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Inside the Flyers: Should Flyers tank for top pick?

ANAHEIM, Calif. - With 10 losses in their last 11 games, the Flyers are doing a pretty good impersonation of the tanking 76ers.

(Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports file photo)
(Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports file photo)Read more

ANAHEIM, Calif. - With 10 losses in their last 11 games, the Flyers are doing a pretty good impersonation of the tanking 76ers.

Unlike the Sixers, however, there's a bit too much talent for the Flyers to land the top draft pick - unless general manager Ron Hextall has a (tempting) fire sale.

The Flyers, of course, are not close to being a Stanley Cup contender, but if coach Craig Berube gets them playing the type of relentless hockey they displayed for most of last season, they still could sneak into the playoffs.

That said, after their latest tailspin, including a 5-4 shootout loss Wednesday in Anaheim, the Flyers have made earning a playoff berth a long shot. They entered Thursday tied for the fourth-worst record in the NHL, but just six points out of a playoff spot.

Only Edmonton, Columbus, and Carolina had fewer points than the Flyers before Thursday's action.

There are legions of fans who want the Flyers to tank, want them to be in contention for the No. 1 draft pick and have a chance to select Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, centers considered to be franchise cornerstones.

Based on the start of the road trip, the Flyers are too "good" - and we use the word lightly - to maintain a "Tank for the Best Draft Pick" threat.

Unlike the Sixers, the Flyers are competitive in most games. Are they a good team? No. But they are a team that has no right being in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes.

Again, unless Hextall unloads some players, brings up prospects, and takes even more lumps - which he certainly must be considering as the team prepares for a game Saturday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.

The Flyers played very well and deserved a point in San Jose on Tuesday before a neutral-zone breakdown led to a goal with 11.5 seconds left, giving the Sharks a 2-1 win.

They were as good as gifted Anaheim on Wednesday, but again had some defensive breakdowns and blew a 3-1 second-period lead in their ninth consecutive road loss.

The Ducks blew a chance to ice the win when they flubbed an open-net opportunity in the waning seconds. Wayne Simmonds went down the other end and scored on his own rebound, knotting the score at 4-4 with 2.6 seconds left.

No matter. The Flyers lost in the shootout. The Flyers always lose in the shootout, where their forwards are stunningly bad and goalie Steve Mason sits back and doesn't challenge shooters.

If teams were awarded the No. 1 draft pick on shootouts alone, the Flyers would have McDavid or Eichel in their hip pocket.

Over the last two years, the Flyers have lost nine straight shootouts, including all four this season. Since the shootout started in 2005-06, the Flyers are an NHL-worst 27-55 in the glorified penalty-shot competition.

This season, their shooters are just 2 for 13 in shootouts (15.4 percent), while opponents have beaten Mason on six of nine shots (66.7 percent).

Mason despises shootouts.

"You look at the overtime - that's what hockey is all about," he said. "There's some great plays, good saves, nice passing. Then you go into a shootout and it's a skills competition. You guys know my thoughts on it."

Despite the latest bad ending, there have been some positive signs on this West Coast trip.

"I think the last two games are something to build off of," said R.J. Umberger, who ended a 17-game pointless streak with a power-play goal in Anaheim.

Umberger talked about the Flyers' playing with "structure" and "fight" in their last two losses. "And those are games you can build off of and come together as a team," he said.

Umberger and his teammates still believe they will be a playoff team, even if a growing number of fans seem more interested in having the Flyers adopt the Sixers' philosophy.

The sad realization: The Flyers aren't bad enough to get franchise-changing players in the draft, and they aren't good enough to be a Cup contender.

There are no quick fixes for Hextall. He inherited a messy cap situation and it's going to take a few years to get out of it.