It’s time for the Philadelphia Flyers to tear everything down and begin anew.
The Flyers have long had high expectations, ranging from playoff aspirations to championship hopes. Since the team won the Eastern Conference and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, it has often felt as though Philadelphia was a team that could be dangerous in any given season.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, they never earned another chance to play for the Cup, and they really never came close. Season after season Philadelphia has underachieved in the face of lofty goals, and even after the 2021 offseason brought big changes, this season appears to be another on the long list of unsatisfactory performances.
The Flyers are on a seven game losing streak (0-5-2), and they have been outscored 12-30 in that span. On the season, Philadelphia has fallen to 8-9-4 and has posted a -15 goal differential. The only Metropolitan Division rival situated below the Flyers in the standings is the New York Islanders. With all of that in mind, there are several reasons why the Flyers should throw in the towel and begin a rebuild.
First of all, how many times can one team experience the same fate while attempting to stay the course? It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, and it feels like that is what Philadelphia has done over the last decade. The defense has consistently struggled over the years, including last season when it was the worst in the NHL. Those struggles stemmed largely from the team’s inability to find consistent goaltending, and the reality may just be that Philly needs to start fresh in order to properly alleviate issues that have plagued them for several seasons.
The second reason that the Flyers should start over is the fact that those defensive woes were addressed in the most recent offseason, but rather than fixing the problem, that has presented a new one. The defensive upgrades have lowered Philadelphia’s goals against average by about half a goal per game. Now, however, the team can’t score. The Flyers have scored only 50 goals in their first 21 games, and the offense has been nonexistent during the current winless streak. Whether that can be attributed to an offseason overcorrection or some change in philosophy, it has not made the team better, and having two issues of such magnitude in consecutive seasons indicates that there is no quick fix in the City of Brotherly Love.
Let’s also consider where the team is at in terms of age. Philadelphia is one of the NHL’s oldest teams, which means that it is now or never for this club. Captain Claude Giroux is 33, while players like Cam Atkinson, James van Riemsdyk, Justin Braun, and Keith Yandle are all at least 32 years of age. It’s the age where these players would still carry some value in a potential trade, but very little value for a Flyers team that feels like it needs to win now but can’t in the face of its mountain of problems. This could be a perfect time to move veteran players in order to acquire younger pieces and picks.
The age conversation should also extend to the context of the division. The Metro has an intriguing mix of veteran teams attempting to extend their championship windows and young teams trying to take that next step into the postseason. Assuming that the Flyers ever had a true championship window, last year’s sixth place division finish and this year’s seventh place standing, shows that it has closed. To make matters worse, young teams, like the New York Rangers, have seemingly already made the leap over Philly. Why waste time in no man’s land when you can make a decision that makes more sense in the short-term and is better for your franchise in the long-term?
A Flyers rebuild would not necessarily have to be a long one. Philadelphia boasts young talent that, given the right support and a commitment to executing a rebuild, could find success quickly. Plus, a rebuild that is timed and executed well could coincide perfectly with the inevitable drop-offs of teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, thus providing a path back to the playoffs for a newly constructed Flyers squad.
The Flyers could attempt to make a case for holding steady in the hopes of a turnaround, but the opposing evidence is overwhelming. This season could have been the last chance for Philly to make a championship push, but given the current state of this team, it is officially time to start over.