Flyers Losing Streak Showing Signs of a Lost Franchise
Following another loss, a 5-4 overtime defeat to the New York Islanders that extended the Flyers losing streak to seven, the first question posed to Dave Hakstol was about the message he gave his team following the extension of the franchise’s longest losing streak since 2008.
His answer took a positive spin.
“It’s another hockey game that’s tied after 60 minutes. I think it’s 7 out of our last 10 we’ve gotten a point,” Hakstol said. “So five of those are OT or shootout losses. Again today, close hockey game all the way through. We have to find a way to close out the games in overtime and we haven’t done that yet. We have to do a better job there. Continue to work hard through the 60 minutes and do a better job finding a way to get the extra point when we get to the OT or the shootout.”
There’s one glaring problem with Hakstol’s answer. Positivity in Philadelphia is spelled W-I-N. And there are no moral victories in seven straight losses, no matter how you spin it.
Lost in Hakstol’s answer is the fact that in three of those overtime or shootout losses, the Flyers have held two-goal leads and let them slip away. Lost in his answer is the reasoning behind players continually getting mismatched while on the ice, a clear coaching flaw. Lost are the struggles on special teams, things that should be driven home in practice, that aren’t there.
There’s a lot of losing going on for the Flyers. And until there’s a win, there won’t be any silver lining or positives to look at.
It’s still too early to tell if Ron Hextall damaged the franchise’s future by putting such a focus on defensemen that forwards and goaltending remain trapped in the minors or juniors in development. Hextall’s true test comes two or three years from now when the team assembled needs to be ready to take the leap forward.
But the problem with that is that there are players at the NHL level now that should be doing the same. And yet it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
The shimmer and shine of Shayne Gostisbehere’s rookie year has worn off and he’s really been average at best in the last two seasons. The Flyers have two young forwards with great potential in Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal that look like they need more development than anything else.
Defensively, the team had three rookies in the lineup on Friday, along with second-year defenseman Ivan Provorov and third-year defenseman Gostisbehere -- as young as it gets.
In the net, the Flyers are stuck in limbo.
So while the Flyers may have more than enough pieces being groomed in the minors and juniors, the players that have made the NHL roster -- see Nolan Patrick, Konecny, Weal, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and so on -- need to be given the attention they need away from game action. They need to be developed in practice, whereas the Flyers coaching staff seems hell-bent on doing the same thing day in and day out without any sense of adjustment.
It has players trapped with incompatible linemates. It has rookies trying to force plays rather than playing loose and to their strengths.
What this has done is taken the Flyers, a team that should have been at the very least a bubble team in the playoff picture, and put them in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
It’s a franchise with no sense of direction or advancement, a team that is lost in development. The reason: a lack of identity.
The lack of identity comes from Hextall.
You see, Hextall has insisted that this team has the players to make the playoffs. So the problem is coaching, right?
Hextall will tell you the players simply need to execute. So the problem is the players?
No, the problem is everything. You don’t lose seven straight games because of one aspect of the game. You lose because collectively you have been outclassed or outplayed in some way or another. The Flyers have certainly found new ways to lose all seven of these games.
More so, losing seven straight games isn’t really a big concern for a young team with players that are learning on the fly if they are viewed in that way. The problem there is that Hextall won’t use the term rebuilding and insists on mentioning the playoffs. In other words, when you supply expectations that go beyond the regular season and don’t appear to be able to deliver, you’ve put the wrong identity on your team.
The Flyers aren’t a playoff team. And at this point in their development, that’s fine. They are rolling out five or six rookies every game. If the goal was for the Flyers to play the kids, that’s what you’re getting.
If the Flyers were rolling out the same lineup, same line combinations and making the same mistakes without the same expectations, the fan base would have room for a little more understanding and a little more tolerance for the coaching staff and players who continually make those mistakes, no matter the age or experience.
But playing the kids isn’t going to mean regular wins right now, but in order to be a playoff team, you need to win regularly. And no, getting points in seven of 10 games doesn’t make the situation any better.
Ultimately, the Flyers need to end November by looking in the mirror and realizing what they are. This is a team that is rebuilding. This is a team that is waiting -- waiting for their current NHL youngsters to find their way in the league and waiting for tomorrow’s stars to make it to the NHL level.
By admitting otherwise, it’s a team in denial and a team without a true identity.