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Inside the Flyers: Berube may have to pay for Flyers' flawed season

For the flawed Flyers, their Lost Weekend - an excruciating overtime defeat in Boston, a pitiful performance in New Jersey - was a microcosm of their inconsistent season.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (James Guillory/USA Today)
Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (James Guillory/USA Today)Read more

For the flawed Flyers, their Lost Weekend - an excruciating overtime defeat in Boston, a pitiful performance in New Jersey - was a microcosm of their inconsistent season.

Their penalty kill, which was the worst in the league for most of the season's first half, deserted them in their most important shift of the year, allowing Boston to tie the game with 14.1 seconds left in regulation Saturday.

Their offense, inconsistent all season, continued to lack a finishing touch and showed first-year general manager Ron Hextall he desperately needs to add a consistent top-six forward over the summer.

Their defense again left goalie Steve Mason hung out to dry, this time in a 5-2 loss Sunday to New Jersey, which scored one of its goals on two-on-none break.

So where do the Flyers go from here, and does coach Craig Berube have 15 games left in his tenure?

Barring a miracle, the Flyers will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. They have regressed in their second year under Berube, who is not the most beloved figure in the locker room.

Respected, yes. Beloved, no.

Some of the defensemen are still perturbed at the Blue Line Carousel that has had players yanked in and out of the lineup. Vinny Lecavalier, a center primarily used as a fourth-line right winger when he wasn't a healthy scratch, is fuming at the way he has been handled, and it's fair to wonder why he wasn't given a shot at being the second-line center for a few weeks to try to get him on track.

After Berube replaced the fired Peter Laviolette early last season, the Flyers went 42-27-10 under the new coach's defense-first style, reached the playoffs, and took the eventual Stanley Cup finalist New York Rangers to seven games in the opening round.

This year, the Flyers are 28-26-13, and the biggest indictment of Berube is this: With a playoff spot in sight, the Flyers have lost their last five games against teams that are not in playoff positions: Columbus, Buffalo, Carolina, Toronto, and New Jersey.

How can a team that has recently beaten the likes of Nashville, St. Louis, Washington, and the Rangers be so ineffective against league lightweights?

Berube has to take some of the blame for not having his players ready.

Ditto captain Claude Giroux, who has virtually disappeared at the most important time of the season.

Granted, Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to Boston was still on the players' minds Sunday, but it was up to the leadership group to make sure they rebounded against the Devils and their backup goalie.

"We don't come to play every night," high-scoring winger Wayne Simmonds said after the loss to the going-nowhere Devils.

Hextall had to read that comment and wonder if he should ask the big boss, Ed Snider, how much money he is willing to pay Detroit coach Mike Babcock in the offseason.

Babcock's contract with the Red Wings ends after the playoffs, and, in effect, he will become a free agent.

The Flyers have always been among the league's top spenders, but that advantage was greatly reduced when the salary cap was instituted in 2005-06. The cap, however, does not include money paid to the head coach, and you wonder if Snider will give Hextall a blank check and pursue Babcock.

Asked if he would have a tough decision on retaining Berube after the season, Hextall said, "We'll review everything after the year. In terms of [Berube], I think he's done a pretty good job. We've had injuries and circumstances that I think he's done a good job of handling. There's a lot of player performance that falls on the player. We have certain players we needed more from over the course of the season, or parts of the season."

Case in point: Giroux and Jake Voracek, all-star forwards who carried the team for more than half of the season, have just two goals apiece (excluding an empty-netter) in the 19 games since the all-star break.

And there are others who have underachieved for longer stretches.

As for the rest of the season, Hextall hasn't given up, although the math - three teams to climb over, seven points out of a playoff spot with 15 games left, two fewer games than the Bruins - says otherwise.

"We need to regroup," said Hextall, who is still upset at Simmonds' tripping penalty, which he thought was undeserved, that led to Boston's tying goal with 14.1 seconds left Saturday. "Obviously the weekend was hard on us; it probably went as poorly as it could, in terms of the emotional part of it."

The Flyers, losers of their last four overtime games, now have just a 0.7 percent to make the playoffs, according to

"We have to continue to fight," Hextall said. "We know the odds are against us, but the odds have been against us for a couple months now and we've kept on fighting."

Except when they play NHL weaklings.