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With the Flyers 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders Thursday night, the club has slipped from playoff contention and finds themselves in all too familiar position. Seven games are left on the schedule in the month of February and four of them are against teams firmly cemented into playoff spots. In light of this, I think it’s important to remember where the Flyers are as an organization in tough times like this.
The Flyers are a playoff bubble team. They may make the playoffs this season, although it’s just as likely that they miss. The club has been in this position for the last couple of seasons as Ron Hextall stresses patience and stocks the cupboard with prospects. There is no easy fix for the Flyers. This can’t be stressed enough. Once Ron Hextall assumed the GM seat, he planned to prioritize internal player development above all else. He’s done that so far and has turned the Flyers’ farm system into something that has churned out some talent.
None of this, however, is a magic elixir that will cure all of the Flyers current aliments. Even with budding young talents like Konecny, Provorov, and Gostisbehere in the lineup this season, Philadelphia remains woefully inconsistent. It’s a start to the team’s roster makeover, but that will take time. Player development is never a steady, upward ascension to superstardom in the NHL. Young players experience peaks and valleys and will undoubtedly make mistakes. These mistakes often get magnified when said young players are asked to fulfill top six and top four minutes respectively. We’ve seen this mostly with Shayne Gostisbehere’s play this season, but that’s no reason to sour on the young defensemen.
Where the Flyers current issues stem from, is lack of talent. I don’t believe it’s a lack of leadership or effort. In fact, I think Claude Giroux is a fine leader. I think the team skates hard and comes to play most nights. Ultimately, the team lacks talent and struggle to score at even strength, which is essential to winning consistently. To many fans, this falls squarely on the shoulders of Giroux and Voracek, but that’s unfair. It’s a team wide issue. Wayne Simmonds, who routinely gets a pass from the fanbase, is not anymore of an asset 5v5 than the other two players. Brayden Schenn has regressed back to his inconsistent ways and Sean Couturier has spent large chunks of the season injured.
The Flyers need more from their top players, but the depth beyond them is virtually nonexistent. That help is coming in the form of young players in the system though, but nothing will fix their even strength woes overnight. It’s only through what Ron Hextall has preached, that patience and internal development will win out over time, will things for the Flyers improve. Until then, the 2016-2017 is not over yet and the club should be concentrated on finding some offense and making the playoffs.