Flyers’ Season in Review: The Slump That Never Ended

The Philadelphia Flyers 2020-21 season came to a disappointing end on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils in a 4-2 win, led by Joel Farabee who tallied two goals to finish the season. Though the team seemed to come together within the last few games of the season, it was a little too late for the club who faced several obstacles throughout the season.

COVID Complications

The COVID-19 restrictions began before the regular season even kicked off. The Flyers had a short and sweet training camp with no exhibition games to gear them up for the season. With the team’s season beginning on Jan. 13, it wasn’t long until the orange and black started to lose key players due to COVID-19, as Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Scott Laughton, and Travis Konecny were all sidelined over the course of January and February. While the team struggled to figure out losing important players in their line-up, things didn’t end up getting better for the squad, even as the players returned from quarantining.

Mike Yeo Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers bench (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Between the isolation and toll taken on their bodies, those affected by the virus were shaken up both mentally and physically. During isolation, the players were forced to be away from their loved ones. Upon returning from quarantine, the guys surely felt the physical effects the virus took out of them. Beyond that, the Flyers were one of many teams that weren’t able to fully prepare for the season as they have in the past. Shortened ice-time, limited practices, and later arrival times to the rink are just a few examples of major aspects that undeniably played a part in the Flyers’ never-ending slump.

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In an interview with Flyers forward Scott Laughton on April 13, he talked about how COVID-19 affected his squad. “We had a really good year last year and COVID hits and we kind of haven’t been the same.” This statement would stand true as the Flyers went from being a potential Cup contender to finishing the season with a 25-23-8 record.

Motivational Mishap

Without practice, the team struggled to find chemistry on the ice which further led to an unmotivated Flyers roster. Having a variety of young players on the roster with no practice negatively impacted the club. Once the team hit the start of their never-ending slump, it was evident that they weren’t motivated by much. In fact, fans and spectators all around were baffled when left winger Oskar Lindblom dropped the gloves in his first-ever career fight versus the New York Islanders. Lindblom, a forward who isn’t known to be much of a bruiser, stepped up to the plate in an attempt to give his team something to play for. This most certainly was a rock-bottom point for the orange and black, despite the team never truly coming back from it.

A Flyers team led by a frustrated captain in Giroux showed zero effort in a 3-1 series loss against the New Jersey Devils. In a series that would be their final push to keep them fighting for a playoff spot, the Flyers looked as if they were playing a preseason game. At this point in the Flyers season, they were clearly a team that didn’t deserve to make a run in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lord Stanley should be enough to motivate any team in the league, but this season the Flyers just couldn’t find it in them.

Defensive Defeat

Although the Flyers needed help in all departments this season, the defense seemed to need it the most. It’s no secret that the team is missing their former veteran defenseman, Matt Niskanen. The teams’ defensive core has been missing a major piece of the puzzle since Niskanen retired last season. With a total of 33 points for the 2019-20 season, the 34-year-old was an important member of the orange and the black, both on and off the ice. He was a leader to young defensemen like Travis Sanheim and specifically Ivan Provorov who he was paired with for most of the season.

Matt Niskanen Philadelphia Flyers
Matt Niskanen, former Philadelphia Flyer (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season inevitably showed the absence of defensive power in front of the Flyers goaltenders all season. The club’s defense finished 31st in the league with 197 goals against. The lack of depth and leadership on the blue line were contributing factors. In turn, the consistency of defensive woes throughout led to a lack of production offensively.

Onward and Upward

As the offseason is now upon the Flyers, general manager Chuck Fletcher looks to make big changes over the summer. In Fletcher’s exit interview, when asked about his priorities in the offseason he responded with, “I think we have quite a few priorities, looking outside the organization certainly we could upgrade I think everywhere: up front, defense, certainly we’re gonna have to take a look at our situation in goal which has kind of been a constant struggle here for years. So, we have different areas we have to look at, but we also need a lot of our young players to be better.”

Further, it seems as though no one is a “sure thing” for the Flyers future besides a select few players including Giroux and Farabee, who Fletcher seemed to be satisfied with. That being said, it will be interesting to see who the team protects in the upcoming expansion draft. Nonetheless, the fans in Philadelphia are in for a wild ride next season regardless of who stays and who goes. One thing is certain, the Flyers will be out for vengeance led by a captain thirsty for a Stanley Cup.