Photo:Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
If we’ve learned one thing over the last year in Philadelphia sports, it’s that you can’t safely predict anything when it comes to our beloved teams. Hell, we don’t even have to look over the last year to make that proclamation, just look at the Eagles matchup with the Dolphins this past weekend. Nothing can be taken for granted.
For most of this season, you’ve probably taken the Philadelphia Flyers (the ice hockey team) for granted though, but I’m here to tell why you shouldn’t.
The Flyers? Who cares about the Flyers!
Well, after trouncing the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 in their latest victory and extending their winning streak to five games in the process, maybe you ought to start caring or at the very least, try to get into the bandwagon while there’s enough room. The Flyers skated shift for shift with one of the more dynamic offenses in the entire NHL and initiated play for most of the contest as well.
But, but it’s only been a couple of games! Take your orange-tinted sunglasses off, homer!
Yea, about that. This isn’t some mild streak early in the season. The Flyers are fresh off a 24-point November – which tied a franchise record for most points in the month and is far and away the most in the league during that span. It also made Philadelphia one of the hottest teams in the league and made them the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference.
It’s really been a combination of things to get to this point too. It took, what essentially can be viewed now as a window-dressed rebuild by former general manager Ron Hextall’s regime over the last five years, to build up an impressive prospect pool that included the likes of Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Oskar Lindblom and of course, goaltender Carter Hart. It took new general manager Chuck Fletcher to show restraint in not trading that prospect pool away for quick fixes over the summer but rather, putting that youth in prominent roles with talented, veteran linemates. Some of those veteran linemates were also Fletcher’s subtle acquisitions during the off-season, as Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have helped provide leadership to a young Flyers team. It also took the hiring of a motivated head coach in Alain Vigneault – a coach that has two Stanley Cup appearances on his resume, but not a ring to show for it – to get all puzzle pieces to fit and function as singular unit that plays with pace, discipline and structure.
There’s sure to be bumps along the way, as the Flyers continue to learn the nuances of Vigneault’s system and while the team’s youth as served them well so far, player development in the NHL is never a steady, upward trajectory where players just improve by leaps and bounds each year. Mistakes are made, we get frustrated and the peaks and valleys are plentiful.
Could the Flyers be fun this year?
It doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility when we consider the above now that the team’s youth is here and playing well. It doesn’t feel crazy, as the team continues to surge up the standings behind strong goaltending, smart defense zone play and balanced scoring either. You won’t catch me – or most likely anyone else for that matter, mistaking this team for a surefire cup contender at this point, despite the NHL playoffs reigning as the true “just get in” tournament in sports. The team is in the processing of laying a foundation – one that is exciting to watch come together at this point.
But hey, objects are closer than they appear, right? So, maybe – just maybe – so are the Flyers.