Philadelphia Flyers: Biggest Disappointments in Flyerdom
This offseason has been like no other in Flyers' history. With a huge changeover in talent and leadership, there is great potential for something great to happen for the 2011-2012 Flyers. However, as history has shown, there is also ample opportunity for disappointment. For every Ron Hextall, there is a Dominic Roussell.
Here is a look back at the eight biggest disappointments in Flyers history.
8. Eric Lindros
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Although Eric Lindros turned the franchise around, the Flyers' acquisition of him made the team relevant again and spared Flyers fans from having to pretend that the likes of Norman LaCombe, Tony Horachek and Brad Jones constituted a Stanley Cup contender, the Lindros era is looked back on as a a disappointment.
Lindros was amazing to watch; he could single handedly take over a game. He punished the opposition physically, was a very good playmaker and he had a one-timer that was practically unstoppable. He brought an excitement and a buzz back to the Flyers that had been missing for years. However, the team only made it to the Finals once where they were demolished in a four game sweep by the Detroit Red Wings and were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs in back to back seasons in 1998 and 1999. Granted, a lot of the failures of the Flyers during those years could stem from a lack of scoring depth and an inability to acquire an elite goaltender, ultimately credit and criticism for the team's performance lay at Lindros' feet.
As great of a player as Lindros was—and make no mistake he was great—his arrival sparked visions of multiple Stanley Cups. The failure to deliver even one makes Lindros ultimately a disappointment.
7. Ken Linseman
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Drafted seventh overall by the Flyers in 1978, Ken Linseman was the very first "Next Bobby Clarke" and, like all the rest, he was the first to fail. He was small for an NHLer like Clarke, he hustled like Clarke, he was, um, chippy like Clarke. Unfortunately, he wasn't Clarke.
He was part of that historic 1979-80 team that still holds the record for longest unbeaten streak in all of North American sports and even registered just under a point a game that season, but he suffered from injury and discipline problems that overshadowed his play and his personality did not mesh well with others in the franchise. After the Flyers were bounced in the first round of the 1982 playoffs, Linseman was traded to the Whalers for Mark Howe before the Whalers sent him to the Edmonton Oilers. Gone was the promise of the new era of the Flyers with Linseman at the helm. Fortunately, an era of Flyers hockey where Hall of Famer Mark Howe anchored the defense began.
6. Ron Flockhart
Ron Flockhart came out of nowhere in the late 1980-81 season scoring 10 points in 14 games. The following season, he scored a point a game and brought a unique style of play to the team. The phrase "Flockey Hockey" was coined and he became a sensation and a fan favorite. In 1982-83, his points average was already beginning to slide and the team continued to struggle in the playoffs. When Flockhart got off to a slow start in 1983-84, he was traded away to the Penguins for Rich Sutter and Flockey Hockey was no more in Philadelphia.
5. Todd Bergen
Drafted 98th overall by the Flyers in 1982, Bergen was a natural scorer who turned heads in the WHL and the AHL. He was called up to the Flyers in the 1984-85 season and immediately made an impact scoring two goals during his first game, including the game winner, against Vancouver. He also suffered an abdominal injury that sidelined him for two months. Upon his return, despite playing in pain, he picked up
where he left off scoring nine goals over 13 games and the Flyers never lost a regular season game with him in the lineup. In the playoffs, during the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals, he led all rookies in scoring with four goals, nine assists and 13 points in just 17 games and he looked to be a superstar in the making.
It was not to be. Bothered by his stomach injury and an intense dislike for head coach Mike Kennan, Bergen simply decided not to report to training camp in 1985 opting instead to enter golf tournaments. Eventually, the Flyers traded Bergen to the Minnesota North Stars where he aggravated his injury that ultimately caused him to retire from hockey, never playing in the NHL again.
The toast of the town in the spring of 1985 never panned out due to circumstance and injury and a promising career was unfortunately stalled in the starting block.
4. Alexandre Daigle
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Not just a let down for the Flyers, but the league in general, Daigle was selected first overall in 1993
by the expansion Ottawa Senators, signed the largest rookie contract in league history and then failed to live up to his potential and massive contract.
The Flyers traded Vinny Prospal to the Senators for Daigle in 1998, the hope being that a change of scenery and not being the number one guy on the team would kick start Daigle into living up to his incredible potential. The Flyers were gearing up for another run at the Cup and were looking for scoring depth. He did OK scoring 26 points in 37 games for the Flyers but he never excelled and he, like the rest of that team, disappeared during a first round exit against the Buffalo Sabres. The following season Daigle was worse scoring just three goals and two assists for five points in 31 games before being shipped out.
3. John Vanbiesbrouck
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"Beezer" was supposed to be the savior in goal. After making it to the Finals in 1997 by flip flopping journeyman goaltender Garth Snow and the aging goaltender Ron Hextall, the Flyers were easily dispatched by the Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers' lack of a top flight goaltender and coach Terry Murray's handling of Snow and Hextall were said to be contributing factors to the Flyers coming up short.
In 1998, the Flyers dealt Snow for Sean Burke. With Burke as starting goalie, the Flyers were bounced in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres. Gearing up to take a serious run at the Cup in the 1998-99 season the Flyers signed the former Vezina Trophy winner, John Vanbiesbrouck, to a two year deal in hopes he would be the top tier goaltender the Flyers needed to finally bring the franchise's third Stanley Cup home. The first year went well and it looked like the Flyers finally had their answer between the pipes...and then the playoffs started.
Missing Eric Lindros due to injury certainly did not help the Flyers in their first round match up against the Toronto Maple Leafs, nor did Vanbiesbrouck letting in a number of soft goals. After a spectacular Game One, Vanbiesbrouck played the rest of the series like an average goaltender, a sight all too familiar to Flyers fans. After two very questionable officiating decisions in Game Two and Game Six and during a painful Game Five overtime loss, Vanbiesbrouck was unable to steal victories for the Flyers unlike his counterpart in net for the Maple Leafs, Curtis Joseph.
Joseph, it should be noted, was also on the market as a free agent in 1998 but had a more expensive price tag. Different season, different starting goalie, same result for the Flyers: one and done.
The following season, Vanbiesbrouck got off to a shaky start and eventually lost his job to Brian Boucher...and the goaltending carousel for the Flyers really started to spin and would continue to do so until present time.
Though, it should also be noted, Beezer had one awesome goalie mask.
2. Chris Gratton
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Gratton was like a mini Lindros. He could hit, fight, score and pass. He was fearless and could work his way out of corners. At 6'4", 230 pounds, he was in the Lindros mold of a power forward who could make the fore-check a nightmare for the opposing defense. After losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals in 1997, GM Bob Clarke wanted to make a big splash in the offseason. And what a splash he made. He signed Gratton, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet. After a messy dispute about legibility on the offer sheet faxed to Tampa Bay and a possible deal with the Chicago Blackhawks threatened to make the Eric Lindros trade arbitration look cut and dry, the Flyers worked out a deal sending Mikael Rendberg and Karl Dykhuis to Tampa Bay in exchange for four draft picks they surrendered in signing Gratton in the first place.
Gratton was supposed to become a star in Philly, making it difficult for the opposition to defend against Eric Lindros and John LeClair then figure out who was going to shut down Gratton. Due to a huge signing bonus on top of his base salary, Gratton was the highest paid player in the league during the 1997-98 season. That first season with the Flyers, he matched his career high 62 points, but rarely ever dominated and never played like the player making the most money in the league should've been playing. Like the rest of the team he had a quiet playoff series against Buffalo. The following season, he changed jersey numbers from 55 to his normal 77. If Gratton was not superstitious, maybe he should've been. He scored only one goal—a fluke from the blue line that sneaked under the crossbar—in 26 games before the Flyers traded him back to Tampa for, you guessed it, Mikael Rendberg and Karl Dykhuis.
1. Peter Forsberg
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The signing of Peter Forsberg in 2005 made the then recent big time free agent signings of Chris Gratton and Jeremy Roenick pale in comparison. Forsberg was brought into town with the promise of being "the greatest hockey player in the world." Unfortunately, his short tenure with the team was marred by injury, frustration and a team pulling apart at the seams.
Originally drafted by the Flyers, the word around the campfire was that Forsberg would not leave Sweden to play in North America unless it was for a "European" type city...kind of like French speaking Quebec for example. This made him expendable to the franchise when Jay Snider and Russ Farwell decided to deal for Eric Lindros and thus starting a never ending comparison between the two and an uninformed argument that the Flyers got the worse of the deal.
This argument is usually made by people who don't realize the issues the Flyers were having getting Forsberg to come to Philly were almost as bad as the issues the Nordiques were having getting Lindros to play in Quebec; these are also usually the same uninformed people who blame Bobby Clarke—the then GM of the Minnesota North Stars—for making the Lindros trade.
While Lindros turned the franchise around, Forsberg eventually crossed the pond to play for the
Nordiques/Avalanche franchise, became a super star, won two Stanley Cups, an Art Ross trophy and a Hart Trophy. He also played on a team with Joe Sakic that had Patrick Roy in goal, which helps.
After the Conference Finals run in 2004 and the lockout "lost season" of 2004-05, the Flyers put the pedal to the metal to make 2005-06 the Stanley Cup year. With returning captain and 2004 playoff hero Keith Primeau, star forward Simon Gagne, free agent signings Mike Knuble, Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje and the promotion of "future superstars" Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers signed Forsberg to put them over the top and visions of a parade in June danced in the fan base's head. It was not to be.
Forsberg needed minor foot surgery before the year even began. The first half of the season, the Flyers played up to expectations despite losing Primeau to a career ending concussion. Forsberg was hampered by a groin injury limiting him to only 60 games, yet he still posted an impressive 75 points. Much to the dismay of the organization that was paying him close to $6 million, the injured Forsberg insisted on playing for Team Sweden in the 2006 Olympics, risking further injury. Upon his return, the team steadily declined, culminating in an embarrassing first round elimination to the Buffalo Sabres.
During the offseason, he had corrective surgery performed on his right ankle. He was expected to have the same surgery done on his left ankle and be sidelined until January of 2007. He opted not to have the second surgery. You'd be hard pressed to find a person on the planet who wanted to be the captain of the Flyers less than Forsberg did, but the Flyers ignored that and named him team captain anyway. His captaincy and season were plagued by questions regarding his contract situation, his injured feet and a special skate boot he needed to wear that became more well known to the city than most of the players.
Unable to work out a contract extension, the Flyers threw their hands up in the air and traded the constantly irritated Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall. Forsberg left behind a team in turmoil that was suffering through the worst season in their 40 year history.
What was the most hyped free agent signing in the team's history ended in major disappointment with the Flyers having the league's worst record. To add insult to injury, they even lost the coin toss to determine the first overall draft choice in 2007 to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks picked Patrick Kane who would come back to really haunt the Flyers by burying the overtime series winning goal past Michael Leighton as the Blackhawks beat the Flyers, on their own ice, for the Stanley Cup.
Thanks for the memories, Foppa.