Flyers

After missing playoffs, it's fair to ask: What's Flyers' standard?

After missing playoffs, it's fair to ask: What's Flyers' standard?

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. 

Sound familiar? 

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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An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

Jay O'Brien had a BCHL mission in 2019-20.

He was out to regain the bravado that he lost as a freshman at Providence, the get-after-you mindset that made him so appealing to the Flyers in the first round of the 2018 draft.

From Chris Clark's standpoint, the mission was completed. The interim head coach and assistant GM of the Wenatchee Wild saw O'Brien's Penticton Vees plenty during the season.

O'Brien, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound forward rebuilding his brand and penchant for scoring, put up 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in seven games against Penticton's rival Wenatchee.

“Other than the offense, the biggest thing you notice about that kid is that he has a ton of swagger and a ton of confidence," Clark said last month in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He plays on the edge, he likes to get into the verbal battles, he has a ton of swagger. You respect that. Obviously you don’t like to see him do well against you when they have that much swagger but you’ve got to respect a kid that knows what he wants."

(Jack Murray)

The 20-year-old looked like himself again after a difficult transition to the Division I level in 2018-19. With the Friars, O'Brien suffered upper-body injuries and scored five points over 25 games. He had trouble with the strength, pace and lack of space in the college game.

"You never want a year like that," O'Brien said last June, "but in a way, it was helpful for me to light the fire even more."

O'Brien transferred and took his fuel to the BCHL, a junior A league and solid stepping-stone for college-bound players. Yes, it's a different level, but O'Brien went to the BCHL with expectations and met them, a major plus for his development as he heads to Boston University in 2020-21.

With the Vees, O'Brien scored 66 points (25 goals, 41 assists) in 46 games and 10 (five goals, five assists) through five playoff contests before the coronavirus outbreak cut the BCHL season short. O'Brien's nine game-winning goals led the league and his 1.43 points per game ranked third, behind only Kent Johnson (projected 2021 first-round pick) at 1.94 and Philippe Lapointe (Michigan commit) with 1.53.

O'Brien established himself among the BCHL's elite, confidence he'll take to the Terriers.

“Oh without a doubt, him and Kent Johnson, who will be a first-round pick next year," Clark said. "I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. I thought there was a ton of talent in the BCHL this year, but he was definitely one of the top three or four players in the entire league ... not even close.

"He carries a ton of confidence and tremendous amount of swagger — which is good, you need that, you’re an offensive player, you know that every night people know who you are, you’ve got to be able to have that swagger. He definitely did this year. Hopefully for his career moving forward, he continues to develop that and have that — because there’s no doubt when he has the puck on his stick, good things are going to happen nine times out of 10.”

(Jack Murray)

Against Wenatchee, a playoff team itself, O'Brien recorded four multi-point games, including a four-point outburst and an overtime winner. The Wild also held O'Brien to only one assist on three different occasions.

"Extremely talented," Clark said. "He had a large number of points against us unfortunately, scored some big goals against us, just dating back to the last regular-season game, getting the OT winner. He’s just one of those players when he has the puck on his stick, you take notice — you know that he’s got a chance to make something special happen, whether it’s scoring or setting up a guy for an unbelievable look. He’s very gifted offensively, there’s no doubt about that.

"I don’t remember firsthand those games where he only had one assist, but I would be willing to bet he probably had some quality chances. ... I don’t know if we can say we shut him down necessarily, but our guys took a lot of a pride, you want to play against those guys. He comes with a lot of notoriety and well deserved — he’s an unbelievable hockey player."

O'Brien will head to B.U. much more prepared for the Division I competition at 20 years old compared to when he was 18 coming right out of high school.

Clark, who has been with Wenatchee since 2008 and was a graduate assistant for Minnesota State (where he also played), sees a player ready for his second D-I shot.

O'Brien made sure everyone saw that.

“In college hockey, you’re playing against men, you’re playing 24-year-old men," Clark said. "A lot of times in junior hockey, you’re playing against 18-, 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds — we have a limit on 20-year-olds in our league, you can have only six or less. A lot of those kids are still developing, they’re still growing into their bodies, they’re still putting on weight. But when you get to college and you’re playing against a 24-year-old senior, that’s a man, that’s a guy who’s probably ready, given the opportunity, to step in and play professional hockey at a high level.

"So I think that’s a big difference, but I just think with his ability to skate, his ability to think the game at a very quick pace, it’s going to translate. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened his first year at college, but everybody has their ups and downs throughout life — if he considers that a down, I don’t know if he does or not.

"But I would say that he’s going to have no problem when next year he gets to college, he’s going to be a heck of a hockey player.”

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Jeremy Roenick's #AtHomeAllStar video has surprise twist ending

Jeremy Roenick's #AtHomeAllStar video has surprise twist ending

The thing about athletes and former athletes is that they're stuck at home just like the rest of us. Only their homes are way bigger and half of them have putting greens in their backyards.

Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick shared a video where he runs a little sports obstacle course of sorts as part of a #AtHomeAllStar challenge. And he's definitely got a pretty sweet backyard.

Roenick shows of the requisite hockey skills but then dabbles in other sports. It's mildly entertaining and absolutely pointless.

The twist ending is perhaps the best part. I can relate to that part, at least.

I feel like there was a missed opportunity to do a cannonball into that pool though.

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