I hate fans that refer to themselves as “realists.”
Remember all of those “Eagles realists” from last season? You know, those “fans” that came out of the woodwork after Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury against the Rams? The people who said the Eagles couldn’t win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles because the Falcons were too good, the Vikings defense too stout and nobody could beat Tom Brady? If the Eagles had lost any of those games, what would they have done? Say “I told you so”?
The Eagles were a complete team with one of the best defenses in the league and a damn good offense to boot, even with Nick Foles at quarterback. Giving up on the Eagles at that point of the season would have been down right foolish – Super Bowl win aside.
With all of that said, fandom and rooting interest aside, I have little to no faith in the Flyers this upcoming season to win more than one playoff series. In two words, here’s why:
Hakstol has proven time and time again that he is just a mediocre coach at the professional level. In his three years as the Flyers’ head coach, the team has a 122-86-38 record. I understand that you get a point for getting a game to overtime – which can be a good or bad thing depending on the game – but if you combine the losses Hak’s coaching record is 122-124. Not good enough.
Sure, the Flyers’ roster isn’t the best in the league, but he doesn’t idealize the lineup at all. Prime example: he took Travis Konecny off the top line at the end of last season to replace him with Michael Raffl. Don’t get me wrong – I like Raffl, but Konecny was a lightning rod on that top line. It was one of the best lines in hockey; one with a lot of dynamic. Claude Giroux was able to be an offensive monster with the Konecny on the opposite wing while Sean Couturier could be a presence in front of the net while giving them one of the best defensive forwards in the league on the other end of the ice. Replacing TK with Raffl is a decision that left me scratching my head.
Second example: he favors “proven” veterans in lieu of younger players. Again, I get it – you need veterans to lead the younger players at times, that’s what they’re there for. But at some point the young guys need to take over. Look at last season – Hak totally botched the Travis Sanheim situation. I know he’s still a bit green, to say the least, but he’s a much better defenseman than Brandon Manning. Had he spent more time on the ice he would be in a better position coming into this season, instead Manning played a lot of meaningful minutes and next season he’ll be suiting up for the Blackhawks. It was time wasted which is inexcusable for Hak.
The Flyers absolutely have the pieces in place to be a force in the stacked Metropolitan Division. Giroux should average roughly one point per game, Coots and TK can build on breakout seasons, the second line is bolstered with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, and the defense, namely Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, can only improve on last season’s efforts. It all comes down to the coaching.
Will Hakstol take that next step as a coach? Will he properly utilize his young talent? These are things I will be watching for once the season starts on October 4th.
If history repeats itself – and we all know it can, and Hakstol continues to lean on the less-talented veterans instead of the younger – and possibly better – players, he could be unemployed come May.
There’s a fine line between being a “realist” and understanding what you have in front of you. I was a voice behind the “Keep Hak” movement last year during the winless streak. This year I will have a different attitude. The differences between last year’s Eagles team and this year’s Flyers team are stark. I’m not a “realist” to have little faith in Hakstol – it’s the God’s honest truth and I hope he proves me wrong.