Many fans have already moved on from the disastrous 2013 shortened-season the Philadelphia Flyers put together. With training camp rapidly approaching and preseason games a month away, the focus is on the future – the 2013-14 season. Yet, what if the future can be predicted by looking back at the past?
Three famous words uttered by Karl Marx are still echoed today, “History repeats itself.” With this in mind, let’s look back on the last time the Flyers missed the playoffs and how they fared the following season. For Flyers fans, the similarities between the two seasons are striking.
Back in 2006-07, the black and orange missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994 after a forgetful 22-48-12 (82 games) record. Likewise, in 2013, the Flyers were on the outside looking in when the regular season concluded with a 23-22-3 record (48 games).
Let’s dig a little deeper.
An Offseason of Struggle
Both clubs experienced trying times during their respective offseasons. Prior to Philadelphia’s worst season to date, the team had to deal with the losses of Michael Handzus (traded), Eric Desjardins (retirement), Keith Primeau (retirement) and Kim Johnsson (free agency).
Similarly, the 2012 offseason saw the losses of Sergei Bobrovsky (trade), James van Riemsdyk (trade), Jaromir Jagr (free agency) and Matt Carle (free agency). The Russian goaltender went on to win the Vezina Trophy in Columbus while van Riemsdyk and Jagr played important roles during their teams playoff run.
To add to the pain off that offseason, the Flyers went all-in in trying to acquire the likes of Zach Parise and Shea Weber with both players eventually signing elsewhere. This misguided approach also played a major part in the decision to let Carle, one of their top defenseman in 2012, walk away.
Changing of the Guard
Another glaring similarity between the two seasons is that both clubs were under new leadership on the ice. In 2006-07, due to Primeau’s abrupt retirement, Philadelphia named Peter Forsberg as their captain. A popular choice among fans, the Swedish forward would struggle in his first year of captaincy simply because he couldn’t stay healthy.
One year ago, the Flyers were in the same situation. The franchise tagged Claude Giroux as their 19th captain in team history. He replaced Chris Pronger, who has not played a single game since suffering a concussion in 2011 and is basically sitting in purgatory until his eventual retirement.
As mentioned before, Forsberg had a challenging time in 2006-07 after battling a chronic foot injury throughout the season. While Giroux never had injury problems, he was (at first), questioned as a true leader after the team lacked an identity out on the ice and had to deal with those questions throughout the season.
Wait, goalie problems in Philadelphia? Who would have guessed that.
During the team’s lackluster 2006-07 campaign, Antero Nittymaki started 52 games between the pipes followed by Robert Esche (18), Martin Biron (16), Michael Leighton (4) and Michael Houle (1). That year practically sums up the Flyers’ decade long goalie plague in a nutshell. The revolving door of goaltenders wound up ranking dead last in the Eastern Conference with 303 goals against.
The Flyers’ most recent season can be summed up in one word: Bryzaster. In his second year in the City of Brotherly Love, Ilya Bryzgalov completely drove his train off the tracks. The club would have been better served using a cardboard-cutout of Bernie Parent in net. While the struggles weren’t all his fault (everyone knows the defense was laughable), Bryzgalov was the face of the 2013 season.
Eight games into the 2006-07 season, the organization had a complete overhaul. Head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired and replaced by assistant coach John Stevens while Bob Clarke resigned as General Manager, leaving the door open for Paul Holmgren.
Six years later, Holmgren was being called out by the public, the first time any outcry was issued against Flyers’ ownership. Unlike Clarke, Homer didn’t step down but is basically one bad move away from being replaced with Ron Hextall, who was signed this offseason to serve as an Assistant GM.
Also, Peter Laviolette was on the hot seat all season long and at one point, appeared likely to suffer the same feat as Hitchock did. Fortunately for Lavy’s sake, he lived to fight another day but like Holmgren, he has one more shot to prove his worth.
An Offseason of Change
In an effort to better themselves and avoid their second consecutive season sitting at home watching the playoffs, the Flyers used the 2007 offseason to address their biggest needs. The Flyers made a bold move in sending Forsberg to Nashville for Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen. At the time, Timonen was a highly skilled defenseman but the concern was how long he could play at that same level. In hindsight, this trade has become one of their best moves in franchise history.
That offseason, the Flyers also continued to win the summer months by signing Danny Briere and trading for Joffrey Lupul and eventual captain, Jason Smith. On paper, Philadelphia had the best offseason out of every NHL team.
Keeping true to their 2007 offseason, the organization seemingly replicated that offseason in 2013. They went out and signed two former captains in defenseman Mark Streit and forward Vinny Lecavalier. Just as the case was with Timonen, age is a concern with both signings. There is, though, no questioning both skaters talent.
Still not satisfied, the Flyers brought out arguably the top free agent goalie, Ray Emery, to compete with Steve Mason for the starting role.
Once again, the offseason was won by Philadelphia.
To Trade or Not to Trade
Right now, draft picks don’t necessarily mean much when it comes to the upcoming season. But it’s worth nothing that in the 2007 Draft after their dreadful 2006-07 campaign, the Flyers were on the brink of trading their No. 2 pick but wound up staying put and selecting JVR.
Likewise, the most recent draft saw much speculation surrounding their top draft pick. But they held their position at No. 11 and drafted Samuel Morin, a defenseman who has (unfairly) been compared to Chris Pronger.
A Bounce Back Season
In the 2007-08 season, the Flyers went on to finish 42-29-11, good enough for 6th in the conference. They would go on to win their first round matchup with Washington after a game-winning goal from Lupol and would continue their exciting playoff run with an upset win over Montreal. Unfortunately, their playoff run ended in the Eastern Conference Finals to the hands of the hated Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite the loss, however, that season was a major improvement from the disaster that was 2006-07.
So far, everything between that season and 2013 is practically a mirror-image of each other. Will the Flyers’ 2013-14 season transpire just as their incredible 2007-08 campaign did?
A journalism student at Rowan University, Kyle is a Big Ten Reporter for Scout.com (owned by Fox Sports) and spent the 2013 season interning with the Philadelphia Flyers.