For Flyers, Time to Turn the Corner in 2018-19
As another season of Flyers hockey begins, the pressure to be a competitive and contending team is back on for the Flyers -- not that it ever left in the first place.
The Flyers are an organization that has enjoyed a wealth of success and a number of playoff runs over the 51 seasons in franchise history, seldom missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons or multiple years over a decade.
In the last six seasons, the Flyers have made the playoffs three times, which in some ways made them the most successful team in the city for that time period.
The Phillies have not been in the playoffs since 2011. The Sixers were trusting the process until this past season, their first with a playoff appearance in six seasons, and were more of a laughing stock of the league than anything else. Prior to last season, the Eagles had not won a playoff game since 2008 and made just one playoff appearance in the last six seasons.
But since then, things have started to change for the landscape of Philadelphia sports. The Phillies were in the thick of a playoff race before a total collapse down the stretch starting in mid-August. The Sixers not only made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons in 2018, they won a playoff series. The Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl Champions, enough said.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have lost in the first round in all three playoff appearances since 2012.
Simply put, while the Flyers were doing something similar to the other three teams in the city -- trying to retool and rebuild into a contender -- they were still having more success than anyone else in the city over the last five years, and that made it easy to hide.
With the rest of the city experiencing success on some level, the Flyers have nowhere to hide now after the first-round exits. With a lot of their future core already in place, they need to start to show signs of further success this season.
Another year of experience for prospects and young, budding stars and the addition of James van Riemsdyk in free agency is not going to put the Flyers on the cusp of the Stanley Cup this season, unless the team is able to go on a ridiculous run during the playoffs. If you are looking for the Eagles kind of success, you probably won’t find it here this season. But the Flyers have steadily made improvements over the last few seasons by adding from within. It’s time to see that turn into a modest playoff run.
After making the playoffs last season in a year where many didn’t predict they would -- not to mention defying the odds of reaching the postseason after a 10-game losing streak in November -- the Flyers are starting to enter the discussion of teams in the Eastern Conference that should still be around in April. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be a goal anymore, it should be the first step to achieving a goal.
You can look at the JVR signing along with the numerous draft picks that have reached the NHL and say that Ron Hextall has essentially done his part to this point. There’s certainly always more work to be done in rounding out a Stanley Cup contender, but he’s made a significant upgrade to the Top 6 over the offseason, while continuing to leave spots open for developing players ready to reach the NHL. That speaks volumes about where the team is supposed to go this season in his eyes.
So that should put some heat on the players and head coach Dave Hakstol. This is the time for the play on the ice to go to the next level. The Flyers should not be the team that squeezes into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season or looks mismatched against a team in a first-round playoff series.
It’s time for the core group that has been around for several seasons now to put it all together from start to finish. It’s time for the kids to get their shot to make even more of a difference. It’s time for the organization to leave the retooling in the past and not use that or youth as an excuse for shortcomings. This is a team that should make noise this season.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.