Better With Popcorn

Flyers' awkward season is a transition season

Let's face it... Flyers fans are in for an awkward season.

There is no way around describing what this 2014-15 Philadelphia Flyers team is. You can say they're a team in transition.

The word transition is not something that owners like to use or that fans like to hear. But it truly is the perfect way to explain this Flyers team. 

It is not shocking at all either that the Flyers would end up this way. Ron Hextall was promoted to general just this spring, so he himself is still trying to make the team his own. He was left tied up with a few mistakes made by previous GM Paul Holmgren, and has been unable to reverse moves that were made prior to his promotion.

Hextall's first move in righting the team was the NHL Entry Draft in June in Philadelphia. But sticking to Hextall's patience plan, those decisions were not made to benefit the 2014-15 season.

As a result, the early-season numbers are cringe-worthy.

Coming into today, the Flyers sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division, only ahead of Carolina, who has played one less game. The Flyers have no wins in four games. Looking at the league on a whole, the Flyers are 26th in points. 

The Flyers are also tied for the third worst (highest) goals against in the NHL. 

The next thing to take a look at after the numbers is the current roster. The group of forwards is very solid. Only a few tweaks are needed to improve the group, but might not be necessary.

The defense, on the other hand, is a mess. Kimmo Timonen is gone for the foreseeable future, Braydon Coburn has been injured and Mark Streit is the best defenseman on the team right now. Players like Luke Schenn, Michael Del Zotto and Andrew MacDonald have struggled.

While Steve Mason and Ray Emery are a great tandem in net, the defense completely leaves the two out to dry. It's unfortunate to watch.   

The offense suggests that the losing trend will eventually end. The Flyers will win games on offense alone. However, the Flyers will also lose a lot of games this season solely because the defense does not provide enough support. 

The easiest way to describe the Flyers other than in transition is to call the team “awkward.”

Because of the gap between the forwards and defensemen, anything could really happen. The Flyers could dominate offensively and make a push to get a wild card spot in the playoffs. Or the defense could struggle all season and cost the team too many games to even finish close to making the playoffs.

The team is just very weirdly structured. This is why freaking out over a small sample size of games could be absolutely warranted or end up being silly. It's impossible to say which way the Flyers will go just yet. 

Either way, the Flyers simply are not meant to be a contender this season even if they do happen to squeak into the playoffs. 

The NHL, right now, is filled with so much talent. Teams in the Metropolitan Division are getting better (aside from Carolina).

Teams in the Western Conference can easily dominate many teams in the Eastern Conference. New superstars are constantly emerging to help turn once struggling teams around. The competition is greater, the speed of the game is greater, and the overall talent is greater. It's so hard to keep up. 

The good thing for Flyers fans is that the future is extremely bright. Defensemen Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim will be ready in the next one-to-three years. Scott Laughton is expected to be a successful forward in the future. And the Flyers have a fantastic core of forwards to build around already.

Patience is needed for everything to pan out. It's what Hextall talked about when he took over for Paul Holmgren in the offseason.

It isn't necessary to say that the Flyers should tank because they are in transition. There is no guarantee that finishing last will give them the first pick in the draft as the Flyers have experienced before. 

But with some painful games ahead against extremely talented opponents, it's going to be tough to watch this team struggle and show signs of hope at the same time. This is going to be a type of season that we haven't seen in a while, but eventual success in the future will make everything worth it.

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Alicia Sprenkle
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Activestick_44@TCLFlyers