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Flyers must fix identity crisis

Compared with teams like the Bruins and Blackhawks, the Flyers are constantly redoing their roster, hurting stability.

Only four Flyers are left from the 2010 Eastern Conference championship team: Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen. (Tom Mihalek/AP)
Only four Flyers are left from the 2010 Eastern Conference championship team: Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen. (Tom Mihalek/AP)Read more

BOSTON - Seventeen Bruins linger from the lineup that mercifully swept the Flyers out of the 2011 playoffs and claimed Boston's first Stanley Cup in 39 years.

Only five Flyers remain from that second-round series - not including Danny Briere, who will be bought out by the team in a matter of days.

The Blackhawks have eight core cogs intact from their 2010 Stanley Cup hoisting at the Wells Fargo Center, even after being forced to gut a large portion of the roster after that win because of salary-cap restraints. And that number doesn't include current starting goaltender Corey Crawford and standout Bryan Bickell, who soaked in Patrick Kane's Cup clincher from the press box that night.

Only four Flyers are left from that Eastern Conference championship team: Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen.

That was three captains and seven starting goaltenders ago. Unbelievably, the only thing to not change in that time is the man behind the bench.

Eighteen players who once wore a Flyers jersey, or were drafted by the team, participated in the playoffs this spring. Six of them are still skating in late June.

The numbers are startling. Few professional teams, let alone bona fide contenders, in any major sport have gutted their roster like the Flyers.

The Hockey News claimed last week that Ed Snider's "legacy with the Flyers is more about Roster Restless Leg Syndrome than collecting championships."

The Flyers have a full-blown identity crisis. And it has never been more apparent than at the Stanley Cup finals, where the Bruins and Blackhawks are light-years ahead.

"I think that continuity helps in this room," longtime Bruin Shawn Thornton said yesterday. "The core group we have together helped us particularly at the start of the year, coming out of the lockout. We got off to a great start [20-0-3] because we were already familiar with each other, while the rest of the teams had to figure everything out."

Mad scientist Paul Holmgren is already concocting his latest experiment, with ingredients unknown, which could further reduce the number of familiar faces.

The next 2 weeks represent a fascinating crossroads for the Flyers. Does Holmgren stick with his plan and continue to build around his young foundation pieces? He's been unwilling to move Giroux (obviously), Jake Voracek, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

He remained consistent with that last week, choosing instead to add free-agent offensive defenseman Mark Streit instead of trading tangible assets for a similar style player in Keith Yandle.

Drastic changes are needed from a salary-cap perspective alone. The Flyers are nearly $12 million over next year's limit already.

Briere is on the move. The Ilya Bryzgalov albatross could soon be wiped from the books. But who else is packing up? It's a good bet one of the key pieces will be changing addresses in the next 2 weeks.

The Flyers are in desperate need of an identity. They aren't fast. They aren't overly skilled, a finesse team that can out-dangle the Penguins or Blackhawks. And they aren't all that physical and punishing, as they'd get run over by the Bruins or Kings.

The NHL is a copycat league. When the Rangers and Devils advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last year, Peter Laviolette mimicked their defensive system.

If we've learned anything from the past 3 years, it's that you can build a team to bulldoze its way to the Cup. The Bruins are two wins from their second Stanley Cup in 3 years. Los Angeles ran over teams on its way to Stanley's chalice last year.

Are Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask the best goalies of our time? Or are they simply beneficiaries of ferocious defensive zombies and a roster of bought-in believers? Sometimes, you get the sense Boston doesn't even try to score, knowing that if it doesn't allow any, it doesn't need all that much help to win.

Brilliant offensive teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit claimed the Cup in the 3 years prior to this new, dead puck-like era.

The Flyers need a mantra. Skill like Chicago or blue collar like Boston. Stuck in the middle, with a constantly changing cast of characters, isn't the winning formula.

Stanley Cup sips

Boston coach Claude Julien joked yesterday he sent Jaromir Jagr on the ice in the final minute of Game 3, with the net open, to try to get Jagr his first goal of the playoffs . . . Julien also said former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg is at his best and "becomes a horse" every year in the playoffs. Bob Clarke dealt Seidenberg to Phoenix on Jan. 20, 2006 in exchange for Petr Nedved . . . Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said winger Marian Hossa is "likely" to play in Game 4. He said Hossa was a late scratch on Monday with an "upper-body" injury.

DN Members Only: The Flyers could be poised to take another spin at goalie roulette.