(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Jason Rogers of Japer's Rink, a Capitals fan, fondly remembering the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers.)
(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
BY JASON ROGERS (Find him on Twitter here.)
It's an unseasonably warm day in Philadelphia, and the world is ending.
Alien invaders, or maybe giant bugs, or even perhaps the Russians, are laying waste to the city. Independence Hall lies in ruins, shrouded in tattered tourist pamphlets and the collected indifference of decades of field trips. The Liberty Bell, fused back together by the unfathomable heat of an errant death ray, no longer shows any crack, and is forever divorced from the hearts of Philadelphians as being “too prude or somethin'.”
From amongst the rubble, Flyers GM Ron Hextall emerges. Wiping dust from his suit and someone weaker's anonymous blood from his goatee, he surveys the scene. He spies two invaders and cross-checks one clean in half with his goalie stick. He trips the other with the shocking dexterity of Little Bo Peep sent to SWAT school. His downed foe mutters something that sounds like “trapezoid” and vanishes.
Hextall whirls around and cranes his neck up to see a new wave of better, faster, stronger opponents encircling Philadelphia. One after another they fire shots, destroying building after building, institution after institution, leveling the city and leaving nothing but smoldering remains and a palpable lack of hope.
Surveying the destruction, Hextall takes a long drag of a gnarled cigar and spits.
“Whatever, it was a rebuilding year anyway.”
* * *
What can you say about the Philadelphia Flyers' 2015-2016 season that hasn't already been said about the Donner Party? “Who thought we'd even make it this far?” “Our roster is young and meaty.” “No one can say we weren't hungry.”
“Playing with house money” is a lovely self-assurance but something only gamblers say, and only when they're losing. It is the self-awarded participation ribbon of professional sports, and sure doesn't catch the light like a trophy does. To be content with a first-round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the hallmark of a broken city, beaten down and demoralized by years of futility and being told cheez whiz on a meat Kleenex is a point of pride.
The Flyers' 2015-2016 season began with the blockbuster, franchise-resurrecting hire of a coach with no professional coaching experience. Dave Hakstol, the apparent lovechild of an isosceles triangle and a weasel, was brought in from the University of North Dakota.
Many wondered if a place of such cultural desolation and unflinching irrelevance would present a culture shock, but no: Hakstol quickly adjusted to life in Philadelphia. Ask any Flyers fan and they'll tell you that his year was a nonstop rocket ride to the top, a meteoric parabola of unfettered success and surpassed expectations, a crazy go-go rollercoaster of dreams un-dared to be dreamt, culminating in any franchise's ultimate goal of fifth place in the division.
The coach's success, ripe and undeniable like a sexually aggressive zombie, oozed to the rest of the team. Wayne Simmonds had a career scoring year, leading Philadelphia in its goals just as mayor John Street did when he begged the city to collectively stop being so fat and disgusting. Simmonds is a darn fine hockey player, lanky and nasty like Bridgette Nielsen but far less famous for screwing Philadelphians.
Claude Giroux, both a man and a drunk Philadelphian's mispronounced deli order of a cold gyro, had his best statistical season in five years …
… if he were a golfer.
Five-year lows in both points and goals surely helped spur the Flyers to the playoffs, where his production continued to blossom. In six playoff games he scored one point, which is a great stat line for a bad debate team. Together, he and Simmonds combined for as many points as Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. When reached for comment, Holtby, speaking live from his newly purchased villa deep within Giroux and Simmonds' heads, said, “It's true. It's spacious in here, and I look forward to running for city council and finding a good school district for my kids to go to.”
As any Philadelphia geometry textbook will tell you, there are three sides to every line. Enter Brayden Schenn, a man whose very name causes onlookers and spellcheckers to cry out “Why!” With his great play in the first round (2 assists, 7 PIM), Schenn etched his name into the record books that reside in the scheduling department of the Department of Player Safety.
During Game 4 against the Washington Capitals, Schenn made a mistake anyone wildly unfamiliar with scoring or good hockey might make, cross-checking Evgeny Kuznetsov in the ACL after the play was over when Kuznetsov wasn't looking.
Honest mistake, right? Schenn isn't a dirty player. In fact he's so not dirty that he scheduled a meeting with the Department of Player Safety even after being eliminated, just because he's a totally clean player who would like a bit more literature on NHL concussion protocol so that he can properly contribute to the debate oh and because he took a flying headshot at Capitals forward T.J. Oshie in Game 6.
The annals of anomalous anus behavior are lined with misunderstood Flyers players and fans, good guys getting bad wraps for things they didn't do, reputations they don't deserve, and the kind of general cognitive dissonance that allows Pittsburgh to make a real claim to being the best city in Pennsylvania.
Of course, in Game 3, a blowout loss, 20,000 Philadelphia fans became the victims of the largest media witch hunt in history, when a convincingly executed and intricately coordinated Photoshop job made it seem as though dozens of heavy plastic bracelets were hurled from the stands onto the ice and at injured opposing players. The lamestream media might even produce cleverly doctored audio of Wells Fargo Center announcer Lou Nolan begging Philadelphia fans to “stay classy,” but you're smart enough to know that a thinking person would sooner plead for ice water in hell.
You may even search NHL.com and find that the crowd, the crowd, was assessed a Delay of Game penalty, but even this conspiracy has one fatal flaw: no one would ever deliberately prolong a Flyers game this season.
* * *
So what does the future hold for the Flyers?
Oh, it's bright, baby. Bright like Ryan White's bedsheets under a black light. Bright like goalie Steve Mason's career as a begrudgingly chosen starter when Michal Neuvirth's groin inevitably flies apart at the seams like the torn jib of a wayward clipper ship. Bright like rookie Shayne Gostisbehere for choosing a nickname that Philadelphia fans could pronounce with emojis.
It's not like the Flyers have any competition in the Metropolitan Division. Only the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, two superior playoff teams, and the other wild card winner. You know, two-thirds of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Easy peasy, nasty aerosol cheesy.
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