame him. This team doesn’t warrant the typical “He scores!” calls from either JJ or Saunders. It’s not even worth the energy at this point.
The Constant Letdown
I could go on for paragraph after paragraph, listing everything that rubs me the wrong way about this team. The one thing that gets me time after time is the letdown. Maybe I’m a sucker. Maybe the Flyers are my crux and I just can’t quit them. Regardless, this team sucks you in and gets you invested before it ultimately lets you down. How long until the casual fan says “to hell with this,” and decides it just isn’t worth it? Of course, everyone has their thoughts when it comes to the casuals, but casuals bring in money too. Just ask Dave Scott…
Leading up to this season, many had Philadelphia as one of the favorites to emerge from the East Division. Some even had them pegged as Stanley Cup contenders. Boy, were they wrong. Letdown number one. Count all the games that they were in it until the last five minutes when they either gave up the lead, let a team tie it up, take them to overtime, you know the spiel. That’s letdown two to who-knows. Goaltending, defense, forward play, everything seemingly is a letdown this year.
The biggest letdown of all, as mentioned above, is the fact that we were all led to believe that this team could compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s frustrating to gear up for a year as such, then having to endure what we are currently enduring.
The PR BS
This one is going to be quick…
Please, for the love of god, stop with the GIF’s of Gritty. This team is bad, and your “band-aid” is to constantly tweet out GIF’s of Gritty doing something stupid. We love Gritty. We kind of have to after defending him from the rest of the world. Don’t make us hate him because you’ve stuffed him down our throats after this kind of season.
If you’ve gotten to this point, I can all-but tell exactly what you’re thinking. “This guy needs to chill.” You’d be correct. Maybe it’s another 6-1 loss that just doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it’s the “x” amount of beers that I’ve consumed this evening, trying to drown my sorrows. Or, it could be the fact that we were sold a bill of goods that wasn’t delivered.
This team just doesn’t get me excited any more. I don’t have that rush at the end of the work day where I need to hurry home to get things done to ensure that I can settle in and watch the games from puck drop to the final horn. Maybe it’s keeping up with a one year-old at home that has be beaten down. Maybe it’s the mentally-draining job that I work that sucks everything out of me before puck drop. Regardless, this team just doesn’t have the buzz around it that we all long for.
It could be the fact that the Flyers are six points out of a playoff spot with 12 games remaining. Even more likely, it’s probably due to the fact that this team flat-out didn’t come as advertised this season. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t find me rooting on another team. The Flyers have always been and will remain the one NHL team that I cheer for. However, can you blame me for not being excited when they play?
Photo Credit – Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire