The biggest concern regarding the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers is not one individual issue. It’s not just Ilya Bryzgalov’s lackluster season. It’s not the multiple personalities of the Flyers defensive corps. It’s not the parade in and out of the lineup of top Flyers forwards. The biggest concern is the inconsistency of the team as a whole. Pretty weird to sound pessimistic for a team with 67 points, 4th overall in the Eastern Conference with a 30-16-7 record?
I guess it was pessimistic last season too when the Flyers finished second overall, but I doubt anyone that covers the Flyers or is a fan of the team would tell you they were surprised when the team was bounced by the Bruins pretty handily in round two. You could feel it coming.
The Flyers have no doubt been inconsistent this season. One game it’s the defense. One game the goaltending is horrid. One game the Flyers will put up 40+ shots and not score. There cannot be any excuses for that sort of thing. You can have 70 shots that don’t go in and you still get a big fat ‘F’ for the game. A loss is a loss.
As the old saying goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” That saying might describe how Flyers fans are feeling about this current version of the team. They don’t yet know them completely. They don’t know how well they would respond to adversity in the postseason. They don’t know if the inconsistency will ever stop.
When the Mike Richards led Flyers ran into struggles at the end of last season and into the postseason, at least you knew where to hold the bar because the team was two wins away from a Stanley Cup in 2010. You knew what that group was capable of. That was part of the reason the club was blown apart in the offseason by Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
Whether it was a poor attitude, whether it was the wrong mix of guys at the end, or whether it was certain guys tuning out the coach, the Flyers of 2010-11 did not live up to their billing. Holmgren decided it was better to wipe the slate clean than to try to come back and deal with what happened the previous season with the same group.
The talent on this current 2012 team is very impressive. You see a lot of rookies when you look at the roster, as well as a bunch of highly skilled players. Here we are in February and the Flyers have a very good team, but a team that confuses everyone.
With the top free agent goaltender, a young goal scoring squad of forwards, and a very solid defense on paper, the Flyers were expected to challenge teams like the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers for the East crown. As it stands now nobody can imagine the Flyers even stretching a series to six games with either one of those teams.
Brayden Schenn really hasn’t found good chemistry yet due to missing time with injuries and a string of bad games (although he has improved greatly of late). James van Riemsdyk was given a hefty contract of over 4 million per season due to his performance in the playoffs last year. He has not played well enough to earn that deal even before his recent injuries.
While rookies such as Matt Read and Sean Couturier have been very good, they are going to have their ups and downs, hot streaks and cold streaks as rookies often do. The Flyers big guns such as Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr along with linemate Scott Hartnell need to stay healthy and carry the load because the rookies will be more prone to ups and downs.
Injuries have played a part in the seasons of many of the Flyers top forwards, but that cannot be used as an excuse. Danny Briere, who just recently made it back from injury, was playing just OK before the injury. James van Riemsdyk, who is still injured, is having maybe his worst season as a Philadelphia Flyer. Just as it did last year, Chris Pronger’s injury is probably affecting the Flyers the most right now and barring a miracle Pronger will not be back this season or possibly ever.
The way things stand now, the Flyers cannot and should not be high on anyone’s list of teams that are likely to win the Stanley Cup this year. Unless something changes dramatically, the inconsistency will sink them if not in round 1, probably round 2 of the postseason.
Will Bryzgalov get his game figured out on a consistent basis? Will the Flyers defense stop playing “good game, bad game”? Will the team capitalize on their chances to gain points in games versus bad teams?
Whatever the case may be, they had better hurry up and figure it out. The postseason is two months away, and the rest of the Eastern Conference is not going to wait for the ‘real’ Flyers to arrive.
Justin Johnson is a Senior Correspondent and has been covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the 2008-09 season. Justin has covered all levels of hockey across the United States and Canada. Justin is a graduate of Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ and currently resides in Southern New Jersey.