Surprise, the Philadelphia Flyers are struggling again

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Travis Konecny #11 of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts after the game against the Dallas Stars at the Wells Fargo Center on November 13, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Stars defeated the Flyers 5-1. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Travis Konecny #11 of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts after the game against the Dallas Stars at the Wells Fargo Center on November 13, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Stars defeated the Flyers 5-1. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

It was moderately fun while it lasted, with the Philadelphia Flyers beginning the 2022-23 NHL season by going 7-3-2 over their first 12 games.

But three losses in a span of four days have exposed major cracks that were only being puttied over by the stellar play of Carter Hart during the first few weeks of the season. Now, after successive regulations losses to Columbus, Ottawa, and Dallas, during which the Flyers were outscored 14-4, this much is clear…

They are who we thought they were.

Sorry, Flyers fans, but any early optimism about this club possibly being good enough to have a puncher’s chance at a playoff run should be gone by now. And while some will say that this is an overreaction to one bad week, the Flyers’ poor metrics this season suggest that it was only a matter of time before the bottom fell out. You can’t be out-chanced and lose the expected goal battle every game and expect to win more than you lose.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ struggles are a sign of things to come for the subpar team.

Take Carter Hart, for example. His first eight starts were fantastic. Then, he was decidedly “meh” in his starts against Columbus and Ottawa this week, stopping 47 of 53 total shots. This team simply doesn’t have the firepower to support their goaltender on a night when he’s not at his best, and both games went down as regulation losses for Hart and the Flyers.

The Flyers don’t have anyone on offense who scares opposing clubs. And this is by design, as the front office decided over the summer that the time wasn’t right to add an impact player of this ilk, with Chuck Fletcher basically telling us his job was too hard. Years of failed player development and poor signings made it pretty obvious that positive results weren’t in the cards for this year, and the 7-3-2 start to the season was just a smokescreen.

To be fair, the influence of John Tortorella has seemingly had a measurable effect on the Philadelphia Flyers’ effort and their “compete level”, but hard work alone isn’t going to yield results if you find yourselves talent-deficient every night. Just like the last two years, the Flyers have a complete lack of finishing ability, which isn’t something that Torts or anyone can really coach into this team. Some of the Flyers’ supposed key players either need to eventually develop this skill, or they should be moved out for someone who can.

The effort is appreciated; it’s more than the Flyers showed during large stretches of the Alain Vigneault/Mike Yeo debacle. But you’re not going to win very often if the gameplan is to work hard so that you play the other team to a draw and hope your goalie stands on his head to get you the win, which is how the Flyers have banked most of their seven victories so far this year.

The ironic part here is that the Flyers’ last few games have, by advanced metrics, been better performances than most of their wins. But they also highlight where all of that can sometimes simply take a backseat to talent. In the loss to Columbus, the Flyers committed several bad turnovers, which the Blue Jackets then immediately converted into goals on the counterattack. Then, the penalty killing failed them over the weekend against Ottawa and Dallas, two clubs with much more dangerous power play units than what the Flyers are able to ice. The Senators and Stars combined to go 4 for 6 in the two games, while the Flyers were 0 for 9.

Lest we go entirely negative, there are a number of positive aspects that should be pointed out. As mentioned, the effort is clearly better than it had been recently, with Tortorella also holding players accountable in a way that is refreshing and much-needed with this club. A few players, such as Tony DeAngelo, have been quite good. Joel Farabee has been fine so far, and he only figures to improve as he moves further away from his offseason surgery. And the return to health of players such as Cam Atkinson, James van Riemsdyk, and perhaps Bobby Brink will only serve to make the Flyers deeper and tougher to play against (although Sean Couturier remains in limbo).

So, there is hope. And as the team has already shown this year, they are capable of stringing together some wins. It’s just painfully obvious that, as most reasonable people expected, the climb back toward respectability will take a while, and entering the realm of actually contending may take longer still. Some pieces are in place, but others (Connor Bedard, please?) have yet to arrive.

dark. Next. Flyers must embrace the tank this season

We are almost 20% of the way through this campaign, which is still early, but it’s not soon to extrapolate what we’ve seen so far. For these Philadelphia Flyers, the fact is that they’re playing harder and showing some positives, but results like what we’ve seen over the last three games are strong indicators that they won’t be making any waves this season. It’s still worthwhile for fans to watch them and track their progress, but any actual expectation would be a recipe for disappointment.