As far as subjects go, I feel that history is often overlooked and taken for granted. I find it immensely fascinating to observe the rise and fall of power. Whether it is the Holy Roman Empire, British Colonialism, or Manifest Destiny. It is captivating watch nations take control of their circumstances and achieve.
Hockey is of course no different in that the world powers will rise and fall. There are teams that will seemingly forever be bottom feeders, just as there are teams that will forever seem untouchable. Then there are teams that are regarded as being powerful but no one really is afraid them of because historically, they get in their own way. The Flyers are one of those teams. To beat this history analogy to death, the Flyers are a lot like Cuba in the middle of the 20th century.
They have the nuclear capability with top end talent like Claude Giroux, and the strategic positioning to be a threat because they play in the Metro-crapatastic division. However, much like Cuba, the Flyers have always had top-down leadership issues in that for the last 30 years, their ownership and management have been ironically running the team as if it were still playing in the middle of the 20th century.
Historically, Flyers conversations this time of the year are almost always focused on the newest, shiniest, really expensive acquisition. Fortunately, the bubble has finally burst on Owner, Ed Snider and the team can no longer throw money at players like last year’s expensive acquisition, Vinny Lecavalier.
Circumstances have positioned this team to be underwhelming this year in that for every positive the Flyers have, there is at least one question to negate it.
It is likely that Giroux and Jakub Voracek are going to do well, but who is going to be the triggerman that those two have badly been missing? Brayden Shenn has been given ample opportunity to do so and has failed so much so that, Michael Raffl was just as effective. R.J. Umberger was brought here to lesson cap and be a bottom six-forward. Until the top line finds that shoot first winger that can also give and receive a pass in motion/stay on his feet (i.e. the anti-Hartnell), all the other teams will just continue to focus in on Giroux to shut the Flyers down.
Systematically, Coach, Craig Berube hasn’t shown us anything different than what was deemed to be unacceptable from Peter Laviolette’s style of play. The only thing that he has really done, is signify to the players that the coach has already been replaced, and they are next on the chopping block.
Steve Mason was perhaps the only bright light for the Flyers in the series with the Rangers, however, is he good enough to compensate for this team’s “defense.”
Then there is the elephant in the room, the Flyers “defense.” The “defense” is so worrisome that I have very much on purpose been putting quotation marks around the word because this corp cannot possess the puck in its own end (Streit, Coburn, and MacDonald), cannot stay on its feet in passing situations (Coburn and Grossmann), nor stay healthy (Streit, Grossmann, Coburn, Timmonan). Even if you are foolish enough to think that Michael Del Zotto can replace Timmonan’s production on the power play, you’re delusional to think he can play actual defense.
To be frank, for the Flyers to do well this year, there are going to have be players that overachieve. Be it Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, or one of the highly touted defensive prospects, or all of the above; if the Flyers are going to make the playoffs, a lot of unexpected things are going to have to go their way.
Which brings us to the most valuable acquisition the Flyers have made in years, General Manager, Ron Hextall.
Hextall has a chance to alter the history of Flyers Nation and affect change in a way that this team has never seen before. Seeing as the roster is essentially the same from last year’s, it will be interesting to see how Hextall reacts to the early struggles that the Flyers will almost inevitably go through.
Will he continue to practice what he has been preaching in that he will stay the course and actually build a hockey program and develop players? Or, will he succumb to the Broad Street Bully mentality and perpetuate the old world thinking that we have seen fail for the last 30 years?
For someone born in 1985, I have never seen the worldviews of the Flyers management be truly successful. I long to experience progressive hockey thinking…
Viva la revolution!