A look into the Philadelphia Flyer’s rollercoaster of a season

The Philadelphia Flyers are currently Blank and Blank, sitting just outside of a wildcard playoff spot. This playoff push was not expected entering the season. The Flyers have been disappointing for the last three seasons and have not made the playoffs since 2020. They have won only one playoff series in the last eleven seasons. Fans have been calling for a rebuild for a couple years now, and prior to this season, the Flyers made front office changes. They hired former player and analyst Keith Jones to be the team’s president of Hockey Operations. Former player and acting GM Danny Briere was promoted from interim general manager to the full GM.

There was optimism with the new front office changes, but the expectations were that the 2023-24 season would be one step into a franchise rebuild. Even Jones was reminding fans during his introductory press conference that rebuilds take time and he discussed overall patience in rebuilding the holes that the former management group had put the team in. Jones emphasized prior to the season that he wanted the Flyers to be a difficult team to play against, but he did not offer any optimism that they could actually compete for something major. This belief that the Flyers would once again be a bottom-feeder team in the NHL was the general consensus among fans and media. Prior to the season, Bleacher Report ranked the Flyers the thirtieth team out of thirty-two total. 

Despite all of these pessimistic predictions, the Flyers are right in the middle of a race for a playoff berth with only a few games remaining. Second-year head coach John Tortorella has instilled a tough and gritty character into this team. Tortorella is known for being fiery and over the top in handling his team. His coaching methods have been questioned over the years, but it seems the Flyers have bought into his philosophy. Many players on the roster have stepped up considerably and had good enough spurts to help win games. Leading the charge for success this season is team cornerstone and lone all-star Travis Konecny. The twenty-seven-year old RW has had his best season with more than thirty goals and currently has totaled sixty-five points. Konecny leads the team in points, goals and assists. Defensemen Sanheim and York have both positively contributed to the team’s defense. Young players in Frost, Tippett and Foerster have stepped up adding to the team’s scoring. Veteran center Sean Couturier was named team captain in February, making him the first Flyer captain since Claude Giroux was traded in 2022. Couturier has played more games this season than he has since the 2018-19 season. He has provided the young Flyers team with a veteran presence and thirty-six points on the season. Contributions from other longer tenured Flyers such as Scott Laughton has also helped the team enter the playoff mix. One of the wild bumps of the season came when star goalie Carter Hart was suspended indefinitely until further notice due to a court case dating back to 2018. Backup goalie Sam Ersson has stepped up very nicely in his absence, and is a big part of team success. Ersson has played in forty-seven of the team’s seventy-eight games, which is drastically more games played than anyone would have thought being he was the back-up entering the year. Tortorella spoke on Errson’s impact saying, “We don’t have a sniff of having an opportunity with six games left to get in if Sam Ersson doesn’t play the way he has played.”

 The pressure is intensifying as the Flyers try to cling onto a wild card spot. Tortorella would be the first to call out the team for recent struggles, and he did so after a devastating overtime loss to the Islanders on April 1. Tortorella harshly bashed his team saying, “There are certain people that they don’t have a clue how to play or just don’t have it in them to play in these type of situations.” This intense rant publicly calling out his team sparked lots of attention. This Flyers team was not expected to be in a tight race to claim a playoff berth this late in the season. However, they are here now, but are squandering their playoff hopes with a late season slump. There are lots of opinions on why the team is slipping despite an encouraging season overall. Many speculate it is player fatigue from Tortorella’s intense style of coaching and overall lack of experience.

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