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Carchidi column: Flyers need to blow it up

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Dave Scott and Chuck Fletcher, Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers executives Dave Scott (left) and Chuck Fletcher need to rebuild from the ground up to be relevant again, writes Sam Carchidi,

It’s easy to say the Philadelphia Flyers’ disaster of a season — they were eliminated from the playoff race Tuesday with 15 games remaining — was caused by injuries.

But the fact is, this was a flawed team even before top-pairing defenseman Ryan Ellis and first-line center Sean Couturier went down with season-ending injuries, and second-line center Kevin Hayes missed most of the year with a groin issue.

There were plenty of other injuries along the way, but other teams had them, too, and they survived, and some even thrived. (See Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, et cetera.)

The Flyers (21-35-11) are on pace for 26 wins. Since the franchise started in 1967-68, there have only been three other full seasons in which the Flyers had a lower victory total.

The fact is, this team, even when healthy, had too many flaws to be a Cup contender.

Little speed. No depth. No difference makers. Awful special teams.

That’s on general manager Chuck Fletcher for the way he constructed the team.

Overestimated team

Fletcher overvalued this team. Two months ago, a day after the Flyers suffered a franchise-record 13th straight loss, he said he’s never felt such a disconnect between where the team was in the standings and where he thought they should be.

Maybe this team would have been a playoff contender if it had better health. Maybe it would have barely qualified for the postseason. Nothing more.

But let’s be clear, the Flyers were never going to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

There’s a big difference between battling for the last playoff spot and being a legitimate Cup challenger.

Fact is, it’s almost impossible not to be a playoff contender — though the Flyers managed to do it — but this team had far too many weaknesses to end a 47-year Cup drought, even before the wave of injuries,.

At least Fletcher acknowledged the Flyers are starved for elite players. That’s a start.

“We’re missing top-end talent,” he said in late January. “I do believe there’s a group of players that can be a part of a winning core, but we need to add pieces.”

Their cap space won’t allow them to add much. As of now, Cap Friendly lists the Flyers with $74.3 million earmarked for next season, when the cap will rise to $82.5 million, up from $81.5 million this year. And they still have several positions to fill.

They need to free up cap space. Perhaps they buy out James van Riemsdyk, but the Philadelphia Flyers mostly need to have players live up to the big contracts that were handed out.

Big contracts

As of now, the players who have the biggest cap hits next season are Sean Couturier ($7.75 million), Kevin Hayes ($7.1 million), van Riemsdyk ($7 million), Ivan Provorov ($6.75 million), and Ellis ($6.25 million).

From here, the best thing to do is to tear it down, though management seems against that. Fletcher said an “aggressive retool” is needed. Dave Scott, the club”s head honcho, said if the Flyers get healthy and make two or three moves, they will be winners next season.

“We should get this thing right, and we should be in it next year,” Scott said in January.

But sneaking into the playoffs next season is being short-sighted.

Build for the long haul. Build a team that will consistently challenge for a Cup down the road. Build from the ground up.

Yes, it will take a few years, but the most important position — goaltending — is in good hands with Carter Hart. That makes the rebuild much easier, provided the right pieces are added. (Fletcher did a mediocre job in Minnesota, so the jury is out on whether he can incorporate the right pieces.)

Draft wisely. Do a better job developing players. Trade some high-priced veterans for younger talent. Fans are ready and patient for a massive rebuild.

Here’s hoping the front office is, too.

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Tommycasino

Could not agree more! As is the Flyers will be a mediocre team from now until they luck out in the lottery or do what they need to do now and rebuild from the bottom up.

Superunoriginal

If we’re talking about two extremes: trying to add players to the existing core for the sake of being competitive vs. a scorched earth policy where no one—not even Farabee any Hart are untouchable—I prefer the latter. Commercially, the fans loved it when the Flyers loved Lindros—even if it was at a king’s ransom. Being competitive, they missed out on Lemieux, Crosby, and McDavid. Getting a shot at Bedard might not guarantee cup-contending status, but it would make the team more interesting to watch.

The Flyers have already proven they can be mediocre. They’ve already proven they can collapse under pressure. What they have not done in almost 25 years is demonstrate they can dominate. Even the Legion of Doom years suffered with shaky defense and goaltending.

Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabers, Arizona Coyotes, and Toronto Maple Leafs are teams in recent memory spent several years basically tanking. There’s only one Cup winner a year, but several teams considered legit candidates. Flyers should be aspiring to reach levels like Florida, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Toronto, and willing to risk turning into Buffalo or Arizona to reach that point.

True, there’s a mix of good luck and bad luck to make it happen, but the Flyers have consistently demonstrated the Flyers’ Way no longer works. “If you continue to do things to same way, you will continue to meet with the same results.” Dave Scott clearly does not grasp this. 

ERED

Dave Scott is a parasitic businessman and not even close to being a “hockey guy” so how does anybody in their right mind think that he will do what’s right for the Flyers?!?!? He and his band of merry wokesters are too busy being politically correct to run an NHL team effectively. The curse of Kate Smith will haunt this team forever!

Kyle

You had me until the Kate Smith crap.

Todd Shannon

At first glance, I can see people reading this comment and article, and nodding their heads in agreement, but I could not disagree more. You build a team by KEEPING good young players in general, moving ones were you may have a strength in order to fill a different role, and making smart FA signings, trades, etc. I’m not going to break down every team you mentioned, but I will with a few. Tampa hasn’t “tanked” since around 1996 – 2002. Just about every year since then, they’ve been very good, or hovering around .500. They happened to draft very well overall, and make smart moves to fill the remaining voids. Similar story with Carolina and Colorado has only had ONE really bad year since they became the Avalanche! Add to that the Edmonton’s and Tornoto’s that have done next to nothing even having all those high picks. If you want to complain about something, it’s perfectly fair to say that Hextall and Fletcher have done a bad job of getting the Flyers out of purgatory, but “blowing things up” has actually had zero success in the NHL.

RoadRules

The Philadelphia Flyer Organization IS the proverboal dog chasing its own tail. The are going no where with Fletcher and Scott at the helm. Poor Drafts; Poor Trades; paying mediocre players on the downslope of their careers Huge Contracts; going along with a ” Woke ” Ideology that pervades Ametican Society today; and not anticipating where the Team actually is; and what they need going forward. Just a few of the things wrong with this Hockey Organization absolutely headed in the Wrong Direction. Hang on. This show is going to be painful to watch.

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