Few would have expected the Flyers to march into the last month of fall with a 5-3-2 record. Greater familiarity with the team would only have discouraged such optimism after an abysmal 2021-2022 campaign and lackluster offseason. Still, after 10 games, the Orange and Black remain in the thick of it in a loaded Metropolitan Division. Despite this encouraging start, the team’s tepid performance against a gauntlet of the league’s best teams reminded fans of what they already knew: the team simply does not have the horses to make a deep run. John Tortorella deserves all due praise for transforming the unit’s on-ice performance and attitude, but the coach will probably fight an uphill battle when it comes to personnel as long as Chuck Fletcher is his general manager.
In a brutal slate of October games, the group’s directness and physicality made them an outfit no one will be eager to play, but the gulf in quality between the Flyers and last season’s best teams still exists for all to see. While they only lost to the Rangers thanks to an ill-advised pinch by Ivan Provorov, the Flyers found themselves chasing the game in an overtime defeat against the Hurricanes. It was that much worse in Toronto, where John Tavares and the Maple Leafs undressed the fledgling team. Even in victories earlier in the season against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers only collected all the points thanks to net-front opportunism and the brilliance of a resurgent Carter Hart.
Flyers fans deserve a bit of optimism in light of their team’s decade-long slumber. Players like Zack MacEwan, Wade Allison, and Nic Deslauriers have coupled with Tortorella to bring an intensity that has been sorely missed on Broad Street. Nonetheless, the team’s top-five scorers are Tortorella’s preferred even strength unit of the Farabee-Hayes-Konecny line and Provorov-DeAngelo pair. Outside of that core group, all of whom have been impressive thus far, all of the Flyers’ potential 50-point scorers are injured long-term. While that is not Fletcher’s fault, the GM is to blame for the lack of marquee talent on a roster that has used all $80 million of its cap room and all 50 of its contracts.
Thanks to Fletcher’s shortsighted overpays, Tortorella will be left to pray that Owen Tippett or Kiefer Bellows finally live up to their first-round grades if he is to round out a balanced forward group. Given the results he has coaxed from his men so far, it is not impossible. Still, it is unacceptable that the first coach to bring any sense of identity to the Wells Fargo Center since Peter Laviolette is expected to achieve anything with this overpriced scrap heap. Worse yet, should Tortorella ride the hot hands of Travis Konecny and Carter Hart to a respectable season finish, Fletcher will be waiting in the wings to take the credit for assembling one of the biggest salary cap dumpster fires in the NHL. It is a reminder that, as ever, while Fletcher and his Comcast overlords remain in power, Flyers fans cannot have nice things.
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