It’s not breaking news to say the 2021-22 hockey season has been insufferable in Philadelphia. But is it the worst of all time? It’s getting there following the second 10-game winless streak of the season, which was accomplished with a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last week and extended it to 11 with a loss in Buffalo on Saturday.
Seems like a good time to take a look at the five worst seasons of professional hockey in Philadelphia. At least, before this one.
1930-31: Did you know there was professional hockey in Philly before the 1967 expansion birthed the Flyers? It’s true. The one and only year in existence of the Philadelphia Quakers, who moved here from Pittsburgh when boxing promoter and former fighter Benny Leonard brought the team to Philly during the Great Depression, didn’t begin to describe how poorly the on-ice product was. The Quakers went 4-36-4 and stood as the worst winning percentage until the mid 1970s when the Washington Capitals had an even worse showing.
The Quakers scored the least amount of goals in the league and allowed the most. The team reportedly lost $100,000 and folded after just one year here. It also forced Leonard back into the boxing ring where he actually had a better showing than the Quakers did.
The Quakers’ dreadful legacy is highlighted by a brawl that occurred against the Boston Bruins. Police officers were forced to break up the fights on the ice. Philly also lost that game 8-0.
1969-70: Only their third season in the National Hockey League, the Flyers managed a meager 58 points. But it wasn’t all bad. They actually finished 20 points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. But in the end, the Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history after blowing a seven-point lead to the Oakland Seals with just six games left to play. The Flyers lost their last six games and lost the tiebreaker to the Seals for the final playoff spot. The good news was a rookie named Bobby Clarke was starting to show some promise and they won the Stanley Cup just four years later.
1989-90: The Flyers had made Stanley Cup Final appearances in 1985 and 1987 but were defeated both times by perhaps the greatest dynasty of all time in the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers. The fallout in 1989-90 was somewhat unexpected as the Flyers had reached the Eastern Conference Final the previous season albeit being a .500 team in the regular season. But this version finished with just 71 points and missed the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and just the third time in franchise history.
It started with Ron Hextall missing the first 12 games of the season due to a suspension for clobbering Chris Chelios in the playoffs. The team endured a 10-game winless streak and prompted the Flyers to trade Dave Poulin after the team stripped him of the captaincy. Brian Propp was also dealt and general manager Bobby Clarke was fired that April following the first time the Flyers had ever finished dead last in their division. It also kicked off five straight years of missing the playoffs, which is a franchise record.
2006-07: The short version simply says the Flyers finished with the worst record in the entire league. Pretty bad, right? It gets worse. The Flyers had already lost Keith Primeau to retirement prior to the season and pinned all their hopes on Peter Forsberg, who was suffering from a chronic foot injury and would never be the same. Things got so bad that Clarke resigned from his second stint as general manager and coach Ken Hitchcock was fired mid-season. There was a 10-game losing streak mixed in there and the Flyers missed the postseason for the first time in 13 years. The real kick in the pants came in the draft lottery, which was won by the Chicago Blackhawks, who were then able to draft Patrick Kane first overall. It was the miserable gift that kept on giving as Kane would eventually score the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in overtime of Game 6 of the Finals at the Wells Fargo Center against the Flyers three years later.
2012-13: This was a 48-game strike-shortened season so the suffering was at least a little faster. The previous year, we saw the Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in a wildly entertaining playoff series. But a bad offseason turned the tide into the mediocre franchise that the Flyers have become. The Flyers traded James vanRiemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn and traded Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for draft picks. They let Jaromir Jagr walk in free agency and lost out on signing Zach Parise after reportedly offering him $110 million. They threw that money at Shea Weber via an offer sheet but lost out there, too, as the Nashville Predators matched it. The Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and ended up firing Peter Laviolette just three games into the following season. ••