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Flyers Youthful Enthusiasm Bodes Well for the Future: Fan’s Take
The Philadelphia Flyers have a great group of young players and a good head coach. That combination might allow them to make a Stanley Cup run this season.
Those last two sentences were fully applicable to Philadelphia's hockey team in the 1984-85 season.
The current team has many solid building blocks and a good coach. But it lacks consistent goaltending and has some defensive holes. They seem likely to play one round, or possibly two rounds, come playoff time in April.
This pure prediction isn't based on the past four days, but the past four decades.
It all starts here
Let's begin by acknowledging reality. Pelle Lindbergh was in net when the Flyers made their 1985 Stanley Cup appearance against the Edmonton Oilers. Ron Hextall was in Philadelphia's system at that time and would be in their goal crease when the Cup rematch arrived two seasons later.
Bernie Parent was between the pipes for the team's first Cup victory against the Boston Bruins in 1974. He was there again during the following season's Cup victory against the Buffalo Sabres in 1975. He is irrefutably, the Flyers best goalie ever.
Hextall won the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies for his brilliance in 1987, making him the organizations next best goalie.
It's fair to say that, despite the shortness of his life and career, Lindbergh ranks as the Flyers third-best goalie. He won the Vezina trophy during the 1984-85 season that has been referenced.
Here's the bottom line: Both Flyers Stanley Cups are completely tied to Parent's presence during those back-to-back championship seasons.
Hextall's monumental desire lifted his team to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final against one of the most offensively dominant teams in National Hockey League history.
Since Lindbergh had already won the Vezina trophy in his mid-20s and had also made a Cup appearance, it's completely logical to believe that he had more good days ahead of him. Obviously, the Hextall era may have never happened under that scenario.
Ilya Bryzgalov isn't currently playing anywhere near to the level that the three greatest Flyers goalies did.
Sergei Bobrovsky has shown continuing promise in his sophomore season.
Depending upon Bryzgalov's performance and attitude, 'Bob' may actually see time as the starter in this season's playoffs. Since he has no proven playoff track record, it isn't realistic to simply assume that he will carry this team to the Final on his back.
While the rosters of these orange and black groups aren't equally comparable, there is a comparable level of youthful enthusiasm that both share.
Mike Keenan was a taskmaster who was also a great coach. He led the Flyers to two Cup appearances in 1985 and 1987 and later won the Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.
Peter Laviolette is a gutsy tactician whose fiercely competitive nature allowed him to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006.
Both coaches have different coaching styles, but embody equal championship character. Laviolette has already proven to be the right man for this team at this time.
All opinions matter
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Flyers make a serious run at hockey's ultimate silver prize in future seasons, because the core of this group is deep. But, this particular team doesn't seem to have enough to make that run this spring. That's not pessimism, it's forty years of seasoned realism.
No one knows more about NHL hockey then those who are currently involved in the game, or have been involved in the game. All the rest of us are simply making our best educated guesses.
While sports understandably stirs emotions, there is a need for thoughtful commentary to balance unrealistic ideas.
Like most people, I played sports at an amateur level. I've been fortunate to have written about sports professionally for a period that crosses two decades. I've also followed hockey, in particular, for almost four decades.
This experience allows me to know that my opinion isn't the only one, or the most important one, in the world. Everyone's perspective matters, which is one of the reasons why so many people are so passionate about the games we all love.
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