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A head coaching change won’t fix the Flyers

Since 2000, the Flyers have had a total of 11 head coaches (which might increase by one if they eventually hire someone to replace current interim coach Mike Yeo). That includes three interim coaches during that time.

I used the year 2000 because it was the first year I started watching every Flyers game and became what I would call a “true fan.” I’d watched highlights of the Legion of Doom (which, of course, I believed was stolen from the Road Warriors and the WWF because I thought literally everything revolved around the world of professional wrestling as a kid), Ron Hextall, and my parents telling me how great the 70s and 80s were following the team.

In the 90s, they sort of got away from following the team a lot, and the only team I followed since 1993 were the Phillies. So, with my first experience as a “true fan” of the Flyers being their domination of the Buffalo Sabres in the opening round of the playoffs that season, going down 2-0 to the Penguins only to win four in a row with a five-overtime win in there, and taking a 3-1 lead against the Devils only to blow it to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, I figured the Flyers would soon win a Stanley Cup with me finally watching every game.

And for years, they had a shot almost every season. The debacles against Ottawa and Buffalo notwithstanding, their playoff run in 2004 was probably the greatest run up to that point for me as a fan. That team, led by Keith Primeau, was special. Roenick’s series-winner in Toronto and Primeau’s game-tying goal in Game 6 against Tampa Bay are two moments I’ll remember forever as a fan.

So, what happened?

This franchise is a far cry from where it was only even a decade ago. Sure, I was on board with trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter if only because it seemed like if after six seasons, their habits off the ice wouldn’t change, so why not make a change?

Of course, both Richards and Carter would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings.

Ed Snider always wanted the team to compete, to a fault. Ilya Bryzgalov, anyone? But if there’s one thing we’ve learned since Snider passed and left the future of the Flyers in other hands, it’s that nobody knows what they’re doing. Whether it be drafting players that just don’t pan out, or hiring coaches that can’t get the best out of those players, the Flyers haven’t been clicking for what seems like an eternity.

I went to last Sunday’s game against the Lightning, and I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. It’s one thing to watch this team on television, but it’s a whole other monster watching in person from the upper level. The slow skating (a staple of the Flyers for what seems like a decade now), lack of ice awareness, reluctance to shoot, and the innate desire to pass when having a clean shot in front of them are just a few things among the many this team is known for.

I’m not sure what happened to this team post-COVID break, but it hasn’t been good. Sure, they looked good before the break and when they came back looked even better, but they struggled against the Canadiens and somehow took the Islanders to a seven-game series while being utterly dominated for most of it. That’s where everything fell apart for these Flyers. And they haven’t been able to regather that for whatever reason.

It could’ve been a special team, but for years it seems like once there’s a smidgen of adversity, they all turtle. Coaching, forwards, defensemen, and yes, goalies.

Carter Hart isn’t the problem. Let’s be clear. But this team hasn’t done the young goalie any favors, and now they’ve put him in a position of even more pressure because the other aspects of the team aren’t good, either. And they haven’t been for years compared to the league’s elite.

Just watch the Flyers against teams like the Lightning, Panthers, Bruins, Penguins, and Capitals, and it always looks like they’re skating in quicksand. It doesn’t matter who puts on that Orange and Black crest, when they’re given their new black skates, it must come doused in cement. They are so slow. And most of the time, it comes from staying flat-skated and not moving their feet so they don’t always have to start skating from a stationary position. I know it’s tough to ice skate, trust me, but I can’t shake seeing so many skaters fly past Flyer skaters all the time. That’s just one of the things that sticks out to me. Failed clears (they’ve got to be among the worst teams trying to clear the puck, no?) and bad passes are just added to the pile.

There are few things better than a good Philadelphia Flyers team making a strong push in the playoffs. Those playoff games are a wild atmosphere, even in the early rounds. I was at the Devils game where Dan Carcillo scored the overtime winner, and you’d think we were one win away from winning the Cup.

The Flyers’ atmosphere is special. The product on the ice hasn’t been in a long time. Until ownership, the general manager, the head coach, and the players are all on the same page, we’re going to continue seeing a franchise that was once fun to follow, continue to fall behind the other pro sports teams in Philly, and that’s saying something when we have the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and now Union having crushing defeats after crushing defeats.

I just want Philly sports to be fun again.

You can follow Nick Piccone on Twitter (@_piccone) and e-mail him at [email protected]. You can read his pro wrestling articles on PhillyVoice here.

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