Barring a miracle finish, this will be the fifth time the Flyers have missed the playoffs since 2011-12. They have alternated making and missing the playoffs every season in that frustrating 10-year span.
In other words, when they earned a berth, they didn’t build off it the next season.
It’s been a head-scratching period that has included five coaches, three general managers, and 17 goaltenders.
Claude Giroux has been the captain for the last nine of those seasons, five of which did not include a playoff berth, assuming they miss this year.
Giroux, who entered Thursday’s game against the Rangers tied for second on the team with 33 points, is pained by the Flyers’ ups and downs, and the fact they have won just one playoff series during his tenure as captain.
This was supposed to be a year the Flyers built off their strong regular-season finish in 2019-20, a year in which they won the round-robin tournament to become the East’s top seed and captured their first playoff series victory since 2012.
Instead, they have floundered. They took a 20-18-7 record into Thursday, had dropped into sixth place in the East Division, and had a minus-34 goal differential.
“I think last year we took a huge step forward from the year before,” Giroux, 33, said before Thursday’s game at Madison Square Garden, “and not being able to take another step forward is definitely very frustrating to be in the position we’re in now. I don’t think we saw each other being in this position at this point of the year, so it’s confusing and frustrating.”
Giroux was asked about the team’s goals in the final 11 games heading into Thursday.
“I know our chances of making the playoffs are pretty slim, but, saying that, we’re going to go into every game trying to win those games,” he said.
Alain Vigneault, the Flyers’ second-year coach, was asked his impressions of Giroux as a leader.
“In my time here with Claude, he’s been working extremely hard to be the best player he can be and to be the best captain he can be,” Vigneault said. “We had talked at the end of last year about a couple areas that I thought he could improve, and he’s been trying very hard. These are very challenging circumstances for our group, and he’s tried to lead by example and tried to do the right thing, so that’s what you want from your captain and that’s what we’re getting from Claude.”
York’s pro debut
Defenseman Cam York, the Flyers’ first-round selection in the 2019 draft, made his pro debut in the Phantoms’ 6-1 loss Wednesday to visiting Hershey.
York, rusty from not skating much in the last month because of COVID-19 protocols, was minus-2 in the defeat. The Phantoms were also rusty from not playing for 16 days.
“You ask any hockey player, and it seems like once you get out of your routine, it is a really tough situation,” York said. “As a hockey player, everything is about having a schedule and a certain routine. When you get thrown out of that for five weeks or whatever it was [for him], it almost felt like I had a little offseason there. It’s just a weird situation to go from playing games at Michigan to having that break and then having to ramp it up again, especially at the professional level.”
The Flyers plan to recall York later this season.
The Flyers recalled goaltender Felix Sandstrom and forward Pascal Laberge from the Phantoms to their taxi squad. In addition, forward Andy Andreoff and defenseman Mason Millman were loaned to the Phantoms from the taxi squad. ... After facing the Rangers again on Friday in New York, the Flyers play four straight games against New Jersey.