VOORHEES, NJ (AP) — The “Rocky” soundtrack cranked full blast inside the Flyers training complex seemed a strange dichotomy for a franchise mired in the longest losing streak of its 54-year existence.
Again, like the fictional fighter, the heyday of the Flyers Championship peaked in the 1970s.
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These flyers are defined by losing, fan indifference, and playing the second string in their own building.
So as a background to that, Flyers President Dave Scott had something to say:
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“You’re so much better off doing what we’re doing right now. It’s not what anyone signed up for,” he said on Wednesday.
The passengers are really sorry – in a sorry state.
They lost a franchise-record 13 straight games and last place in the Metropolitan Division (13–22–8). The Flyers have had four consecutive losses in regulation, five away from the team record set in 2006. The Flyers became the first team in NHL history to score a pair of 10-game losing streaks in the first 40 games of the season. ,
The first streak cost coach Alain Vignot his job. Mike Yeo was named interim coach for the remainder of the season and the Flyers would wait until the off-season to make a decision on a new coach.
But for fans who have waited since 1975 to win the Stanley Cup, the wait will continue without turning it down – similar to fellow Wells Fargo Center tenant, and attendance selling regulars, the 76ers and their process.
“I don’t really see it as a three-, four-, five-year rebuild,” Scott said.
Flyers fans on Twitter immediately created a rolled-up eye emoji.
Scott noted that the core of Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee and Ryan Ellis formed a strong enough starting point for general manager Chuck Fletcher to be a contender.
“I’m going to give him a blank check,” said Scott. “We’re going to fix it. Whatever we have to do. Don’t want to wait; want to deal with it now.”
The Flyers are expected to have about $12.5 million in cap space this season, though it’s pending free agent defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and other players need a new contract.
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With three months left in the season, the Flyers are playing string with an eye on next season, and a future that could be shaped by Fletcher’s March 21 trade deadline.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux, the longest-serving player, is still having an impressive season at 34 and leads the team with 15 goals and 34 points.
Giroux can waive his no-movement clause as he plays into the final months of his $66.2 million, eight-year contract and allows the Flyers to trade him for prospects and draft picks. Fletcher and Giroux’s agent, Pat Brisson, met this week and will discuss more about the All-Star’s fate. Giroux’s salary this season is only $5 million, which would make it easier for him to work for small-market teams.
“Ultimately, it will be their decision,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher acknowledged that the Flyers needed more “top-end talent”, but raised eyebrows among dwindling loyalists when he said a “winning core” was already in place. is it here? The Flyers have won only one playoff round and have reached the postseason only four times since 2012.
He churned through six coaches over that period, gave birth to Gritty, tore down the statue of Kate Smith and had a night of johns.
But he did not raise any banner.
Fletcher was hired in December 2018 to clean up the mess left behind by a half-baked rebuild from the previous regime and poor draft picks. His move has largely failed to pay off.
Scott, however, threw his full support behind Fletcher and said that GM – which hired and fired Vignault and his 2021 off-season overhaul backfire – made “some smart moves”. I think we’ve put together a really strong roster.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out for us.”
As the damage progressed, so did the empty seats inside an arena once packed and made crazy for every game. The Cure, of course, is winning, and if the Flyers bloom as contenders again, fans will show up in huge numbers. Until then, the crowd for an early faceoff will continue to look like the third period of a preseason game; The loudest sound from the boos at the end of the horn.
While many season-ticket holders and former players grumble about the disconnect from the days when the late Ed Snyder steered the ship, Scott said Comcast Spectator has no interest in selling the team.
The Flyers are the first to miss the playoffs in consecutive years after being absent five times in a row since 1990–94. Perhaps they can cling to history as a guide – the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup final in 1997. They haven’t gone that far since a six-game loss to Chicago in 2010, when Giroux seemed to be a future star and so forth to burst onto the scene.
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