They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same (dumb) thing.
Sort of like the Flyers and slow starts to seasons and games.
You know the drill: Start the season slowly. Fall behind early in a majority of games. Stage a furious second-half rally. Barely miss the playoffs -- or barely make them but expend so much energy getting there that there is nothing left in the tank.
That’s been the Flyers’ way the last several seasons, including this one.
They finished their season 37-37-8, sixth in the eight-team Metropolitan Division, and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven years. They accumulated just 82 points, their lowest total since 2006-07, and finished with a goal-differential of minus-37.
In the Year of Eight Goalies, they allowed the first goal in 50 of their 82 games. Worse – much worse – is they fell behind, 2-0, in 32 of their 82 games (39 percent).
They won just four of those 32 games.
“As players, we have to take responsibility to be ready every night,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said after the Flyers cleared out their lockers at their Voorhees practice facilities and met with the team’s brass and the media Sunday.
After a 5-3 loss in Washington on Jan. 8, the Flyers had just 15 wins and 28 losses (15-22-6) and, for all intents and purposes, were cooked. The next night, they were last in the 31-team NHL with 36 points.
“We obviously just kind of shot ourselves in the foot, particularly the start of the first half of the season,” van Riemsdyk said. “We put ourselves in that big hole and needed that (18-4-2) run we did go on, and couldn’t quite get over that hump. … I think we ran out of steam toward the end of the year.”
Van Riemsdyk, who finished with 27 goals, repeated an all-too-familiar line from the players in recent seasons.
“Next year,” he said, “that’s going to be a key – getting off to a good start and being ready right away and making sure we’re all on the same page with what we’re trying to do.”
Nolan Patrick, a 20-year-old center who has been up and down in his first two seasons, said he didn’t know the reasons for the Flyers’ slow starts.
“Consistency is something we need to work on and get better at,” he said. “Losing 10 in a row my first year, then going on a winning streak and getting back into it. And then this year, going on a big losing streak, coming back and almost getting back into the playoffs.”
Patrick said the Flyers must avoid the peaks and valleys and manage “those swings. … It’s a tough league and it’s tough to win in, but I think we have the guys to do it.”
Having goalie Carter Hart for a full season could help the Flyers get off to a much better start in 2019-20.
“I think he’s going to be a top goalie in the league,” captain Claude Giroux said.
Giroux, whose team was outscored by a 94-63 first-period margin, said it took the Flyers too long to get into a game’s flow this season.
“We were trailing a lot during the season,” he said. “I feel like we’re always trying to catch the games and we did a good job of coming back in most of the games and getting it back to tied up, but obviously when you get the first goal or the second goal and have the lead, you play differently. We were just trailing way too much during games.”
Was that because the coaches didn’t have them prepared at the start of games?
“No, I think it’s on the players,” Giroux said, adding that the Flyers seemed to thrive in the second period of games. “Just knowing to be prepared when the puck drops. Like I said, when we’re in the game and playing, I feel like we’re a pretty intense group and that’s when we play our best. But we need to find a way to do it early.”
Many of the Flyers were asked if they thought general manager Chuck Fletcher needed to bring in new players because the current group had become stale and had repeatedly chased games.
“Obviously, missing the playoffs, it looks like we’re not heading in the right direction,” said Giroux, 31, who led the Flyers with 85 points, “but I strongly believe that very soon we’re going to be a dangerous team.”