VOORHEES, N.J. — It’s a strange, bizarre and even troubling time in Flyers Nation right now.
For the players, these past few days have felt like walking into a glass-plated funhouse or taking a tour of the old Eastern State Penitentiary. They’re not exactly sure what’s around the next corner or behind the next door, but they’re not the type of surprises that put smiles on their faces.
They sit in their locker stall taking in a few more deep, heavy breaths trying to process what has transpired and what it could mean for their futures. A couple of the younger players are seen whispering with the equipment staff. They’ve never been through this before.
The Ron Hextall tenure over the last four-plus seasons signified patience and stability. Now, all signs point to upheaval and turmoil.
“I don’t know what the next step is going to be,” Jakub Voracek said. “So far no trades. I don’t know if they will. I don’t know what they want to do. We are all good friends, so obviously it is hard when you get traded or some of your friends get traded.”
There’s only a handful of players on the current roster who have experienced this degree of tumultuous turnover. Only Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux have dealt with anything remotely similar to what the players are witnessing right now.
Voracek was steadfast in his position that the core group is sticking together despite a lack of postseason success that has seen the franchise without a playoff series win since 2012.
I think I would be a coward if I just ran away. If I get traded, then I get traded. If I stay here, my job is to do everything in my power to help this team become the best team they can be. S--- hits the fan, just let’s get out? That’s not how it works. That’s not how I was raised. I don’t think anyone in this locker room is thinking this way.
But still, they’re thinking and they’re wondering. It’s only human nature.
When they leave the rink and go home, they’ll be busy answering questions from their wives or girlfriends who can only wonder by this time next month if they’re contacting a realtor two or three times zones away.
“Obviously thoughts go into your mind. That kind of stuff, you can’t be thinking about it,” Giroux said. “We’re lucky enough we’ve got guys like you to put it into our heads, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out there and play our game and do our job. That type of stuff you can’t worry about because you can’t control it.”
Even Wednesday’s practice lacked high energy and emotion. Today, they’re playing for Dave Hakstol. Next week could be Phantoms coach Scott Gordon or whoever a new general manager elects to bring in.
With a scheduled day off Thursday, the players can temporarily decompress from what has been a very tempestuous week between a front office shake-up and a complete meltdown against the Senators Tuesday night.
Somehow, they must find a way to regroup before facing the Penguins on Saturday.
“As frustrating and pissed off as we are right now, we've got to find the confidence that we can have and how we can play as a team,” Giroux said.
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