These Flyers are not your father's Broad Street Bullies.
Oh, there are a few similarities. These Flyers do lead the league in penalties and in fighting infractions, just like their bad-boy predecessors of the 1970s.
But these Flyers (average penalty minutes per game: 18.4) aren't the wild-eyed brawlers who made the Broad Street Bullies (average penalty minutes per game in 1974-75: 24.4) so despised by the NHL, referees and fans from around most of North America.
Except in Philadelphia, of course.
These are not your father's Broad Street Bullies - though some referees may not have noticed.
These Flyers get most of their penalties on ticky-tack infractions, which was hardly the case when Dave Schultz, Bob Kelly, Andre "Moose" Dupont et al., were causing havoc in the 1970s.
The comparison between these Flyers and the famous/infamous teams of yesteryear became a topic this week after the club's 3-2 loss in Florida on Tuesday.
Mike Richards' game-tying, third-period goal was nullified because referee Dave Jackson ruled that Kimmo Timonen had interfered with a Florida defenseman a split second before the shot went into the net.
Afterward, Richards was incredulous about the borderline call.
The soft-spoken, 23-year-old captain summed it up by saying: "You have to understand that we're the Flyers, and we're going to get those calls called against us." He said that kind of officiating mentality has been going on for years.
This season's numbers suggest there is some validity in Richards' comments. Through 47 games, the Flyers had 174 power plays and 238 shorthanded situations. That minus-64 differential is, by far, the largest in the NHL.
But it's not even close to the whopping minus-209 differential of the Stanley Cup champions of 1974-75 or the minus-153 differential of the 1973-74 Cup champs. (Both of those Flyers teams overcame the shorthanded situations with spectacular penalty killing that ranged between an 84.1 and an 88.4 percent success rate.)
Don't get the wrong idea. These Flyers deserve most of the blame for the slew of penalties. Too much reaching. Too much standing still. Too much bad positioning.
Again, most of the penalties are deserved.
But from here it does seem referees watch the Flyers more closely, especially on the road, where Philadelphia had a minus-49 differential in power plays (80) and shorthanded situations (129) entering Friday. They had more power plays than their opponents in just four of their first 24 road games.
Again, this is not meant as an apology for the Flyers' shortcomings. At times, they are too undisciplined. Example: They have been called a league-high 11 times for too many men on the ice.
That said, they do seem more scrutinized than other teams. Example: Florida had too many men on the ice in the third period Tuesday, but it was never called.
"I'm not going to come up with a conspiracy theory or anything," said veteran winger Mike Knuble, the Flyers' elder statesman and a voice of reason.
If there was a conspiracy, the Flyers wouldn't have gotten a fair shake last year, when they had a plus-two power-play/shorthanded differential at the all-star break.
Even the suggestion that the Flyers are being watched more closely because of Schultz and pals has been a source of amusement to NHL officials.
On a Sirius XM radio show Thursday, Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, noted that he and NHL executive Mike Murphy "played against the Broad Street Bullies in the early '70s," and that "we put out an order to pick on the Flyers."
He was kidding, folks.
"We hear from everybody that they're being picked on," Campbell said. "It's a constant gripe."
No one mentioned that other teams don't have the penalty minutes to support the claim.
"For the most part, fans are adamant and passionate about their team," Campbell said. "But I can assure . . . all Philly fans that every team has those questions every night and we try to be completely fair in every one of our 1,230 games."
At least the Flyers have gotten the attention of Campbell and Stephen Walkom, the league's director of officiating. At least the NHL hierarchy will be watching referees closely the rest of the way to make sure the playing surface is equal.
In the meantime, the Flyers need to show more discipline, stop taking lazy penalties and quit using all the shorthanded situations as an excuse for being drained of energy in other parts of their game.
Maybe they need to adopt an us-against-the-league mentality and use it to their advantage.
Like your father's Broad Street Bullies.
On May 28, 1987, J.J. Daigneault scored with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in regulation, giving the Flyers a 3-2 win over Edmonton and forcing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Some say it was the loudest Spectrum roar. Ever.
Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog, Broad Street Bull, at http://go.philly.com/sports.
Blog response of the week
Subject: Flyers' need to improve their playoff seeding.
Posted by: mish798798 03:42 p.m., 01/27/2009
Don't worry about playoff seeding. The hockey playoffs are all about who is playing great as a team when the playoffs start. Just ask the Red Wings how many times they have been knocked out of the playoffs in the first or second round as the No. 1 seed. I'd much rather have them going in winning nine of their last 10 as the No. 6 seed than going 4-5-1 as the No. 2 seed. The real key is to be playing great hockey when the playoffs start.