With a point against the Flyers Tuesday night, the Dallas Stars can secure their place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The same Stars organization that saw their CEO Jim Lites take a verbal bullwhip to the Stars’ two superstars — Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn — and unleash a profanity-filled tirade that may have been a little extreme by John Tortorella standards.
Lites referred to both players as “f------ horse----” for their “terrible play” and the overall effort of the team over the first three months of the season. The argument certainly can be made whether Lites was actually on point by calling out the team’s two biggest point producers.
Since that outburst, Seguin has been in the top 20 in scoring, while Benn has continued to struggle mightily. The Stars’ captain is on the verge of finishing with his lowest point total since 2010-11 season. Overall, the Stars have played decent, with a 22-15-4 record since Jan. 28. More than likely, they’ll likely get bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
You can almost regard the Dallas Stars as the Western Conference equivalent to the Flyers in the East.
Dallas has advanced in the playoffs just once over the past 11 years, whereas the Flyers haven’t made it out of the first round since 2012. Within both organizations, you have high-end talent locked up in long-term contracts, but overall, they’re two franchises mired in mediocrity.
While it’s not prudent that such harsh words come from a team executive who has never played the game, there’s still a place within an organization for those types of conversations to take place. Accountability is a priority that should originate within the leadership group, and preferably in private.
Ask any player who wore the Flyers sweater during the 1990s and 2000s what it was like when Bob Clarke addressed the team in a closed-door session during a losing streak, or how captain Keith Primeau never backed down in calling out a situation, as uncomfortable as it may have been.
While this Flyers team may not necessarily miss Chris Pronger the player, they certainly lack the Pronger presence. That one player who will deliver a harsh message no matter how many feathers need to be ruffled, as long as that one player takes care of their own business on the ice.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov did precisely that at the end of the 2016-17 season — one where the Lightning missed the playoffs — by saying “some players got their money and stopped working.” Kucherov established the standard, has been arguably the league’s top player since, and the Lightning now own the NHL’s best record over the past two seasons.
When the Flyers were struggling mightily prior to Dave Hakstol’s firing, one player mentioned during a postgame scrum how tight-knit this group was and how they enjoy spending time together on road trips. The underlying concern with that is players don’t get paid for their chemistry off the ice, and whether they’ve created a culture where they don’t demand responsibility of each other for fear of being the pariah.
Instead, the Flyers have been a hockey team that will be drafting a lottery pick for the fourth time in seven years during which they have cycled through four different head coaches.
That should be an unacceptable standard to any CEO or GM, but it means very little if the leaders within the team don’t view it as completely intolerable.
And then take the hard, necessary steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
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