A retrospective, for the most part, conjures back happy memories. For Flyers fans, that’ll be the Stanley Cup wins in back-to-back years of 1974 and 1975. Those were the good old days, weren’t they?
Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies with Bobby Clarke were the heydays. Both the Vezina and the Conn Smythe Trophy came home to the City of Brotherly Love, as did Lord Stanley’s Cup.
But since then? It’s been more of a mixed bag.
Entering a Rebuild
During the 1989-90 season, a bad start got even worse. Goalie Ron Hextall was nowhere to be seen except for eight games, partly courtesy of getting into a fight with Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Chelios at the end of the 1988-1989 playoff series. Coupled with the trade of David Poulin and Brian Propp to Boston, it became the first time the Flyers missed the playoffs in 17 years.
The franchise was in full rebuilding mode heading into the 1990-1991 season. Clarke was fired as general manager of the Flyers, bringing in the former manager of Seattle Thunderbirds, Russ Farwell, to steer the club. Hextall was still dealing with the injury bug, playing a measly 36 games. Despite 40 goals from winger Rick Tocchet and another 50 assists from Pelle Eklund, the Flyers finished fifth in the Patrick Division (33-37-10.) The late-season collapse paced Philadelphia three points behind the New Jersey Devils, missing the postseason.
It marks the second consecutive year that Philly missed the playoffs, and boy, that sadly was not the end of the story.
Building on Brind’Amour
The following season marked the 25th year of the franchise in the NHL, and along with hosting the All-Star Game, Farwell made some acquisitions to boost the squad’s holes. The GM brought in arguably one of the best shutdown centers to grace the ice in the NHL in Rod Brind’Amour, along with Dan Quinn. Brind’Amour notched 77 points (33G, 44A) numbers in his first season with the Flyers.
Yet one man alone couldn’t sustain the club, and the Flyers declined again. Paul Holmgren was fired midway through the season, and Bill Dineen took over. Philadelphia struggled with a horrible powerplay (16.5%) and finished two months with a win percentage above 50%. It was the basement again for the Boys on Broad.
And for an angry Spectrum fanbase, they got to spend their postseason again on their coaches as the Flyers missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight year.
The Flyers didn’t give up on hope, though they knew they couldn’t win on hope alone. After an arbitration battle with the New York Rangers, Philadelphia sent five players, the rights to Peter Forsberg, two first-round draft picks, and $ 15mil to the Quebec Nordiques for one man: Eric Lindros. Once they added Lindros, his line with Mark Recchi and Brent Fedyk formed the “Crazy Eights.” Philadelphia was able, after struggling early, to make a late-season push for the playoffs. Recchi set a new franchise record with 53 goals and 70 assists, while Lindros contributed 41 goals. Yet again, despite finishing the season on an eight-game win streak, they came up four points short of the final postseason berth.
If you’re keeping track, that’s four straight missed playoffs, and in May 1993, Terry Simpson became head coach after Dineen.
Were the Boys on Broad destined to make it five missed playoffs in a row? Or was the 1993-94 season going to be where everything turned around?
It started with hope, a word not many Philadelphia fans equated with the team at that point. 11-3-0 to start the season was nothing to sneeze at, but once November hit, the bottom began to fall out when Lindros was hurt. The team made a surge, but they came within three points of the Washington Capitals, missing the postseason in sixth place.
Five times, the Flyers watched the playoffs from their couches.
It was the last time Philadelphia missed the playoffs until 2006-2007. They were consistently making the playoffs until recently.
The Flyers failed to qualify for the 2020-21 season, and there were high hopes at the start. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season didn’t start until January 2021. Despite finishing the first month with a record of 7-2-1, the slide began to happen again. By March, they were already out of playoff contention.
The 2021-2022 season was not any better. Mike Yeo took over for Alain Vigneault in December 2021. Then, at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, Claude Giroux went to the Florida Panthers.
It’s been a rough ride for fellow Flyers viewers following the first ten games of this season. Additionally, it’s the second consecutive year that Philadelphia will not participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are kids like me who are old enough to remember the dark days of the early 90s. Currently, this is an unwanted reminder.
Hopefully, Chuck Fletcher can get the franchise back on track after two early offseasons.
(Photo by Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire)