The Flyers aren’t a team that gets too comfortable outside of the playoffs. Sitting with less than a 10 percent chance of qualifying as of today, this might be just the second time since 1994 that they miss the postseason. When you compare the two teams, the amount of similarities makes you wonder if maybe we should have seen this coming.
It starts from the beginning with the lack of identity and definition. During the 2006-07 season, the Flyers went through a lot of turnover due to a lack of early success and off-season change. They lost two big pieces in Keith Primeau (concussion) and Eric Desjardins (retirement) before losing their coach and general manager on Bloody Sunday in late October, and then their newly-minted captain to a trade with Nashville as the season progressed.
The amount of change led to a period of turmoil where roles amongst players weren’t defined, leading to a lot of streaks of choppy, disjointed play. It was a test right out of the chute for John Stevens, who replaced Ken Hitchcock and got his first taste of the NHL coaching ranks.
This year, this lack of identity and definition comes in the form of the lockout. With a bunch of roles shifting due to the loss of Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle (amongst others), the Flyers had no time to figure out who slots best where. Compounding this problem was the mass of injuries that hit the team as the season began, only further convoluting the confusing picture that was the depth chart as they fell further down the standings.
Another big issue that plagued the team during that futile season six years ago was the lack of consistent growth. One year removed from their first full seasons in the NHL, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were expected to take a big step forward. Instead, both players did the opposite – with catastrophic results to the campaign.
Sound familiar? Because personally, I’m looking right at Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier — two fine young players who quite simply failed to live up to unrealistic expectations of growth (the latter in particular). As we all know, Richards and Carter have gone on to become fine players in their own right — and Stanley Cup champions. Unfortunately, this potential for future success doesn’t make losing much easier right now.
One particularly prevailing theme throughout both seasons is the lack of leadership by example. On both occasions, there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of headship on paper, but the words just don’t match up with the results. When push comes to shove, there hasn’t been someone who just goes out and does what they say they are going to do between games. The result is much of the same frustratingly stubborn play with repetitive quotes thereafter.
In the end, it wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. The Flyers got a chance to reevaluate their situation and make the necessary changes right away, leading to five straight years of Stanley Cup contention before this current debacle. They also got a high draft pick in the process, resulting in a first line player that is currently lighting the lamp on a regular basis.
One just hopes that this turnaround will be as quick and successful as the last one, because a full season of this would likely be more painful than it was six years ago.