Right now, it’s not much fun being a Philadelphia Flyers fan.
Except for next month’s draft, there’s not much to get excited about — unless the Flyers commit to a full rebuild and start tearing things down.
A rebuild can be fun. Seeing the young players and the team take positive steps each year makes it more satisfying when the team finally does become a Stanley Cup contender.
Yes, it can be an arduous process, but no more than last season.
General manager Chuck Fletcher, however, has been reluctant to call for a major overhaul. Ditto Dave Scott, the chairman of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast Spectacor.
So the Flyers are in limbo. At best, if top players like Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis return to good health, they will be a contender for a playoff spot, but not a Stanley Cup threat.
At worst, Couturier and/or Ellis won’t be their former selves, the Flyers will flounder again, and attendance will continue to plunge like the stock market.
Tear it down, guys.
The Flyers’ head honchos talk about “retooling” and being a few players away from being a good team. That’s probably why the Daily Faceoff did not list any Flyers when it released its top 28 trade targets the other day.
The feeling around the league is that the Flyers hope better health and the addition of a free agent will make them competitive.
But with the team in cap hell, adding a marquee free agent (hello, Johnny Gaudreau) won’t be easy.
Here’s hoping the Flyers do the right thing. Here’s hoping they deal for high draft picks and try to acquire rising young players from a team’s farm system. The Devils are dangling the No. 2 overall pick. Go after it. Grab left winger Juraj Slakkovsky or center Logan Cooley.
There are several quality players the Flyers can deal, headed by defenseman Ivan Provorov and right winger Travis Konecny. Both are 25 and their careers have been good but seemingly stuck in neutral.
In the right situation — say, in a trade with Ottawa, or with Columbus, which has two picks in the top 12 — they could draw nice packages of young players and a high draft pick.
With the Philadelphia Flyers, the development of players like Provorov and Konecny has seemed to have hit a road block. That appears to be a problem with this organization. They draft fairly well, but their players don’t seem to be able to take the next step to stardom.
They are good players who either stay that way or take a step backward.
You watch the progression of other players around the league — the Mitch Marners, Sebastian Ahos, and Charlie McAvoys of the world — and their development, unlike those in orange and black, gets better each year.
The Flyers need to hire someone who can get more out of their players, someone who can take them to the next level, someone who can see talent in someone and squeeze the most out of them.
Ryan Hartman is a good example of someone who was just meh with the Flyers, scoring two goals in 19 games in 2018-19. Why wasn’t anyone able to see the strengths of a former first-round pick and get more out of him?
With Minnesota this season, Hartman, now 27, had 34 goals and 65 points. You can argue that he blossomed because he was centering Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.
But could Hartman have been put on a line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek and maybe done the same thing with the Flyers?
Again, there is something amiss with the way the Flyers evaluate players and utilize their strengths and weaknesses. They need someone who does a better job of bringing out the best in their players.
Or maybe an assistant coach can do the job.
The Flyers need to take a long, hard look at that. Maybe a new hire can get more out of gifted players like Provorov and Konecny, each of whom was drafted by then-GM Ron Hextall in the first round in 2015.
In the meantime, trading at least one of them for a package that includes a first-rounder seems like the way to go from here. If you can get New Jersey’s first rounder for Provorov, do it. If you can get a later first rounder from another team — and some good prospects — for Provorov or Konecny, that would work, too.