Now Or Never For Fading Flyers

Michael MaxwellCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 07:  Chris Pronger #20 and Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 7, 2010 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Leafs 3-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Certainly, there has been no shortage of adversity for these Flyers this season. 


The team has endured a coaching change, injuries to their top three (or four) goalies and their leading scorer, plenty of spats with the local media, and a recent avalanche of questionable officiating. 


They come into tonight’s game at home against New Jersey having won only twice in their last ten and sporting a five game losing streak.  It seems that everybody has written them off as colossal failures.


The talk on the Internet has turned to what this team will need to do in the off season to get better. 


What a minute?  Did I miss something here?  Have the Flyers been eliminated from playoff contention? 


Momentum in sports is such a fickle dance partner.  Last year, in mid-February, the Penguins were out of the playoffs. 


Less than 4 months later, they were Stanley Cup Champions. 


So, here the Flyers sit with seven games remaining and tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  The final chapter in this trying season will be written these next two weeks. 


I doubt that the team has time to spend cruising the recent Internet posts, but certainly they must be aware that plenty of less than flattering things are being written about this bunch.  Not just about the way they are playing, but about the character of individuals on the team.  What better motivation could Peter Laviolette provide for this team than the opportunity to prove all the naysayers wrong?


Pick your sports cliché: “No better time than the present”, “time to circle the wagons”, “play with that chip on their shoulders”, “rise above the adversity”. 


From a thousand miles away, despite everything that is being written about this team, it seems to me that team does have character in the dressing room.  The team has gone through stretches of great play this season. 


As recently as the time of the Olympic break, the Flyers put together a five game winning streak, including a sweep of back to back home and home series with New Jersey and Montreal.  The core of this team is basically the same as the group that got within 3 wins of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008.  They have it in them. 


Sure, calls are going to continue to go against them and they might even have more injuries, but no one is going to feel sorry for them.  They must use this as motivation to be better.  There is a lot of high priced talent on this team and they probably will be the biggest disappointment in the NHL if they don’t make the playoffs. 


Are guys like Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell going to be satisfied taking home their big salaries or are they going to show a little bite before the eulogy is written for this season, the season that started with such high hopes?  Of course, they get paid, no matter how the team performs.


If this team doesn’t meet the high expectations, it seems very likely that the historically impatient Flyers management will not stand pat with this mix of players.  Changes will be made.  But, lets hold of on those discussions until the appropriate time. 


Great moments are born from great opportunity.  Even with all the negatives that have leached onto this team in recent weeks, opportunity is staring the Flyers in the face at the moment. 


The fate of this team lays in the hands of the players…where it belongs.