The Philadelphia Flyers look clueless on and off the ice

Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports /

This year was supposed to be different for the Philadelphia Flyers.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs by a country mile last season, the team received a complete facelift this past offseason. We were told that the pieces were now in place, and if we could just get a return to form from Carter Hart, the Flyers would be a contending club once again.

To this point, Hart has played very well. And his new backup, Martin Jones, has been better than expected. Yet, aside from the play of the goaltenders, literally nothing else is going right for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Philadelphia Flyers are struggling in every way imaginable right now.

Look at that offseason overhaul. With the exception of Jones, the new additions have not done much to move the needle. For starters, the Ryan Ellis injury (and re-injury) is an absolute killer. It shuffles the entire defense into an undesirable place, and the team desperately needs him back. Here’s hoping that when he returns, again, this time it’s for good.

After a torrid start, Cam Atkinson has scored one goal in the last 15 games. Keith Yandle is a team-worst -9 and, with only five points (all assists) thus far, has failed to bring the injection of offense from the blueline that was hoped for.

Rasmus Ristolainen, a controversial add to say the least, has actually been decent. But there are red flags here. He’s had to play way more minutes than anticipated because of the Ellis injury. And while he’s hung in thus far, the advanced metrics say that he’s still not very good, which is the same thing that always plagued his time with the Buffalo Sabres.

Deep in the pit of my stomach, I have a sinking feeling that the Flyers will do something stupid when it comes to offering Ristolainen a contract. Given the holes on their team, they may feel obligated to keep him around past this year if he ends up having an “ok to good” campaign. Would anyone be surprised if they ended up giving him something like a five-year, $30 million immediate mistake of a deal? Call me pessimistic, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Frankly, the Flyers’ best offseason move may have been to claim Zack MacEwen off waivers right before the season started, which is hardly something to celebrate. So far, Chuck Fletcher’s aggressive rebuild-on-the-fly just hasn’t worked. But we also need to look at numerous holdover players when assigning blame for this season that’s quickly going off the rails.

What happened to Travis Konecny? Despite an uptick in ice time over previous seasons, he’s barely noticeable many nights. The guy isn’t paid to be a 20-goal, 40-point player, but that’s the sad reality we’re looking at right now. And speaking of players who forgot how to score, James van Riemsdyk has two goals. As a reminder, JVR is making $7 million this year and next. He might be the least valuable, most untradable player in the league right now.

I’m going to sound like a terrible person if I criticize Oskar Lindblom, but I’ll just relay his numbers and you can draw your own conclusions: 19 games, no goals, an assist, -9 rating. Ivan Provorov has been underwhelming in the absence of Ellis, and it certainly appears that Travis Sanheim will never develop into anything more than what we’ve seen. He is mistake-prone but decent defensively, which is something you can live with if he provided the offensive punch he was supposed to. But his offensive ability seems to have completely evaporated. Now he just eats up minutes out of necessity, and that’s about it.

The power play is abysmal, clocking in at 13.1% on the season so far, 27th in the league. I honestly don’t ever remember it looking this poor; in fact, this is their worst conversion rate since the 2001-02 season. Maybe things turn around eventually, but it’s pretty hard to see how that would happen. The team is also getting crushed at 5-on-5 play, and they’re simply allowing too many shots. It only seems like a matter of time before Hart and Jones crumble, given this kind of workload.

I’ve called out some individual players, but I want to be clear that nearly everyone on this roster needs to be better right now. Just because someone wasn’t mentioned by name doesn’t mean they they are off the hook for this team’s struggles. The same goes for the coaching staff, who have seemingly pushed all of the wrong buttons this year. Finally, as if the on-ice performance wasn’t upsetting enough, there is an even deeper element at play beyond all this.

The Philadelphia Flyers, at least right now, just aren’t a good organization.

Longtime fans will point to the passing of Ed Snider as the turning point, and how nothing like this would ever happen if he were alive. That’s accurate to a certain point, I suppose. Regardless of that, the Flyers seem stuck in a vicious cycle of being relevant for a short time and then failing to maintain that status as they fall back to the pack. Right now, their flagging attendance numbers strongly indicate that we are at the bottom of this cycle.

Ever since the NHL instituted a salary cap and the Flyers couldn’t just outspend most of the league, the organization has had sketchy results when it comes to bringing in the right people from the outside and drafting/developing effectively. If you were to rank all of the teams in the league right now in terms of their current stable of players and their accompanying contracts, the Flyers would have to be near the bottom in terms of what situation you’d want to inherit going forward. Simply put, there isn’t a lot of help on the way, and that’s downright scary when you see how the team is teetering at the moment.

Many have also expressed opinions recently that Flyers ownership no longer cares about their fans. Again, I can’t fully get on board with that, but look at a couple of recent examples. First, the team’s alumni game was played a few weeks ago on a Monday night when a lot of fans who would have liked to attend probably couldn’t. I won’t fault the Flyers entirely for fitting in a massive event like this whenever they could, but the game also wasn’t shown on TV.

Given that ticket sales went to charity, maybe they could have streamed it on their website for a fee. I would have paid and watched. But they didn’t, and so I for one just divorced myself from that event entirely. Maybe the few fans who did go (I never saw any estimated attendance) had a great time, but the vast majority of Flyers fans got zero out of this spectacle.

The next night, the Flyers held their Hall of Fame inductions in front of a mere smattering of fans. This drew the ire of at least one former Flyer over how the organization is treating their alumni, suggesting a big disconnect with the organization. Again, from my perspective on this particular event, it seemed like there was much room for improvement.

Finally, the Flyers angered their season ticket holder fanbase just a few days ago with the “Black Friday Sale” on their website, promoting half-priced tickets and no fees for all December home games. But, hey, at least season ticket holders get a free puck or something, don’t they? I personally can’t be mad at the team for just trying to drum up some interest with an offer like this, although I feel for those poor souls who paid full price in advance to watch this team.

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The 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers season appears not only headed for disaster, it might already be there. I wish I could say that there’s never been a worse time to be a Flyers fan, but I know better than to speak in absolutes when it comes to new ways for this franchise to disappoint.