This wasn’t supposed to happen.
The Sixers were supposed to be the worst team in town, not the Flyers. The Sixers still haven’t played a real game yet, so that means … it’s the Flyers.
And at 1-7, it’s the worst start to a season in the franchise’s 47-year history.
Incredibly, it feels a lot like last season’s lockout-shortened 2-6 start under Peter Laviolette, except the Flyers are actually a better team after eight games than that one was a year ago.
Now, try to convince the South Philly locals sitting around the bar at the Philadium of that. You can’t.
As one general manager with a recent Stanley Cup said this week, “On paper, this is a pretty good team.”
On the ice? There is no chemistry right now.
“It’s still the same feeling -- a bad feeling,” offered Wayne Simmonds after another hard, conditioning practice at Skate Zone.
“It feels crappy. The one thing we have going for us is our goaltending and we’re letting it kind of go to waste at this point. Both Mase [Steve Mason] and Ray [Emery] have played well for us. We haven’t picked up the slack on the other end.”
Flyers captain Claude Giruox did the quick math. There are 74 games left to turn this club around.
It’s not like the lockout when it was 48 games and because all of them were within your own conference, every night someone gained or lost in the standings, regardless.
“That’s a lot of games and we played eight,” Giroux said. “Obviously, the record, we’re not happy with it. We’re doing a lot of good things out there. We have to stay positive in this room. If we do, we’ll start winning games and putting ourselves back in playoff position.”
Asked about his message to the players as their captain, Giroux replied, “It’s not just up to me. There’s a lot of leaders here, coaches and Homer [general manager Paul Holmgren].
“We’re all getting on the same page. When that happens, that is when teams start being dangerous. Go out there without hesitation and just play the great game of hockey.”
The team has already fired its coach. Holmgren would be the next logical target, but how does firing your GM turn around a 1-7 start? And before that happens, Holmgren would likely make a major trade to shake things up.
That could very easily happen during this six-day break between games.
Newly-installed head coach Craig Berube admits you can make a case this fall resembles last January, but only in a superficial manner.
“It’s similar -- we’re not winning hockey games,” Berube said. “But I don’t look at it that way. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Last season, the Flyers had injuries even before the games began. Their defense was a mess and remained a mess. And they couldn’t score goals. Of those three issues, goal scoring woes are still present and that is the most alarming aspect of this club so far.
Simmonds said he doesn’t feel players “has quit on each other,” but that the team recognize it's still not playing a full 60 minutes every game.
“It’s a long season, we can only get better,” he said. “I don’t think we can get any worse at this point, anyway.”
On Thursday, the Flyers became the first team since the 1964 Boston Bruins not to score three goals in a game in at least one of their first eight contests.
So far, the Flyers have a measly 11 goals -- three of them from rookie call-up Tye McGinn.
“We got to be better -- plain and simple,” Simmonds said.
You can see players pressing to score on the ice. Rolling their eyes. Smashing sticks on the ice. Looking upward toward the ghost of Kate Smith overhead.
“It’s my job to keep these guys motivated and upbeat,” Berube said. “Look at a lot of the positive things we are doing good.
“You obviously have to look at the things we’re not doing good to win hockey games but they’re professionals ... So far, they are positive and motivated and they want to do well. That’s a good sign.”
A few wins would be an even better sign.
Kimmo Timonen (lower body) remains day-to-day, Holmgren said, adding he is expected at Monday’s practice. Consensus among the staff is Timonen was not injured when hooked on the Penguins' first goal, but after being checked by Tanner Glass later in the second period. … Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) and Scott Hartnell (upper body) both will skate by themselves Sunday morning before joining teammates at the Eagles-Cowboys game. … Emery and Jakub Voracek each had a maintenance day off the ice. Both have minor aches, Berube indicated. ... The Flyers are off for the weekend.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.