By Connor Thomas
Yesterday, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher called an impromptu press conference to address the state of the team, and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly what the fan base wanted to hear. In his final answer before ending the press conference, Fletcher was asked about what his message to the fan base is right now, and he responded by saying the Flyers “Are what [they] are right now”. Well, thank you for stating the obvious Mr. Fletcher. And what this hockey team is right now is a 6 losses in a row, 7th place in the Metro, 27th power play ranking, bad professional ice hockey team. That is what they are right now, and it’s up to the GM of the team to find a way to fix it. Now, in fairness, it’s also the responsibility of Alain Vigneault, the rest of the coaches, and the players as well. It doesn’t fall entirely on Fletcher, but the acceptance of the team being what it is right now is unacceptable.
It’s unacceptable because the Flyers have been what they are right now for nearly 50 years: a team without a cup win for a generation of hockey fans, that constantly falls short, that is consistently inconsistent, and has fallen into a rut of mediocrity. There have been bright points over that time frame, of course. And not every one of those teams stink; in fact, the Flyers have been more successful than not over the past 20 years. But over the past decade, it has been playoffs on again and off again, alternating each year, with no guarantee of sustained success. It’s because of all of those elements of this franchise’s recent history that the Flyers fan base is as impatient as ever, and they have every right to be. Now, though, comes the voice of reason. It is still early in this particular season, as the NHL is yet to hit their long Olympic break. The Flyers can absolutely dig themselves out of the hole they’re currently in, and they proved through the first 2 weeks of the season that they’re capable of doing so. Some big pieces are still missing, mainly Kevin Hayes and new addition Ryan Ellis, who are expected back at some point this year and will bring a huge boost. They also have some big wins on the season so far, taking down some of the best teams in hockey. This team is not un-talented, but they are certainly lost right now, which is why it becomes more frustrating when Fletcher basically tells the fans to stomach the current situation for the time being.
It seems that the Flyers have a playoff ceiling based on their talent and some early performances, so why can’t a solution be found to help them play better? This is where the focus shifts from Fletcher to Head Coach Alain Vigneault and his staff. Vigneault’s welcome is drawing thin in Philly, as the 3rd year coach has drawn criticism for his inability to get the most out of a solid roster. There were some that believed that yesterday’s pop-up presser could even be the announcement of Vigneault’s firing, telling us just how precarious his situation is right now. It wasn’t likely that he would be fired only 20 games into his 3rd season, but if the team does not improve, there’s a very real possibility that he won’t last the year. Was Fletcher’s “We are what we are” statement a way of pushing the blame firmly onto Vigneault’s shoulders? It’s certainly possible, but this fan base isn’t a stupid one. The wool will not be pulled over their eyes when it comes to the organizational failure so far this year. The bottom line is simple: if the Flyers continue to be what they are right now, heads are going to roll before this season is over.