"We're going to get into the playoffs and we're going to be a hard team to play against." - Jason Smith - 3/18 Courier-Post
So sayeth the current captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. I'm not terribly sure where he gets his optimism. After all, this team is 8 - 17 sinces the All-Star break and has only won 5 of their last 21 games. That is hardly enough to engender enthusiasm headed down the stretch.
Their latest shitting of the bed, a 7-1 loss to the Crosby-less Penguins, had GM Paul Holmgren openly questioning the preparation of coach John Stevens.
"This time of year, it [falls] on the coaches, and it's got to come down to the players themselves," he said. "They're the ones who are going out there and playing. We're all in this together. We haven't done very well here lately. . .
We're not getting the push we need to put us over the hump right now, for
whatever reason." -- Paul Holmgren (Yesterday's Inky)
Now, while Tim Panaccio checks in today to let us know not to expect John Stevens to be fired right this second, I do believe that if the Flyers don't make the playoffs this year, I think Stevens will be gone.
I'm not so sure he shouldn't be gone anyway. This team looks suspiciously like the 2001-2002 Flyers, who, under Bill Barber (who coached Stevens when Stevens was a player on the Phantoms) won the Atlantic Division, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to a much faster (and better prepared) Ottawa team. The similiarities with this edition of the Flyers lie not so much with the lockerroom discord that was going on at the time, but with the style of play the two teams employ. Barber's team did not seem to have any sort of a system (and those players openly rebelled after the season) and this team seems to be the same way. What does this team do well? Are they tenacious forecheckers who score off of the cycle and thrive on puck possession or are they dashers and flashers who score off of the line rush?
Perhaps this team would do better to go with a more system oriented coach who can take the talent they do have and mold a system around it. Their power play has been highly ranked all season; they clearly have offensive skill players. Why that success doesn't translate into consistent 5-on-5 play is beyond me.
The Flyers' playoff death march continues this evening at home against Atlanta.