Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Fall of the Flyers

- There is a tiny part of me that almost (and I stress almost) feels sorry for Flyers fans.

To watch your team go from consistently being a league powerhouse to being the league's worst team in just one year is enough to give you whiplash.

This is a team whose roster is composed almost entirely of minor-leaguers due to injuries, trades and offseason free agency. Goaltending is inconsistent at best, and the only bright spot seems to be their penalty-killing. Their longest winning streak of the season consisted of 8 fewer games then their longest losing streak, which also set a franchise record. Their newly-anointed captain and backbone has been out of the lineup more than he's been in it, and without him they have yet to win.

You could see the frustration on the faces of those few brave souls who dared to don the orange and black at Verizon last night. Their ritual "Let's Go Flyers" was half-hearted and was quickly and easily muted by the hometown crowd, something I can't remember happening in years. By the end of the game they were all either silent or gone, their chants being replaced by gleeful refrains of "Last Place Flyers".

Still, it's hard to get too verklempt over the spectacular fall of the Flyers this year. I only have to remind myself of a few things to make last night's win seem even brighter and shinier than before:

1) All too fresh in my mind are memories of games where the Philly faithful wasn't pitiful and sad, but loud, obnoxious, and overwhelming in number.

2) 32 years of history that shows the Caps never going a season without losing to the Flyers at least once (although the playoffs were much prettier).

3) Ron Hextall.

But most of all, it's important to note that all teams go through this at some point in their existence. There will be those times when you can't wait for the end of the season to herald the return of the playoffs, and there will be times when you just can't wait for the season to end period. It's hard to get that worked up about a team finally hitting that rough patch after what seems like decades of at least average performances.

There's just something karmically sound about the way things are progressing. After years of being bullied by the Flyers, the Capitals finally get to string together a few wins, the latest of which was accomplished with what can only be described as lack of effort. Meanwhile the Caps appear to at least be headed in the right direction, and while there are frustrating nights and bad bounces, they are much fewer and farther in between than even a year ago.

It'll be interesting to see how the Flyers respond to this season - will they fire their coach again? Will they start selling off parts before the trade deadline? Will they draft another big, slow defenseman with their top 5 pick? All questions to be answered joyfully at a later date...

- Congrats to all our All-Stars, both NHL and AHL!

The fans have spoken (some more than others) and Ovechkin will be starting alongside his good buddies Crosby and Briere for the Eastern Conference team. Now that's entertainment...

Shall we open the floor to guesses as to who else will be selected from the Caps? I'd like to see Olie go, but I don't think he will - nor does he seem particularly interested in going. Maybe Semin...beyond that your guess is as good as mine.


Victor said...

There is a tiny part of me that almost (and I stress almost) feels sorry for Flyers fans.

Can't do it. Can't feel sorry for them at all, not even "almost." And I won't feel sorry for Pigeons fans when the team moves to OKC, either. You reap what you sow, and fans of both teams have sown a lot of bad feelings. It's always fun to watch when they get bit in the butt with it.

True Story: My gf's family has had Caps season tix for all but two seasons. At the Cap Centre, there were a lot of families in their section and they got friendly with all of them. They noticed one guy stopped coming to Flyers games. When they asked him why, he told them after the last one he attended, his car had been *severly* vandalized by Philly fans.

DCSportsChick said...

Hextall is the reason why I never became a Flyers fan, despite living close to Philly for 18 years.