The 5 Stages of the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers
Now that we are officially at the halfway point of the 2018-19 season, it is time for reflection. And boy, is there a lot to reflect on. While professional sports are always unpredictable, you can usually find a prevailing narrative or theme over the course of the season. Last year was a roller coaster, as the Flyers went from awful to amazing at breakneck pace. They were in the Metro's basement at Christmas and its summit by February. Eventually, they made the playoffs, but failed to give the Penguins much of a fight in the first round, falling in 6 games.
For the 2018-19 Flyers, there is a new theme. And it all revolves around a simple idea: "The Flyers are bad."
In October, this statement would have been met with denial. How could they be bad? They were coming off a 98 point season, had shedded the dead weight of Brandon Manning and Valterri Filppula and brought in James van Riemsdyk to boost the top-6. Sure, they were off to a rough start, with young players like Ivan Provorov particulary looking sluggish. But the Flyers had always been a bad team early in the season, and they would surely turn things around as the season progressed.
But as we all know, this didn't happen, and denial quickly turned to anger. We were mad. Mad at the players, mad at the coaching staff, mad at the GM. Mad that we were close to wasting another MVP esque season from Claude Giroux, as well as another year of his, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds' primes. Mad that nothing was being done to combat the Flyers struggles and goaltending injuries. Mad that things were not going right, and that it felt like they might never this year.
However, as any parent knowns (I am not one), it is impossible to stay mad at someone forever. The focus shifted to bargaining. Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol were gone. The team was off to a 3-1-0 start under Scott Gordon, with Carter Hart proving all the doubters wrong by winning his first 2 games in the NHL. There were a handful of games where they truly looked like the team we thought they would be. If they could get hot, we thought, then they could creep right back into the playoff picture. There was still hope.
Except there wasn't. The team came out of Christmas break flat, and as a result have now lost 6 straight games. Other than 3rd period comebacks against Tampa Bay and Carolina, which garnered a whopping 1 point, the Flyers played very uninspiring hockey. Watching their games has been a chore as the team fails to generate scoring chances and then gaffes in their own zone is spectacular fashion. They aren't just boring to watch - they are downright depressing.
And that brings us to where we are now - acceptance. There's no fighting it, everyone knows the Flyers are a bad team. In fact, bad might be an understatement. At 15-20-6, the Flyers are 29th in the NHL at 36 points, on pace for their worst season since 2007. Most of the core (Voracek, Simmonds, Patrick, Provorov, Gostisbehere) have regressed massively from last season. This is clearly a lost season, as the Flyers have no choice but to tank for the rest of the year, hopefully maximizing a nice return for Wayne Simmonds at the deadline and then nabbing a top 2 pick in the draft lottery to secure Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko.
This is what true grief feels like, Flyers fans. And these are its stages.
Thanks to @TomFoti on Twitter for creating the inspiration for this article.