Philadelphia Flyers: 10 Most Disappointing Seasons in Flyers History
Living in or around Philadelphia requires a certain stomach for disappointment.
In the 23 years I have been watching Philly sports only once has my team reached the pinnacle—the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies.
That is roughly one championship every 92 seasons (not taking into account strike shortened seasons where no champion was crowned).
Cubs fans can complain about 1908, but cannot hide from the fact that the Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks and White Sox have all achieved glory in the interim.
The 86 year "Curse of the Bambino" that plagued the Red Sox until 2004 pales in comparison to Philadelphia's four team nightmare when a fan takes the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots successes into account.
The Flyers second round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year ensured the 36th consecutive disappointing season for one of North America's most passionate hockey markets.
Considering every year is "Cup or bust" for the Flyers since winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1973 and 1974, it would be tough to pick out a single season that broke the most hearts in the City of Brotherly Love, so I've narrowed it down to the 10 most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
Come with me on this moderately depressing stroll down memory lane, and let me know what you think of my list.
2009-10 was an emotional roller coaster for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Future Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger was acquired in a draft day trade from the Anaheim Ducks as the piece that was supposed to put the Flyers over the top, and (stop me if you've heard this one before) Ray Emery was signed to solve the Flyers goalie carousel after a hiatus in Russia supposedly revitalized his commitment to the game.
John Stevens began the season as the team's head coach and was relieved of his duties in early December after a 13-11-1 10th place start to the season.
Stevens was replaced by 2006 Stanley Cup Championship coach Peter Laviolette.
The Flyers traveled to Boston on New Year's Day for the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, falling 2-1 to the Bruins in overtime.
As rumors of locker room discord between the coach, captain Mike Richards and assumed veteran leader Pronger picked up, the team went on a second-half run that lead them to the final day of the season, a home showdown for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs against the New York Rangers.
Of course, Brian Boucher and the Flyers prevailed, 2-1 in a dramatic shootout, to capture the playoff spot.
At this point nobody expected much from the second-to-last seeded team in the conference. But after a convincing 5-game series victory over the second-seeded New Jersey Devils and one of the greatest series of all time against the Boston Bruins that saw the Flyers come back from an 0-3 series deficit in Game 7 to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cup seemed to be these Bullies' destiny.
But, of course, it was not to be.
After taking the Montreal Canadiens to task and dispatching of them with ease in the Conference Finals, the Flyguys goaltending finally faltered in the Cup finals, allowing 25 goals in 6 games, including the overtime Cup winner to Patrick Kane in Game 6 to seal the championship victory for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Patrick F***ing Kane.
That's right, this season makes the list.
After trading away team captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter it was tough to have expectations for a team that had so many unknowns.
Is Chris Pronger healthy? Are Giroux and JvR as good as the front-office is hoping? Is Ilya Bryzgalov going to be worth $51 million? Can Jaromir Jagr still play? Who are all these young kids?
Despite all the questions and despite some of those questions' answers being "no", Philly was still able to put up 100+ regular season points and land the fifth seed in the Conference.
But the expectations did not become tremendous until the Flyers beat their most hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the opening round.
Early deficits and a plethora of cheap shots, dirty hits and cowardly instigation by a frustrated Penguins team did not stop the Flyers from dominating Pittsburgh late in games and eliminating them in six.
When the Devils were announced as the Semi Final opponent the entire city was booking the Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and Flyers. Only nobody told New Jersey.
The Devils did what they have been doing to the Flyers for most of my life—breaking Philly's forecheck, taking the crowd out of the game and winning ugly.
After a Game 1 comeback that gave the Flyers a 1-0 series lead, the Devils owned Philly, winning four straight and sending them home before the Delaware Valley knew what happened.
Now, with the Stanley Cup to be decided between the long-time Philly foe New Jersey Devils and Mike Richards/Jeff Carter/Justin Williams/Simon Gagne (brain injuries permitting)/John Stevens/Ron Hextall/Dean Lombardi's Los Angeles Kings, it is hard to imagine a more disappointing end to a hockey season.
The Devils play a huge role in this slideshow, but that should not be a surprise to most fans.
In the strike-shortened 48 game regular season the Flyers managed to finish first in the Atlantic Division on the back of Eric Lindros' Hart Trophy season, having accumulated 70 points (29 G, 41 A) in the abbreviated year.
The Flyers made the playoffs in 1995 after having missed the postseason a franchise-record five consecutive seasons previously.
After running through the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, going 8-1 in the first two series.
The Flyers were matched up in the Conference Finals for the first time ever with division foe New Jersey Devils, who had lost in the Conference Finals the year before to the "Guarantee" Rangers.
The Devils began the reign of terror over Philadelphia, lead by second-year goaltender Marty Brodeur, as Jersey eliminated Philly in six games. Marty allowed only 14 goals in those six games against the Legion of Doom and the Atlantic Division's top-ranked offense.
The Devils? They, of course, went on to win their first of three Stanley Cup Championships during the Brodeur Era.
After losing in the Cup Finals the year before, the Flyers got off to a hot start in 2010, but faltered down the stretch, putting up a record of 14-11-7 from February to the end of the regular season, and losing the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the surging Washington Capitals.
Despite Chris Pronger missing 32 games, Philly still accumulated 106 points and finished second in the East.
In the quarterfinals the Flyers played poorly but were still able to defeat the Buffalo Sabres in seven games, looking especially strong in Game 7, lending to the thought the orange and black were turning it around and getting hot again.
Then, for a second consecutive season the Flyers met the Boston Bruins in the semifinals.
And for the second consecutive season Boston took a 3-0 series lead.
This year, however, there was no historic comeback, as Boston dominated Game 4, winning 5-1.
The Flyers were outscored 20-7 in the four-game sweep, physically dominated in the corners and in front of the net, and when Boston actually gave up a scoring chance Tim Thomas smothered it.
Philly used three goalies in these playoffs, as Brian Boucher played 422 minutes, Michael Leighton played 70 minutes and announced playoff starter Sergei Bobrovsky played 186 minutes over the 11 game playoff run.
The disappointment of these playoffs were the catalyst to big changes as franchise faces Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were shipped off and Ilya Bryzgalov was signed to a humongous contract to answer the city's Stanley Cup wishes.
So far the move has been a push.
I must say I have no memories of the 1980s Flyers, but after a little research, wow, the '80s were disappointing, and choosing which season was the toughest to swallow seems impossible.
From 1979-80 through 1988-89 the Flyers made the postseason each of the 10 seasons, finishing first in their division five times.
Philly lost the Cup Finals in 1980, 1985 and 1987, and lost the Conference Finals in 1989.
In 1980 the Flyers were eliminated by the Bobby Nystrom offsides goal in the first period of Game 6 against the New York Islanders, the incident that caused every Flyers fans, even ones who didn't watch the game, to know and hate linesman Leon Stickle.
The Islanders won their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
In 1985 and 1987 Philly fell to the Hall of Fame Edmonton Oilers, a team that won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons.
In '85 the Flyers fell in five games, but put up a fight in '87, taking the series seven games on the back of 22-year-old rookie goaltender and Vezina Trophy Winner Ron Hextall, who also claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy, despite the Flyers loss.
To add to the disappointment of the decade, a season after Swedish-phenom goaltender Pelle Lindbergh won the Vezina Trophy he lost his life in a fatal car accident only eight games into the 1985-86 season.
Honestly, I'm glad I wasn't around for this era of Flyers hockey.
The third and final appearance by the New Jersey Devils.
We all remember this one, don't we?
After stomping out the Sabres in five games and coming back from an 0-2 series deficit against Pittsburgh to take the series in six, it finally looked as if the Flyers were going to overcome their top rival, defeat the demons from North Jersey and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals after taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After dropping Game 5 by a score of 4-1, Eric Lindros made his much anticipated and controversial return in Game 6 after having been sidelined with the effects of several concussions since March of that year.
No. 88 scored his team's only goal in Game 6, a 2-1 loss, and was, of course, knocked unconscious by Scott Stevens in Game 7, which Jersey went on to win 2-1 as well.
The 2005-06 season was the first out of the year-long lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 season.
The Flyers being the Flyers, Philly's front office made a huge splash, signing future Hall of Fame center Peter Forsberg, All-Star D-man Derian Hatcher along with veteran defenseman Mike Rathje and winger Mike Knuble.
With Forsberg in the fold, expectations for a Stanley Cup title were at 5/1 in Vegas and even more favorable back in Philly.
But as it turned out the "New" NHL would be faster up the middle and less forgiving to players who got by with clutching and grabbing rather than skating to play defense.
It should be no surprise then that the team sporting Hatcher, Rathje and Chris Therien on its blueline would not hold up to the pace of playoff hockey, despite the efforts of Peter the Great.
The Flyers put up 101 points and finished second in the Atlantic but seeded fifth overall, Philly was matched up against a much better suited team for the new-style NHL, the Buffalo Sabres.
Lead by Danny Briere, Chris Drury and Derek Roy, Buffalo skated circles around the Flyers in the first round, outscoring the Flyers 27-14 and taking the series in six games despite eight points by Forsberg.
Gagne reached a career high in goals with 47 in 2005-06 paired with Forsberg and the duo appeared to be on the verge of greatness, but injuries and a change in organizational philosophy limited their time together.
Forsberg was traded around the deadline the following season, thus ending his era of Philadelphia Flyers hockey before it ever really began.
After a 103-point regular season and dismantling the Eastern Conference, losing only three games in the first three rounds, once again, all signs pointed to a parade down Broad Street.
The Legion of Doom was the talk of the league and the Finals were going to be the final coronation of a still baby-faced 23-year-old Eric Lindros.
But unfortunately, Philadelphia learned once again why the game is played.
Detroit owned the Flyers, holding Lindros to one goal, two assists and a minus-5 rating (overall No. 88 scored 26 points in 19 playoff games) and sweeping Philly out of the Cup finals for their first of back-to-back championships.
The Flyers would not return to the big dance again until 2010—the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups and lost another in that span.
The "last chance" Flyers are my favorite Flyers team of all-time.
Jeremy Roenick, John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Sami Kapanen, Tony Amonte, Eric Desjardins, Chris Therien and captain Keith Primeau all knew this was the last stand for their 30-and-over club and should have competed for the Stanley Cup.
But after Primeau willed his team to beat the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs for the first time, overcame the most physical series I've ever watched in the second round against Toronto and fought with everything they had for the first six games of the Conference Finals, Philly simply had nothing left for Game 7 against Tampa Bay, a 2-1 franchise-changing loss.
Game 6 will forever live in Philadelphia-lore for Primeau's heroics to tie the game late in the third to set up Simon Gagne's dramatic OT winner to tie the series 3-3.
But it was clear after Game 7 what direction the NHL was heading, as the younger, quicker Lightning outlasted the Flyers and went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames in a seven-game series.
The Flyers could have been crowned as an all-time dynasty with a victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals to win their third straight league title.
Having already dispatched the Soviet Red Army with their trade-marked physical play, the Broad Street Bullies beat the Bruins and Maple Leafs in the first two rounds of the playoffs to set themselves up for greatness.
Unfortunately the Flyers were without their most valuable player, goaltender Bernie Parent, for most of the regular season and playoffs.
Without Parent the Flyers were swept by the NHL's "good guys," and the Habs went on to win four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships.
Why must the Flyers always run into dynasties?
Like my list? Hate it? Leave a comment and let yourself be heard.