The Philadelphia Flyers came into the National Hockey League in 1967. A mere seven years later, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and then repeated the next year. Even though the franchise has the second highest winning percentage in the history of the NHL, the Flyers have not won another Cup since. The Flyers have won division championships in 1968, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2002, and 2004. They've also won their conference championship in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1985, 1987, and 1997, meaning that they have lost in the Stanley Cup finals five times since their last championship in 1975. The 1979-80 team reeled off a 35-game undefeated streak, which still stands as the North American record. This franchise's history is not a bad record, to be sure, but what is it about this team that seems to prevent them from being able to get over the hump and win another Stanley Cup?
The Stanley Cup playoffs began this past Wednesday night, and the Flyers are already down 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round series. They lost last night in overtime on a goal by ancient Billy Guerin. They look tired, and they don't look like they have the kind of fresh legs needed to win a championship.
What is it with this franchise? For years, I blamed it on Bobby Clarke's stewardship as general manager. It always seemed like Clarke was bound and determined to re-create the Broad Street Bullies of the early 1970's, but Clarke's now been gone for a couple of years. To be be fair about it, his successor as GM, Paul Holmgren, has had challenges. His first team was coming off a franchise-worst season, and he had to rebuild from the bottom up. Just a year later, the Flyers made the playoffs again, and last year, they made it to the conference finals before losing to Pittsburgh.
However, it all begs the question of why, with all of the great talent that has worn the black & orange over the years, haven't the Flyers won another Stanley Cup? Something always seems to be missing, and something continues to be missing. I can only hope that the Flyers can turn things around this year and make it out of the first round, but given the incredible talent that Pittsburgh has, I'm not particularly optimistic. I wish I had the answers to the questions I've posed here, but I don't.
I just know that a team that has enjoyed as much success and has had as much talent as this one has shouldn't have gone for 35 years without another championship.