There are a lot of things that can be done over the course of ten NHL games. Win streaks, losing streaks, trades, goalless droughts, goal streaks. You name it, it happens in a matter of ten games. For Flyers fans, these last ten games, so far, have been the worst ten games of the season. I say so far, because the season is far from over and who knows, things could get even worse if they don’t change.
Back to back shutout losses to Minnesota, multiple blown leads, and most recently another shutout at the hands of the Boston Bruins have left the team reeling, the fans one loss short of rioting in the streets, and the General Manager of the club, sitting there and telling us, “If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say ‘we’re playing poorly.” I would be. We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and say we’re playing poorly, no.”
Um, excuse me?
Ok, all dramatics aside, Hextall really isn’t TOO wrong, but how well can you play when you keep losing? Sure, there are a lot of one goal games and overtime losses that end up being at least one point for the orange and black, but there needs to be more. You can’t rely on one point every game. Even if they lost every game in overtime, that’s still only 82 points, and that isn’t nearly enough for the playoffs. When Hextall said, “As a manager, I have to be realistic with how our team is playing. I think right now, as a whole, I think we’ve played better than our record.” He might as well have said, “We should be winning these games but we aren’t.”
Here’s the thing, you can play well in every single game during the season, but if you don’t win, does it matter how hard you played? The last time I checked, wins and losses were the only thing that could get you into a playoff spot. Right now, this team is on the outside looking in, and getting further and further away from that window with every loss they take.
I understand Hextall giving Hakstol his vote of confidence, and for sticking to his guns. Hakstol is in his third year of a five year deal, so Hextall probably feels the need to stand by his guy. Rightfully so. However at this point in time, and especially after losing ten games in a row, a shakeup is usually what the doctor orders. Hakstol has tried to provide us with just that, but nothing has come of it. He has benched players, put some back in the lineup, brought players up (and sent them back down to all of our displeasure.) Hakstol has done everything short of firing himself, and still nothing has worked.
So what else is there for him to do? Sure, he was dealt a bad hand with the MacDonald injury and the Gudas suspension. However, you have young defenseman who are able to step up and fill in when called upon. Morin played very well while up with the Flyers, and Mark Alt has done what he needed to do while up with the Flyers as well. Other defenseman such as Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg have been a huge bright spot for an otherwise bleak blue line. The only positive to having Andrew MacDonald is the fact that Provy plays so well alongside of him. Gudas has proven to be more of a risk than a person to be relied on. Manning is a seventh defenseman. Period.
The offense is playing well too! Well, the top and bottom lines at least. The main problem with the offense is that the middle two lines haven’t been able to produce at nearly the rate that they should be. Nolan Patrick has proven that he likes to pass more than shoot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wayne Simmonds hasn’t been himself as of late. Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera are proving to be what we all thought they were, healthy scratches at best.
The biggest problem with the offense is consistency. When you look at the first and fourth lines, you notice that they rarely change. The first line doesn’t budge. The fourth has, but has stayed more in tact than the second and third lines. The second and third lines seem to be in a constant state of flux. If there was more consistency throughout the entire lineup instead of just half, the Flyers would find themselves in a better position than they are currently in.
After all is said and done, Hextall obviously has the final say in everything. However, when you have dropped ten straight, noticed a drop in attendance as well, and are dealing with a fan base growing incredibly restless, something needs to be done to prevent a revolt. Hextall was quoted saying, “If we aren’t battling, we’d have a problem.” Well Ron, they aren’t battling. The last loss was a shutout, and they look about as bad as they did at the beginning of this losing streak.
The fact that Hakstol is changing players and lines more often than he changes underwear is concerning. The more concerning part is that it hasn’t resulted in a win in ten games. Yes, this is concerning and yes, we as fans should be worried that this trend could continue until something drastic happens. This has many worried that the team could end up in sell mode when the deadline hits, putting many fan-favorites on the chopping block and potentially on their way out come that time.
It’s called the snowball effect. The more that keeps going wrong, the worse it’s going to get. Losing streak leads to bad moves, those moves piss off the fans, it just keeps going. What needs to be done probably won’t be done unless this losing streak lasts potentially past 15-20 games more or less. That’s too late. It’s already too late. Things should have been done a week ago. The fact of the matter is that nothing has been done, and here we are, waiting for something to be done. Frustrations are growing. People are getting angrier by the day, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The other fact of the matter is that this streak will end. The Flyers will win another game this year. They will probably win ten more games this year, maybe even twenty.
At this point, we all just need to take it one step at a time and celebrate the little things. They are few and far between, but treat them like the Flyers just won a playoff game. That’ll make that next win, whenever that may be, that much more exciting.
Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports