VANCOUVER, British Columbia --They are out of clichés. They are out of answers. They may very well be out of time, regardless of how they do in the final game of their five-game road trip, against the Canucks on Saturday night, since the Flyers show no more signs of solving their crisis of confidence than they did a month ago.
An ugly loss in Winnipeg. A last-minute meltdown in their overtime loss in Calgary. A tepid response in Friday’s 4-1 loss to an Edmonton team that played into overtime the night before in Winnipeg.
``Ugh. It’s tough,’’ an exasperated Jake Voracek said after Friday’s loss. ``I don’t know what to say right now. It’s tiring always having to say we didn’t play that bad but we deserved better. At the end of the game, it doesn’t matter. You just have to win the games. We scored one goal again. Had a lot of [power-play] opportunities, didn’t generate anything. It’s tough.’’
The Flyers were 0-for-5 on the power play in Edmonton, including a four-minute double minor in which they generated three shots. No “Grade A” shots, Shayne Gostisbehere said. That takes them to 1-for-21 over the 10 games through Friday. NHL.com’s Adam Kimmelman pointed out in a tweet that after the first four games of the season, in which the Flyers converted 5 of 20, the team is 7-for-69 (10.1 percent). Eliminate the one outlier in those 26 games, a 3-for-5 game against Tampa Bay on Nov. 17, and they are 4-for-64 (6.25 percent).
That suggests a radically different interpretation of the civic narrative: Ian Laperriere might be the best coach, not the worst on Dave Hakstol’s staff. Indeed, given that the team’s only notable improvement during this road trip was in its penalty kill (11 of 15 kills), Lappy might even be the top coach overall.
OK, it’s a slight bump (73.3 percent) from their league-worst (73 percent) kill rate. Knock off that 3-for-6 disaster in Winnipeg, with Michal Neuvirth in net, and it looks much better.
At least somebody’s taking baby steps.
It’s not enough to save him from whatever fate might await the entire coaching staff when it returns this week. Hakstol dodged a similar crisis when Brian Elliott put this team on its back early last December, and he got what sounded like a vote of confidence from team president Paul Holmgren when he let Ron Hextall go.
But Hak was Hexy’s experiment, not Chuck Fletcher’s, and when the new GM was hired, Comcast chairman Dave Scott lauded his ``bias for action.’’
Fletcher was unavailable for comment on Hakstol’s status before Saturday’s game, saying through a team spokesman that he does not comment on rumors.
And Hakstol didn’t do himself any favors Friday night, when he again spoke of ``chasing the game’’ after Edmonton scored the first goal, as though a one-goal deficit with 50 minutes left to play against a tired Oilers team was tantamount to a climb up Mount Rainier. It’s a common refrain that even some players have tired of.
Can this team make the same kind of run as it did to make the playoffs last season?
Voracek said: ``It’s tiring to go through that every single year. Every year, you’re not going to go through a stretch winning so many games like we did last year, or two years ago -- no, three years, four years -- I don’t even know. Jesus, it’s happened so many times since I’ve been here.’’
Claude Giroux, asked to compare the Flyers' change of GMs with Edmonton’s coaching change last month, said, ``When a coach gets let go, the new guy come in, wants, obviously, to change a little bit what he wants system-wise, and on the ice change a little bit. But when you get a new GM, nothing really changes. How we get ready, our game plan, how we get ready for the game, all that kind of stuff. It kind of stays the same.’’
The Oilers were where the Flyers were a month ago. With a 9-2-2 record under their new coach, Ken Hitchcock, they are back in the hunt, back feeling good about themselves. Hitchcock said the Oilers might have righted themselves without him. But he also said, ``Sometimes, teams are in the position where they’re ready to listen. That happened to me in Philadelphia, and we just took right off.’’
The Flyers don’t seem to be listening. Haven’t been all season, really. Whether it’s the message, or the messengers, it all seems to suggest one thing: