The Philadelphia Flyers set a dubious and embarrassing record during the 2018-19 season. They became the first team in NHL history to use eight different goalies in one season.
The revolving door between the pipes helped contribute to a sixth-place finish (37-37-8 record) in the Metropolitan Division. The bulk of the blame for the goalie carousel fell at the feet of former general manager Ron Hextall. The former Flyers’ all-star goalie placed too much faith in a pair of injury-prone netminders, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, to start the season, and he failed to address adding adequate depth in the system.
When Elliott and Neuvirth were injured early in the year, Hextall struggled to find a reliable or NHL-caliber replacement and refused to promote prospect Carter Hart from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Less than two months into the season, the Flyers were at the bottom of the standings, and the organization fired Hextall on Nov. 26. Even though they hired Chuck Fletcher as GM, the whack-a-goalie lineup changes didn’t end.
While life returned to normal in goal last season – the Flyers only used three goalies – let’s take a look back at all of the players (in order of most games started) who wore a blocker and pads for the Orange and Black.
Despite the desperate need for a competent goalie, Hextall refused to promote the highly-touted prospect. The future star wasn’t exactly lighting it up in his first year in the American Hockey League but would have been an upgrade over the other options.
Still, Hextall stuck to his plan to not promote Hart to the Flyers. There were rumors at the time that his stubbornness to call up Hart may have been the deciding factor in his dismissal.
On Dec. 18, about three weeks after the Flyers axed Hextall, Hart made his NHL debut. The 20-year-old stopped 20 shots in the Flyers’ 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, and he was named the First Star of the game.
He ended up playing the most games and went 16-13-1 with a 2.83 goals against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage (SV%). Hart would have played more games between the pipes but missed time due to an ankle injury.
He was entering the second season of a two-year deal as the team’s starting goalie. The then-32-year-old had gone 23-11-7 with a 2.66 GAA and .909 SV% the previous season.
However, he missed significant time in 2017-18 due to core muscle surgery. In the fateful 2018-19 season, Elliott suffered a lower-body injury in November and missed three months.
He returned in February and provided some stability over the final two months of the season. Elliott’s 23 starts were second on the team, and he and went 11-11-1 with a 2.96 GAA.
The organization had high hopes for the budding goalie. He made a nice impression in 2016-17 by going 4-2-1 with a 2.07 GAA and .928 SV%.
His ascension up the depth chart hit a giant snag, though, when he missed the entire 2017-18 season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Stolarz got a second chance at a job with the Flyers in 2018-19.
He played in 12 games, which included 10 starts, and went 4-3-3 with a 3.33 GAA and .902 SV%, but his run ended after he suffered a lower-body injury in mid-December. When he recovered, the Flyers dealt Stolarz to the Edmonton Oilers for Cam Talbot (more on him later).
Chalk this one up as a major Hextall blunder. In an attempt to provide depth, he claimed Pickard off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs just before the season began.
The former second-round pick by the Colorado Avalanche had appeared in one game for the Maple Leafs the prior season, but he was dreadful with the Flyers.
Pickard went 4-2-2 with an unsightly 4.01 GAA and .863 SV%. The Flyers released him one day after they fired Hextall. Coincidence? We didn’t think so, either.
The book on Neuvirth was he had the potential to be a No. 1 goalie if he could stay healthy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t.
Neuvirth went 9-7-3 with a 2.60 GAA and .915 SV% and started two playoff games, serving as Elliott’s backup in the 2017-18 season. However, he battled several injuries in 2018-19 and didn’t play after Jan. 3 due to a lower-body injury.
Neuvirth went 1-4-1 with a 4.27 GAA.
Call him Mr. Eight. When Talbot started against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 28, he became the eighth goalie to play for the Flyers.
They acquired the veteran with the idea of retaining him for the next season to serve as a mentor for Hart. The two goalies were both from Edmonton and had a great relationship off of the ice.
Over the final month-plus of the season, he made three starts and won one of them. The plan for the future never materialized, as the Flyers opted to re-sign Elliott to be Hart’s backup.
The Yale graduate has played in net in each of the last three seasons for the Flyers. Though, his stay during the 2018-19 season was short-lived, thanks to a horrific 5.08 GAA and .806 SV% in two games, including one start.
Although he was a temporary solution as a replacement as a rookie in 2017-18, when he went 7-4-2 with a 2.75 GAA, Lyon has been seldom-used with the Flyers. However, he has carved out a solid four-year career in the AHL, where he has won 73 games and played in 145 games with the Phantoms.
Remember him? We don’t either.
To spare you the pain of trying to recall his tenure, we’ll spend one more sentence on McKenna. The Flyers claimed the journeyman off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks, who was the seventh goalie used and played in one game, a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Believe it or not, but that is everyone.
Fortunately for the Flyers, Hart established himself as one of the best young goalies in the NHL last season, and Elliott enjoyed a healthy and respectable season. It helped the organization, and its fans, quickly forget the Twilight Zone season that was 2018-19.
I have over 10 years of experience covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The South Jersey Times/nj.com and the Philadelphia Metro. Throughout the past decade, I have covered regular season, playoff, and outdoor games, and I have interviewed the best players in the NHL to guys on the fourth line and front office personnel. My coverage includes a balanced, insightful, and objective perspective, and my stories range from being analytical, opinionated, and even a little fun.