Perception, specifically in sports, has the unique ability to change in an instant.
Before the start of this NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers (24-14-6) received virtually no media attention in their market. That all has a chance to change. Perceptions in sports have the unique ability to change in what seems like an instant.
On October 12th, 2022, the Flyers opened their regular season in Columbus.
At the time, Philadelphia sports were in a great place. The Philadelphia Eagles were undefeated (5-0) — they would lose the following week to the New York Jets but went on another five-game winning streak. The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves again in the postseason, eliminating their division rival.
The Philadelphia 76ers got media attention due to James Harden, another bizarre offseason for the talented, cursed team.
Again, in Philadelphia, the Flyers were on the back burner. About every media outlet ranked them in the bottom three or four teams in the NHL in the early power rankings. Three months later, in 2024, the Flyers are on the precipice of being a ‘must-see’ in Philadelphia. As the season continues, the Flyers keep propelling themselves into relevance.
John Tortorella has his team playing better than anyone could have predicted. After the recent sweep of three games on the road, the Flyers are in second place in the NHL Metropolitan Division, two points behind the New York Rangers.
The youth and veterans are contributing. Travis Konecny is a 2024 NHL All-Star with 40 points (21G, 19A). Sean Couturier returned, averaging the most time on the ice per game of all the Flyers’ forwards. Owen Tippett is creating a lot of offense, and Tortorella mentioned that if he put the puck on the net more frequently, he probably has a goal total similar to Konecny:
“Like I said the other night, if he [Tippett] hits the net more, he [would] probably have five or six more goals right now. He’s one of those athletes that develops on his own. He has the chance to be a really good player.”John Tortorella; 1/15/2024
We’re still ahead of the NHL All-Star Break and NHL Trade Deadline. There is a ton of hockey left to be played, but the Flyers are showcasing a blend of hard, entertaining hockey almost nightly. They’re competitive and the underdog; enough of a reason for a city like Philadelphia to rekindle the spirit of hockey on Broad Street.
But if you aren’t sold yet, there’s more:
Flyers Triumvirate Brings Identity
A list of things turned fans away from the Flyers, such as a lack of a fun product to watch on the ice, the prior regime’s failure to make good personnel decisions, and a lack of identity. Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott drained hockey from Philadelphia.
Daniel Briere, Keith Jones, and Dan Hilferty showed that bringing back the missing culture was required. For example, Jones is very transparent with the fanbase on air, especially after the Gauthier trade during the first period of a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hilferty is at the Flyers Training Center speaking to the fanbase. “A New Era of Orange” signified that changes will be made, and they’ve stuck to those guns. Jones talked about getting back on track last May:
“To be able to lead this team back to the winning tradition that everyone knows it can, and should be, is a true honor and one that I do not take lightly. I consider the Philadelphia Flyers organization the gold standard of the NHL and professional sports. I’ve seen how this city and these fans can rally around their team, and there is nothing that compares to that feeling.”Keith Jones; 5/11/2023
The new triumvirate is not talking talk; they’re walking walk, too. They also honored Ed Snider on his birthday — something the previous regime failed to do. This new front office is in touch with Philadelphia. Jones and Briere played on successful teams, know what Flyers hockey is about, and they’re set on bringing it back with Tortorella, a coach who respects the legacy.
A team that gels will succeed before a divided locker room. The Phillies had legitimate team chemistry, and Philadelphia fell in love with them. The Eagles, whether it’s admitted or not, aren’t on the same page, and they lost to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team led by Baker Mayfield.
The Flyers locker room is notably more cohesive this season than last. From the dog mask to how the players have each other’s back when speaking to media, right down to what we see on the ice, they’re playing like a unit, not a group of individuals. Two leaders of these examples are Garnet Hathaway and Nicolas Deslauriers.
“Guys are buying in. We just have to keep building and start believing in ourselves. I think we are out to prove people wrong. There doesn’t seem to be much pressure on us. I don’t know if we are just naïve or young, but we just go out and play hard and aggressive hockey.”Sean Couturier; 12/7/2023
Bringing Hockey Back to Philadelphia
A lack of direction in a rebuild and the inability to keep competitive caused the Flyers to fall out of favor with some. All teams experience ebbs and flows. In 2019-2020, the Flyers were full of excitement. Before that, they made the postseason off-and-on, but 2009-2010 is still remembered as a Cinderella story that never finished.
In 2010, the Flyers returned from a 3-0 series deficit to win four in a row, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2020, the Flyers got Oskar Lindblom back in the postseason in one of the most heartfelt moments you can have without a championship. Each time, the passion and energy the Flyers brought were electric and captivating.
They’re ahead of the curve right now, and maybe the Flyers falter down the stretch. Perhaps the Flyers earn an NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs berth. Either way, the future is bright sans Gauthier because there are other stellar prospects in the system, like Matvei Michkov, Oliver Bonk, Emil Andrae, and others, including some already on the NHL roster.
Winning is on the player’s minds, and the front office is dedicated to that front. The coaching staff is getting the most out of their players. If you aren’t giving this team your attention, then start.
(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)