There’s only 28 regular season games left for the Philadelphia Flyers heading into Thursday night’s matchup against the Islanders, and yet, they remain the biggest puzzle in this city.
Are they underachieving since their 10-game winning streak? Were they overachieving during that incredible stretch? Do they possess enough talent to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year?
These are legitimate questions, but aren’t necessary to answer. From an outsider’s perspective, their play is a result of Dave Hakstol’s personality, or apparent lack thereof.
It’s pretty obvious from media availabilities before, during and after games that Hakstol isn’t the most vivacious character. He rarely shows emotion and if he does, it’s very easy to miss it if you blink.
Too often after their 10-game winning streak was snapped have the Flyers started games flat, with examples being the 4-0 loss on December 22nd at the Devils or the 5-1 defeat out of the All-Star break at Carolina. That doesn’t include the moments where things completely fell apart in games, like their January 15th 5-0 loss at the Capitals.
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Basically, a lot of their play appears to depict the demeanor of their head coach. He refuses to emote when things aren’t going well and will put you to sleep even in the most exhilarating moment.
Not to mention, he never appears to express a sense of urgency. When the Flyers lost 12 out of 15 from December 22nd to January 21st, there were multiple instances when Hakstol thought the team was playing better than their results.
On Wednesday, when asked about passive shot selection after two shutout defeats at home to the Kings and Blues, he took a jab at the media for portraying the team as being in a three-week rut rather than going 4-2-1 since January 22.
You may think they’re just not good enough to make the postseason, and that’s a valid argument. But, I don’t believe their 10-game winning streak was a mirage. If they were able to achieve such a feat, there’s no reason they can’t find a middle ground level to play at, rather than seem so inferior to the adversity and resiliency they’d shown during many of those victories.
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Maybe Hakstol is more fiery behind the scenes. If he is, it isn’t working this season. Maybe his straight-narrow, never-wavering demeanor worked to perfection at North Dakota. In fact, it did, because he always had a winning percentage of at least .600 in his each of his 11 seasons.
The Flyers did just enough to go on a run and squeak into the postseason his first year on the job. Going into Thursday night, they hold a one point lead for the final wild card spot with five points separating them from last place in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders, who the Orange and Black host Thursday, are three points back of them with three games-in-hand.
It’s not only time for the players to step up in the final two months of the season, but Hakstol needs to step up even more.