QUICK. Without looking it up, can you tell me how the Flyers season ended two years ago? Can you even tell me how their season ended LAST year? Did they make the playoffs? Was that the year Steve Mason let in a 90-foot goal against the Rangers? Or was that they year they lost in seven games to the Rangers? Didn’t they get swept by the Capitals a few seasons ago? Or was that the season they fall apart after a 10-game win streak in January and missed the playoffs, or does that happen every year?
Is Jeff Hackett still on this team? Derian Hatcher? Rob Esche? Luke Schenn? Michal Handzus?
Is Maxime Oullet EVER coming up to be the Flyers goalie of the century?
Outside of the miraculous, out of nowhere Stanley Cup run in 2010, the last 20 years of the Flyers franchise have been one long singular blur of wasted opportunities, wasted primes, and first round playoff flame-outs. The only singular identity this team has had over that period of time is the comically inept ability ability to find a franchise goalie since Ron Hextall left for the second time in the late 90s.
Ironically, the one time they actually found a young, franchise-worthy goalie they shipped his ass out of town and signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a 35-year, $250 million contract (or maybe it just seemed that long and expensive).
Watching this current team lose in overtime yesterday to the Pittsburgh Penguins as two goalies I’ve never heard of traded opportunities to blow several leads, I realized that during my adult life the majority of seasons for the Flyers have played out exactly the same.
They’re just there, in the background of our fandom. Nothing but ambient noise. No more, no less.
Every season goes about the same. The franchise usually starts off by bringing in an over-the-hill veteran or former superstar who MAY regain some of his lost glory (Vincent Lecavalier, Jaromir Jagr, Adam Oates, Peter Forsberg), signs or trades for a new goalie who is definitely 100% this time going to be the goalie of the future (Steve Mason, Brian Elliott, Ray Emery, Martin Biron, Robert Esche, John Vanbiesbrouck), and declares THIS IS THE YEAR they finally break away from the Broad Street Bullies mold of the 70s and integrate some NEW THINKING into the way the franchise does business.
Spoiler alert: It never goes well.
Cue April, the Flyers are either a low playoff seed destined to be bounced in the first round by Washington or Pittsburgh, they’ve gone through at least two or three goalies of the future throughout the season, and they’ve wasted yet another year of Claude Giroux’s prime. GREAT STUFF.
I get it, though. GM Ron Hextall is attempting to breathe some new life and new thinking into the team. They apparently have an ELITE goalie who is dominating the Canadian wilderness and is “two years away” (they’re two years away in perpetuity…ask a Flyers fan in 2020 when Carter Hart is going to be on the roster and they’ll inevitably say “two years”), and they have a young group of defensemen who are arguably the envy of the NHL.
Great! Things are definitely changing for the Flyers this year, right?!
Hmmmm….well, not really. They may make the playoffs after crumbling down the stretch, and if they do they’ll lose in the first round to Pittsburgh or Washington. They’ve gone through four goalies this year, Claude Giroux is having an MVP caliber season that will be lost to the wind, and they have a helmet-haired stubborn head coach who prefers to teach promising young players lessons (Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, basically anyone on the team named Travis) by benching them in crucial moments of the season in favor of sub-par veterans.
So with all this promise of change, all these young, exciting prospects just waiting to be called up to the roster, when can fans expect to see something different out of the franchise?
Probably in two years.
Everything is so different, yet everything is exactly the same.