Philadelphia Flyers: The organization must embrace the tank this season

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 30: Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 30, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 30: Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 30, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

There admittedly wasn’t much optimism surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers throughout this offseason, as we approached the puck drop of the 2022-23 NHL campaign. And now, with the recent injury news about Sean Couturier, hopes seem to be at just about an all-time low for this franchise before it’s even played (and probably lost) a game this season. This can only mean one thing.

No more patch jobs. No more excuses. No more hope. Just be bad. It’ll help you out in the long run. To be clear, this isn’t about purposely trying to lose games so much as it’s about avoiding the urge to deluding yourself into thinking you’re good enough to hang around and maybe make the playoffs. That’s the absolute worst place to be.

The Flyers don’t have a white knight on the horizon, ready to lead this team back to contention or simply just some form of relevancy anytime soon. But there is the hanging fruit of presumptive 2023 #1 overall pick Connor Bedard out there, and the math is simple. The worse you are this year, the better your odds to get him next year. And with Couturier’s health status unclear, the Philadelphia Flyers are no doubt worse than they were just a few days ago.

The Philadelphia Flyers can’t fool themselves into thinking they have a real chance to compete during the 2022-23 NHL season.

Ryan Ellis is not coming back. Good luck to him personally, as one can only hope that he recovers enough to live a normal life going forward. But he will not be helping the club. The Flyers may even be able to exploit this when they put him on long term injured reserve (LTIR) and can use the cap space to conceivably take on a player on a bad contract (although not a very long one) from another team while accruing an extra draft pick or two.

The Flyers also aren’t going to be getting a full season from Joel Farabee, who is working his way back from neck surgery, and they have several other players on the mend at this time as well. Certainly, they’re not the only team in the league dealing with injuries (just look at the Boston Bruins), but the writing really seems to be on the wall that this just isn’t going be the “show them what we’ve got” kind of year that the Flyers were envisioning when they hired John Tortorella to coach the team.

Speaking of Torts, there is no doubt that he will at least get this team to show more effort than they did last year. He’s saying everything you’d expect him to, and he’s really putting the team through the paces during this training camp. That’s all you can ask for, really. The team still needs to play hard and not embarrass itself the way it has the last two seasons. Even if they lose, which they will frequently, the thinking is that the young players will be better for it when you need to actually count on them.

None of the veterans, such as Travis Konecny, should be ruled out as trade candidates if they can fetch sufficient assets in return. Nobody is really all that untouchable. And James van Riemsdyk, who will almost certainly be traded this season due to his expiring contract, should be moved out well in advance of the trade deadline so that the Flyers can conceivably get a team to overpay rather than being forced to move him at the last minute when the Flyers might have to take a lowball offer so that they at least get something.

Of course, despite all this conjecture, we know that it’s not easy to tank. There are a few inherent issues.

NHL players, like any professional athletes, have too much pride to just go out and not compete or try to purposely lose games. But there are things that you can do to make it harder for them to win. Flyers management has already been doing that inadvertently for the last few seasons, so they might as well make it their actual purpose at this point.

But perhaps the biggest problem with any kind of full-on tank, teardown, full-scale rebuild, or whatever you want to call it is that executives like Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher are in the business of self-preservation. With his underwhelming tenure in Philadelphia nearing its expiration date, Fletcher can be almost positive that he would not be the one to oversee the team’s ascension if things go according to plan. That doesn’t bode well for his future job prospects, either. No one will admit this, of course, but that’s the reality of the situation.

It’s very difficult for teams to commit to this sort of thing, because what’s best for the franchise at large doesn’t really jive with what’s best for the individual decision makers and the players, whose NHL careers are finite. Rest assured that the players on the ice aren’t thinking about what hot prospects their club could draft who could conceivably come in and take their job in a year or two.

It’s going to be tough for Philadelphia Flyers fans to get behind the team for what almost assuredly will be a frustrating season, but it is possible for the team to show positive strides on the ice and a clear organizational direction even when they’re not banking two points on a nightly basis. It remains to be seen, however, where the next six months will take us, because you can never know with 100% certainty how things will play out.

dark. Next. Strap in for Flyers salary cap purgatory

In the end, the odds are against the Philadelphia Flyers getting a crack at Connor Bedard, even if they are absolutely putrid this season. But there are two more supposed franchise players available even after he’s snapped up first overall, so perhaps fortune may yet smile upon the Flyers for once. Just like the Pennsylvania lottery will tell you, you’ve got to play to win. In this case, the Flyers may very well need to lose in order to win.