Philadelphia Flyers management has insisted that tanking games is not part of the rebuilding plan.
Keith Jones and Daniel Briere both have said it. They sure seemed to mean it.
“We’re not a team that’s going to be using the word ‘tank’ on any night,” said Jones, the Philadelphia Flyers’ president, in a recent interview with Philly Hockey Now.
What would make a good season? Jones was asked.
“One that makes our fans proud by a style of play,” Jones said. “One that builds.
“There was a little bit of it that started to come into the arena last year about midway through the season.
“There were some exciting moments where I got that feeling again of Flyer hockey. And that had gone away for a considerable amount of time, with that one exception on the pandemic season where the guys got on a roll.
“I want that feeling more frequently where our fans are pridefully cheering our team on. I think that’s an important part of our progression that we continue to do those things.”
We mentioned to Jones that in players’ exit interviews back in April, they were looking ahead with some optimism. Rebuild wasn’t part of their vocabulary.
“If I was a player, that’s not for a player to say,” Jones said. “You want your players to say a nice word to describe it? Not going to happen.
“You want them to be driven. You want them to be us-against-the-world in their mentality. I think that’s what you’re going to see from our players.”
Fans Part of the Equation
Flyers management repeatedly has talked about connecting with the fanbase. Players and team executives have been out in the community. CEO Dan Hilferty said the fans are a priority.
And they should be. The Flyers historically have had one of the most loyal fanbases in all of sports, not just hockey. That has eroded. There’s no denying that. Interest has waned. Critics are outspoken. The Flyers have missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons and four of the last five.
This lack of success is unsettling for fans used to postseason hockey. The Flyers have made the playoffs 40 times in 55 seasons. The Flyers have made the playoffs only four times since 2012 and have only won one playoff series in that time.
Jones has been out there, meeting with fans, talking about the future of the franchise he’s charged with turning around.
“It’s going well. My responses from the people that I meet in public have been really good,” Jones said.
“There seems to be some more optimism about where the team is heading and we feel that. We want to make sure that we back up what we’ve been vocally saying and internally focusing on, trying to make moves that make us better in the future.”
Do you feel that optimism in-house? Jones was asked.
“It is. You can really feel it in here [Flyers Training Center in Voorhees],” Jones said.
“I think our guys will be extremely motivated based upon where people are picking our team to be this year. I’m excited to watch and see what our guys as a group can accomplish, especially in Year Two of John Tortorella.”
The Flyers finished 31-38-10 last season for 75 points and 17 points out of a playoff spot. Cold, hard math could be a gauge for success, comparing how the Flyers do this season compared with last season.
Selling Flyers fans on growth and spirited play instead of a playoff run is where the Flyers are. For now, small steps, building a foundation and patience are part of the plan. Wins and losses are somewhere down the road.
(Editor’s Note: In a similar vein, Philly Hockey Now will publish a story this week about how Keith Jones wants the Flyers to be difficult to play against.)