Starting roughly 12 hours after the 2023-24 season came to an end in Game 82 for the Flyers, the players went through exit interviews and prepared to depart for the summer. One thing was evident, the sting of failing to make the playoffs after being competitive all season long was still very fresh.

The other natural feeling is the awareness of the unknown between one season to the next. There are always changes to be made, and with the Flyers still in the midst of a rebuild, there are certainly changes and moves that could come over the next few months.

Here are a few of the standout quotes from exit day.

‘That Nothing Game on a Tuesday, Random City, That Game Matters’

Naturally, with the way the Flyers missed the playoffs, there will be a lot of focus on the eight-game losing streak that came at the worst possible time.

The Flyers ultimately missed the playoffs by four points, two of which they could have gained by winning the season finale against Washington. Another two or three points could have made the difference in just what that game meant.

“Those are just in a row,” Travis Konecny said of the losing streak. “There's plenty of other losses throughout the year that you could look back on. It's magnified at that time of year. I think there was another one before the All-Star Break. I think there was. You could probably go back and look at all the different games and say would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. We put ourselves in a spot to have a chance and it didn't go our way.

“I believe that this team could be great and be in the playoffs consistently every year. We have all the tools to do it. It's just a matter of - I think this year was good for us being in the spot we were at and learning the importance of not just the last couple games there. Going into next year, maybe it makes you realize that nothing game on a Tuesday, random city, that game matters. And it's a good mindset for our team to have.”

Scott Laughton agreed with Konecny and noted how, as a young player, this was an adjustment he had to make regarding the consistency needed to be a competitive team on a nightly basis.

“You're in the NHL. This is your job to perform and to show up every night,” Laughton said. “That's probably the biggest issue I had early on in my career was consistency on a night-to-night basis. I still had some of those issues this year of that.”

It's consistency every night, and you see those teams that are at the top of the standings every year. They don't lose two in a row. They go on streaks. They go into road cities, and they win games, and tough ones, back-to-back, things like that. That's where we want to get. I think we made some really good progress from last year where it kind of felt a lot different, but this was a good steppingstone.”

‘This One Stings the Most Out of My Career’

Over the last two seasons, one player has been a clear part of the leadership group since Day 1. Scott Laughton was the only player who wore a letter in the 2022-23 season. That continued in the 2023-24 season until Feb. 14, when the Flyers rounded out the leadership group.

Laughton’s career has featured plenty of ups and downs. Obviously, the Flyers have missed the playoffs with regularity during his tenure. Laughton has been a leader for the team, while also dealing with trade rumors on the regular, something that continued at the trade deadline this season and will certainly continue into the offseason.

But Laughton’s a passionate player who wears it on his sleeve. He was clearly emotional on Tuesday night following the season-ending loss, and was still feeling the sting of elimination the morning after.

“It's tough when we put ourselves in such a good spot at the start of the year. You're pushing towards that goal of making the playoffs and you get that taste a little bit. You want to get back there,” Laughton said. “I haven't experienced playoff hockey in Philly in quite some time. There's nothing really like it. I think the guys have had those conversations with each other about getting back there.

“This one stings the most out of my career. I think just because of the way it went down, and just a stretch that we went through at the end of the year where we could have been a lot different. A lot of progress was made, and you got to look at that too. Some of the young guys and some of the older guys are taking a bigger step in our organization, and we'll go from there.”

Part of the sting is the impending changes that could be coming. Laughton talked about his name being in trade rumors once again and likely continuing to be in the offseason.

“I want to be here. I've made it pretty clear. I want to be a part of this,” Laughton said. “I accept my role, wherever it is. I built a life here. I want to see it succeed and I want to be a part of this city when we're at the top. I came in after a couple of big playoff series in 2010-11. I felt the energy and we started to get it back this year. I really want to be a part of this, so we'll see what happens here.”

‘I Just Plain and Simple Sucked Down the Road’

Speaking of the leadership group, there was a lot of focus on Sean Couturier down the stretch. Couturier finished the season with one goals and seven points in the final 28 games he played. Those 28 did not include two games as a healthy scratch and another two down with injury late in the season.

Couturier was honest in his assessment about his play down the stretch.

“Earlier in the year, I was more banged up at times and got through it. So that's not an excuse for my play. I just plain and simple sucked down the road,” Couturier said. “And I mean, it’s mental, I think a lot of it. You don't play for almost two, three years at that stage of the year. You go through some ups and downs throughout the years, throughout the seasons. And it's how you handle them. And I think I can maybe learn from this experience.”

The decision to scratch Couturier was one that drew a lot of attention, especially considering Couturier had just been named captain 34 days earlier. At the time, Couturier expressed his frustration at the reasoning, or lack thereof, for being benched. Since then, he said he has started to have conversations with John Tortorella, but it sounds like that will have to be only the beginning for the relationship between the head coach and captain.

“Honestly, it's behind me now. I didn't want to be a distraction or anything,” Couturier said. “I thought actually the team responded pretty well with the three points out of four the next two games. So that's all that mattered really.

“You know, I might have caught up in some, somewhat comments that were a little blown out of proportion I think just through my emotions. I'm sure we'll have some conversations here down the road. And we've had some since so it's all good. We've moved on and just going to keep building this team to the next level.”

Couturier added that there are going to be agreements and disagreements on certain aspects of his game and Tortorella’s assessment of it. Several players have echoed that. Couturier said that as long as the focus stays on winning, there’s a mutual understanding between player and coach.

Laughton added that having your captain scratched is tough because you expect your leader to be out there. But he added that this is part of the outside noise that players need to deal with and comes with the job description.

That said, it’s created a situation that is certainly going to be worth watching when next season begins, especially if there are struggles to start the season.

‘I Can Hold My Head a Little Bit Higher’

Sam Ersson was thrown into a unique situation. He was developing strongly in a primarily backup role, when Carter Hart took a leave of absence in late January.

Ersson ultimately started 49 of 51 games he appeared in this season, including making all but six starts from that point.

After struggling through most of the second half of the season by the numbers, Ersson responded in the final three games, making 60 saves on 62 shots in that time. Finishing the season strong is something Ersson can take as a high point on his rookie season.

“It helps. I feel like you can, we can, or I can hold my head a little bit higher, like throughout,” Ersson said. “It was a tough stretch and it happened at a tough time of the year. But I think coming out of it and we did make a valid push and I think that's something that is also a good experience for us, just knowing what it takes. I think I have definitely learned from that.”

‘It Feels Like a Family’

In the immediate, after losing and missing the playoffs in Game 82, it’s easy to focus on the negatives and the reasons why things didn’t go right. One of the net positives for the Flyers has been how tight the locker room has been and the organization-wide shift to promoting the family atmosphere that was part of the foundation at its best.

That starts at the top with Dan Hilferty and continues through the highest positions of the front office. Hilferty was a presence around the arena, interacting with fans nightly. Keith Jones and Danny Briere were equally a presence around the locker room as much as the management box.

It creates an environment that shows how much everyone cares. That, in turn, makes the fan care and bring the passion that is so well known in the city. Those foundational pieces are critical to the success of any franchise.

That wasn’t lost on the players.

“You don't see your team president and owner coming down and shaking your hand after every game. Danny's in the locker room and that feeling makes the players, I don’t know, not want to play for you, but it is. You want to be a part of this,” Laughton said. “Those guys care and you see it on a day-to-day basis, especially with Dan Hilferty and Jonesy. You don't see that with many teams. They're there. They're active with us and they're around all the time. They let you know. I think it's so beneficial not only for the young guys, but the older guys to feel that. It feels like a family.”

“They're a part of the team too. To have that communication with those guys, it was awesome,” Travis Sanheim said. “They were in there after

every game, you're having conversations with them. It's something that I haven't had before, and I think guys really enjoyed it. It was nice to see, and I think that just goes to show the team that we're trying to build here and then the relationships that we're trying to build as well.”

From season to season, there will be changes to any locker room. That makes coming so close to making the playoffs and experiencing a different energy in the building harder to take.

The locker room was great. That's one thing that we've all discussed behind doors here, that it's just disappointing in the fact that the group isn't fully going to be together again, and we're gonna miss each other,” Sanheim said. “We love that group and we didn't want this to end. Each day that we came to the rink, we loved it, we enjoyed it. I think that's a good thing and something that we can take moving forward.”

But there’s also a sense that getting this close will serve as motivation as well, that next season’s next step in the process could be making the jump back to the playoffs. No matter how much the group changes, the foundation that is being built has the team feeling confident in the future.

“It's fun to see our team grow and if you look at the process to rebuild, we're building something special,” Couturier said. “That being said, we had a good year and all that and we beat some expectations, but you got to do it all over again next year. And it's not going to be easy. I think if we keep growing and keep believing in our team, we can reach that next level and that's obviously exciting.”

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.

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