Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.
A lot has been said about the disappointment most of us are feeling about the end to this Flyers season. That feeling is understandable. This team was so captivating all season long, so likeable, they truly did suck you in. You really wanted to see this cast of characters succeed. But on Tuesday night, to our collective dismay, the Philadelphia Flyers played their final game of the year.
They were beaten four straight times and truthfully, they deserved to be. The Devils proved over and over (and over) again to be the superior team. As Philadelphia sports fans, most of us awoke on Wednesday morning desperately seeking answers. WHO IS TO BLAME? Why did this team fall so short of their potential?
I, however, awoke asking different questions. Is anyone really to blame? Did this roster actually fall short at all?
The Philadelphia Flyers began this season by trading almost every cornerstone of the team away. This led some to speculate that we may be in for a rebuilding season of sorts. The Flyers were also introducing a goalie into a far less disciplined defensive scheme than he
has ever played in; a scheme minus its most important defensive player.
All that considered, maybe the Flyers over-achieved.
Still, as I glanced at the day’s Inquirer from across a busy convenience store, I could see that my optimism was not shared. The “Bryzaster”
headline let me know exactly what I was in for. This fanbase was looking for a scapegoat to slaughter and in this town, nothing’s quite as sweet as the blood of a goalie.
The Flyers’ goaltender has become, to us, that first guy they question in a Law and Order episode. You know that guy; the one who is out on parole and is un-cooperative before eventually leading the police on a lengthy chase. We chase down that man until he trips over something or one of us heads him off with a vehicle of some sort. It’s only after we get the ex-convict back to headquarters that he is revealed to be innocent.
Indeed, Ilya Brygalov was an issue that the Flyers needed to overcome to win their first series against the Penguins. He was not the goalie the Flyers paid him to be this season or post-season and I don’t believe that is debatable. But this isn’t all on Bryz.
The incredible saves that crazy Russian made to keep the Flyers in some of those games versus the Devils go a long way to absolve him of most of the blame. Given the circumstances, I’d say that Bryzgalov played well for most of this series. We, as a fan base, can not charge him solely with the crime of ruining the season.
If you’d like a more viable candidate for “Ruiner of all Things Sacred and Beautiful” as it pertains to the Flyers, I may be able to provide you with a solid lineup to choose from. To effectively single out any of these players,though, we must also accept that this season, we were trying to have our cake and eat it too.
When rookies on this team were playing out of their minds against Pittsburgh, we attributed that mostly to them being too young to understand
the gravity of the situation and that’s what allowed them to perform at such a high level. Maybe those same rookies were just too young to understand the gravity of the situation and that’s what prevented them from performing at a high level against New Jersey.
Untimely penalties, incessant turnovers at the blue-line, sloppy checking and misplaced aggression buried this team often this year. Those are
trademarks of a young team and when the Flyers ran up against a team that took advantage of those mistakes, they struggled mightily. When you remove the emotional and unlikely triumph over the cup favorites, we certainly could accept this ending.
This season took us for a wild ride. There were twists and turns, we laughed and cried but in the end the team ended up right about
where we thought they’d be. I don’t think we could have expected anything more. When you fill your roster with young exciting talent, your roster becomes filled with YOUNG exciting talent. That seldom wins championships.
That all being said, losing still sucks. It really sucks, but let’s try to keep this in perspective as best as we Philadelphians can. This was not a choke-job; this isn’t the “wrong mix of players” and the Flyers don’t need to draft a clutch quarterback. This team had a great season.
Those sloppy, inexperienced rookies are brimming with potential. What do you say to a little optimism this off-season? Let’s bask in the glow of what this team could be for a little while. There will be plenty of time to condemn them all when they come up short again sometime in the future and dammit, I just know we will.