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Philadelphia Flyers - Why they can't win the Cup
Why Flyers? Why?
Way back in '74 & '75 the Flyers won the Stanley Cup two years in a row. They went to the cup a third time consecutively but lost that one. Since that time the Flyers have made some impressive runs. Most fans of the team would certainly point out the year they took the Gretzky led Oilers the full seven games before losing. It was Hextall's first year as goalie and he was an instant town hero.
Fast forward to the Legion of Doom with Eric Lindros at center. The team spent a lot of money on Lindros and his line and then some good defensemen. What they didn't do was provide depth. They got to the cup that one year and looked like they were going to go all the way but they were swept in the Stanley cup round by the super elite Detroit team. Now, that team had depth, but it should be noted they had the highest payroll in hockey at a time before salary caps. In effect they bought their way to a cup, much in the way baseball fans claim the Yankees do things.
At that time the Legion of Doom was awesome. Feared and respected by other teams they were dubbed perennial cup winners before they ever made it to the playoffs. They never won it and those great players retired without ever gracing the cup with their names.
Bring it to the present and things have seemingly flipped entirely for the team. What do I mean? Rather than one great line and a bunch of role players and muckers and grinders to back them up the team has built deep, skilled lines full of speedy, canny players. This year they were taken out of the running by a team full of experience, muckers and grinders, veteran role players and a great line up front. Oh, by the way they also had the one thing that has evaded the Flyers since Hextall's youth. A reliable, stand up goalie. No disrespect to Bryzgalov who clearly has the potential to be that guy, this year he simply did not prove himself.
Every time the Flyers think they have everything figured out someone else wins the cup. Yes, year after year they make the playoffs. Yes, but year after year of disappointment has bored some to the point that they don't even pay attention until the playoffs. Or in other cases fans have reached such a level of frustration they have become bitter and full of sarcastic venom about their own team! I must admit I am one. I have been complaining about the Flyer's direction for the past four years.
I have watched as they have added one fancy pants player after another. Let me go down the list. Briere is number one fancy pants of all. Great in the playoffs but invisible during most of the season. Too small and frail to be a nose to the grindstone player he battles every year through injury and defensemen who are twice his size. Then there were guys like Ville Leino and Richards who while full of talent were too worried about making the fancy pass and the speedy maneuver through the opposing defense. Leino did squat in Buffalo this year and Richards, who was a first line center on the Flyers, was placed on the second line of the Stanley Cup Championship team.
There were others, believe me, but I will not waste any more of your time on those meaningless names. This year we were blessed by the rise of Giroux. Finally he was placed on the first line and guess what. During the beginning of the year he was on fire but once teams caught on to the system suddenly a wet blanket was thrown over the guy and he simply stopped being productive. Even some teams' third line defensemen were able to smother him and render him incapable. Why? How? Easy. He is another little guy, full of fancy moves and skills but without the size and strength to own his space on the ice. Not only is he easily brushed aside, take the series vs the Devils for instance, but he is also guilty of making blind passes that result in turnovers.
Fancy pants nonsense. Hockey is not supposed to be played this way. Maybe against your friends in the pond but not in professional hockey. Once again the Flyers have allowed themselves to become a one way team. While they have great depth at the skill positions they have little in the way of true toughness. The only muckers and grinders I can think of are Hartnell on the first line, Rinaldo on the fourth line and an almost there for Simmonds. While Simmonds seems like a mucker and grinder it is clear someone has filled him full of the idea that he can be a scorer as well. No, not with those stone hands. How many times did he have an open net in front of him only to shoot the puck wide? Too many times. I love the guy and think he is a nice fit but he needs to be given the proper role and mindset.
There is always next year.
That's what they always say. Well, next year promises to be a great season. Really? Why is that? As far as I can see right now they will not be changing the status quot for next year. They had a lot of great production from seven rookies this year and the team will be banking on most of them again. True.
However let us not forget the past. The Flyers have a reputation for getting rid of skilled rookies and younger players in order to get themselves a veteran player. A great example of this is Jeremy Roenick acquired for Justin Williams. Good for Justin, he has won two cups with two teams now. The Flyers are meanwhile still trying to figure things out.
So, after all of the above has been said and digested the question still remains. Why can't they win the cup? Balance. They have the depth, the skill, the speed but they have lost hockey balance. If they can recover this balance by adding some real meat to this line up they will be a force to be reckoned with. Were they a force to be reckoned with this year? No. They were a high wire act that got taken out when forced to play real hockey. Perhaps they have figured this out. Perhaps the coach has realized that playing the dump and chase is not a style for the sort of players he has. Perhaps, but hockey people in general are known for stubbornness. They will likely cling to the status quot and pray for a miracle like they do every year.
I love the Flyers but at times this year I was cursing at them through the TV. I would like to sit in a room with the coach and explain why his system only works when you have big bodies who can come out of a pile with the puck. I would like to sit in a room with Giroux and explain to him that yes, you are in a class above that of your teammates. Knowing that you should realize that making blind passes and swashbuckler moves on the ice is only going to place your team in jeopardy. There were so many instances of this I doubt he would have room to argue.
Balance. I think with balance they could be better. They could place themselves in a better position come playoff time and they could outlast teams full of veterans like the devils. Hey, the Kings did it and they had many ex-flyers on their squad. Richards, Carter, Gagne and Justin Williams. So, now that we know it wasn't these players that were bringing us failure we must assume it is the system. Fix it, Coach, recognize what you are working with, find balance and success should be yours. You did it once for the Hurricanes so I know you can do it for us.
If I missed something fill us in with your comment, please. The more voices involved in this the better. Go Flyers!
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