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March 04, 2022

What are the Flyers even playing for?

There couldn't be a starker contrast between the two tenants of the Wells Fargo Center these past two days.

Not 24 hours after James Harden's Sixers' debut nearly blew the roof off the house in South Philly — with more than 21,000 ferocious fans packing the stands — the Flyers lost a hockey game they led four (yes four) times in front of barely 13,000 fans (if the reported attendance is to believed). 

The Sixers have the second best record in the east, NBA Finals buzz and boast potentially the best duo in the entire sport right now in Harden and Embiid. The Flyers have just two wins in regulation this entire year (in 14 tries) and are currently holding the NHL's fifth best lottery odds.

The Flyers have no identity besides being bad. The trade deadline is just a few weeks away, and the losing could become the de facto directive as they look to collect assets and figure out what to do to get better next season.

Their 5-4 loss to the Wild Thursday night was kind of a perfect encapsulation of what's gone wrong with this team all year. In addition to having a depleted roster, players with household names like Ivan Provorov and Carter Hart continue to play worse than expected and there is little for the team to hang its hat on.

And still, god bless him, interim head coach Mike Yeo remains optimistic. 

"That’s what it comes down to right now, we can keep preaching it, we can keep trying to motivate, we can keep pushing it and we will, believe me," Yeo said Thursday night, claiming that his Flyers do, in fact, have the ability to play what he calls 'winning hockey.' "I love this group I believe in this group but they have to grab hold of this and that’s how we’re gonna do it because if we don’t have complete engagement and complete buy-in to each other. That’s what winning teams do and we’re putting ourselves in a position where we can maybe win games. Structurally we’ve improved, but you play the game to win and we’re not winning. So we gotta be better."

The Flyers' 16 wins this season are the third fewest in the league. However they have 10 overtime losses, and those 10 points are why they are trailing a bit in the race for the chance to select first in this summer's draft. 

Here's some more evidence of their futility — if you want it in table form:

CategoryStatNHL Rank
Goals 13529th
Shootout wins0 (of 4 tries)32nd
Power play %14.2%30th
Penalty kill %76.4%25th
Shooting %8.2%31st
Save %.89826th

No, we didn't just cherry pick stats that helped our argument. The Flyers are doing nothing well. It must be hard to play hockey on a nightly basis when next year matters more than this year.

"It sucks especially losing that way," James van Reimsdyk said Thursday, no doubt thinking about how the Flyers have been out-scored 66-to-45 in the third period this season. "Sometimes, I think we can do a better job with recognizing certain moments throughout the game to be a little bit sharper. I really don’t have an answer for you."

The Flyers are 3-24-4 when they don't score first. They are 7-11-3 when they have more shots on goal than their opponents, and are 7-16-7 when their opponent has more shots than they do. And when the team starts selling off pieces in a few weeks, it's only going to get worse.

The good news? There will be an injection of youth as this season of disappointment continues. The team will get to evaluate young talent, guys like Jackson Cates, Isaac Ratcliff and Wade Allison. They will stockpile draft picks to compliment their own — which could wind up being in the top five of each round or better. And they'll hopefully open up some cap space so they can have a clean slate to rebuild in 2022-23.

The bad news? There are still 28 more games this season.

The Flyers host Las Vegas this coming Tuesday and StubHub has tickets starting at $13 for the game. Which means you can get into the half-full stadium to watch some of the worst hockey in the history of the city of Philadelphia for cheaper than it costs to get a bucket of crab fries and a soda.

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