T.S. Eliot once scribbled “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
It’s tough to remember a hockey season dying so silently. After an offseason of noise and a promise that this team would be better, the Philadelphia Flyers have faded to almost obscurity in the city’s sports scene while in the midst of another long winless streak.
Sadly, there isn’t much anger these days for what we’re forced to watch as the Flyers fell further out of the playoff picture with losses to the Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks last week, running a new winless streak up to five games.
The worst part is, fans don’t even seem too upset anymore after a loss. Perhaps it’s because the Flyers have played the last week or so drastically shorthanded, missing key players like Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier.
But the apathy seems to run deeper. More and more, you’ll find fans willing to blow this thing up and start from scratch. It’s not that easy with a salary cap in place and several veterans under contract for many years ahead. But everything the Flyers do from this point forward should be looking toward the future.
It starts with forgetting about a playoff push. The math has gotten much worse since we last broke out the calculator. At 13-15-7, the Flyers would need to play at a 30-13-4 clip in their final 47 games to reach the 97-point mark. The Flyers would need to win 64 percent of their remaining games when they’ve won just 37 percent of the ones they’ve played so far this season. It’s a 112-point pace, which only six teams have achieved so far this season. They also can’t really bottom-out either. The Flyers currently sit 24th out of 32 teams. And with bottom dwellers like Arizona, Montreal and Ottawa seeming incapable of accumulating points, the Flyers can’t quite tank for Shane Wright. The Flyers have more than a dozen-point lead on all three of them. They’ll need some help in the draft lottery.
So what should they do?
The trade deadline and the offseason will certainly bring changes, but let’s focus on what should happen before then.
For starters, if Kevin Hayes is still playing through injury or discomfort from his core surgery, he should take time off. We can’t begin to imagine the emotional stress Hayes went through this year after tragically losing his brother, Jimmy. It likely played at least a minor role in not being able to rehabilitate correctly from his injury and who could blame him? Hayes has tried fighting through injuries but doesn’t look very comfortable on the ice. Same goes for Couturier who is now sidelined with his own ailment. Don’t rush him back. The Flyers have more than $14 million a year invested in these two players for the foreseeable future.
Secondly, the Flyers should make sure Carter Hart is handled properly. He had a rough go of it last season and worked himself back into being one of the best goalies in the league this season. But keeping him in a game and hanging him out to dry against the Penguins when the Flyers were fielding an AHL roster, was not good practice for their young goalie or his confidence. Hart is a competitor and wants to play against the best, but let’s be smart about things going forward.
Next up, let’s have a longer look at Cam York. The Flyers’ top pick from the 2019 draft needs ice time to develop. If the Flyers were in the chase, they would be best to send him back to the AHL where he could log more than 20 minutes a night instead of being sheltered on the third defensive pairing. But since the Flyers are out of it, they can afford to play York at the top level and give him as much time as he needs. Is it going to hurt Nick Seeler or Keith Yandle if they get their time cut? Doubtful. Plus the Phantoms are a mess, too. He’s going to lose games no matter where he plays.
Lastly, showcase potential trade candidates. Anything that can be done to boost value should be attempted at this point. Play James van Riemsdyk on the top line and keep him on the top power play after everyone comes back. Same goes for Derek Brassard, who is on an expiring deal. Heck, let’s even give Rasmus Ristolainen some power play time and maybe the Flyers can recoup a pick for him at the deadline. Teams are always looking to bolster their defense at the deadline and the Flyers could raise his price.
Voracek feeling grand
Congratulations are in order for former Flyer Jakob Voracek who earned his silver stick by playing in his 1,000th career game last week. Voracek, who was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, played 727 career games in Philadelphia between his two stints in Columbus. Voracek accumulated 604 points in Philly, which ranks 10th all time in franchise history. He’s fifth all time in assists with 427 as a Flyer. ••