The Philadelphia Flyers have an identity crisis. One that goes deeper than changing their system from recently fired Peter Laviolette’s aggressive full-court press philosophy to Craig Berube’s team defense approach. As steadfast as owner Ed Snider is in defending his organization’s “culture of winning”, their nearly 40 year Stanley Cup drought can be directly tied to his “Steinbrennerish” approach to building a team.
An examination of the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of two of the last four Cups, quickly points out where the Flyers continue to go wrong. Of the Blackhawks’ 23 roster spots, 12 of them were Chicago draft-picks. Included in that pool of harvested talent are goaltender Corey Crawford, core defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, and standout forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Flyers current roster boasts a grand total of three Philadelphia draft-picks, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Zac Rinaldo. Impatience is a recurring theme for the Flyers, as they rarely wait for their young players to blossom. Recent trades of James Van Riemsdyk, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Luca Sbisa simply follow a long pattern that includes Blackhawks’ sniper Patrick Sharp, two-time Stanley Cup winner Justin Williams as well as long-time pros Vaclav Prospal, Dainius Zubrus, Dennis Seidenberg, Joni Pitkanen and Janne Niinimaa.
Retaining their homegrown talent is only part of the problem, as drafting well is even a larger issue. The last defenseman Philly drafted that played with the Flyers for more than three NHL seasons was Chris Therien, hardly a top-tier player. Therien was drafted in 1990, giving the club a 23 year string of failure with blue-liners.
Standing tall between the pipes has been an even larger issue as the last two Flyer Vezina trophy winners were Ron Hextall and Pelle Lindbergh, drafted in 1982 and 1979 respectively. A team that still clings to the memory of Bernie Parent and the Cups he helped win in the early 1970s hasn’t been able to pick the right goalie in the draft for over 30 years.
A bitter Snider vehemently denied that his organization required changed at last week’s press conference to announce the termination of yet another head coach. However, a reasonable analysis shows a franchise desperate for a philosophical evolution, a new direction from their next general manager, an influx of fresh scouts and an injection of patience. Only then will the Stanley Cup be paraded down Broad Street again.
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