Philadelphia Flyers: 6 Reasons Why Their Stanley Cup Drought Isn't Ending Soon

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 6 Reasons Why Their Stanley Cup Drought Isn't Ending Soon

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    The drought in Philadelphia has gone on a long time.

    The Philadelphia Flyers helped usher the NHL into the modern era when they became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup when they defeated the Boston Bruins in 1974. They defended their title the following year when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres.

    However, it's been a long dry spell. The Flyers haven't won the Stanley Cup since then.

    Flyers fans might want to think their team is due since they have gone 37 years without a title, but it's not quite that simple in the NHL.

    The team still has a number of issues that it must fix before they are legitimate contenders for the Cup.

    Oh, yes, they must wait for this dastardly lockout to come to a conclusion before general manager Paul Holmgren and head coach Peter Laviolette can take the steps needed to improve the Flyers.

No Free-Agent Bonanza

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    The Philadelphia Flyers wanted to make a big move to improve their team during free agency.

    The Flyers had the desire to add Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two top prizes during the summer (source: NBCsports.com). While the Flyers had the will and the finances to get involved in the process, Parise and Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild and left the Flyers crying in their beer.

    Later in the summer, Paul Holmgren signed Nashville star defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet, but the Predators surprisingly matched that offer.

    So that meant the Flyers did not get any of the big-name free agents—restricted or unrestricted—that they wanted to improve their roster.

Chris Pronger Uncertainty

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    Chris Pronger missed the majority of the 2011-12 season with concussion-related health issues.

    Pronger is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He is a hard-hitting and physical defenseman who puts his imprint on every game. Opponents are much less likely to take liberties with the Flyers when Pronger is in the lineup. He is also a solid offensive contributor who has a blistering slap shot. He knows how to get that shot away quickly and put it in spots where opposing goalies have problems handling it.

    However, Pronger has not recovered from his concussion issues.

    The Flyers do not know when Pronger will be able to resume his NHL career. They don't know if he will be able to play again.

    While recent reports indicate he is starting to feel better, there is no timetable for a return to the ice (source: Philly.com).

    They are a much weaker team without him in terms of leadership, defensive ability and physical play.

Defensive Weakness

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    The Philadelphia Flyers had several issues last season that need to be addressed before the start of the season.

    One of those issues was a defense that simply did not play well enough.

    Not only was the team lacking in talent on the blue line once Chris Pronger got hurt, the Flyers made a lot of mistakes in terms of positioning, and sometimes the effort was not what head coach Peter Laviolette wanted to see.

    Andreas Lilja (hip) and Andrej Meszaros (Achilles' tendon) are also on the injured list for the Flyers, and they are likely to remain there when (if) the season begins.

Ilya Bryzgalov

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    The Philadelphia Flyers thought they had solved their goaltending woes when they brought in Ilya Bryzgalov prior to the 2011-12 season.

    However, Bryzgalov was an up-and-down performer who did not feel comfortable in Philadelphia.

    His season-long numbers were decent—2.48 goals against average, .909 save percentage and six shutouts—but he went through some severe slumps that were offset by hot streaks.

    That's not what the Flyers want. They want consistency from Bryzgalov. They did not get it from him in the playoffs last year when he had a 3.46 GAA and .887 save percentage, and they need it from him this year.

Can't Beat the Rangers

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    The Rangers and Flyers have had a serious hatred for each other since the 1974 playoffs.

    That year, the Flyers beat the Rangers in seven games to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. That series marked the first time in NHL history that an expansion team beat one of the Original Six teams in the postseason.

    Since then, both teams have had their moments in the rivalry.

    However, the most recent moments have belonged to the Rangers. In the 2011-12 season, the Flyers were beaten in all six games they played against the Rangers, including the Winter Classic.

    The Rangers are clearly in the Flyers' heads, and they must find a way to beat them if they are going to end their long Stanley Cup drought because the Rangers are one of the league's primary favorites going into the 2012-13 season.

Just Not Good Enough

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    The Flyers have solid talent in Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Danny Briere, Sean Couturier and Matt Read, but is it enough to give them a real chance to compete in the Eastern Conference?

    Can they skate with the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins once the lockout comes to an end? Those three teams appear to have an edge on the Flyers—at least on paper—and they might be more comparable to teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and New Jersey.

    The Flyers may not be able to muster goals when they need them against the best teams and will likely be fighting an uphill battle this year.