- History of the Philadelphia Flyers
The following article chronicles the season-by-season history of the
While the expansion Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club opened its first
National Hockey Leagueseason in the Fall of 1967, the history of professional ice hockey in the city actually stretches back another forty years to the founding in 1927of the town's first pro club, the Philadelphia Arrowsof the Canadian-American Hockey League. Over the ensuing four decades the city would be the home to a string of minor league clubs all of which played out of the dank 1920-vintage, 5,000-seat Philadelphia Arenain West Philadelphia. However the city also hosted one truly desultory campaign of "major" league hockey when the NHL Philadelphia Quakers lighted at the Arena for the 1930–31 season. [Bruce "Scoop" Cooper, [http://centpacrr.com/ahlphl/ A Brief History of The American Hockey League & Minor League Pro Hockey in Philadelphia: 1927 - 2006] ]
1925as the Pittsburgh Pirates, the already woeful club had moved eastward across Pennsylvaniaafter the 1929–30 season. The hapless Quakers went 4–36–4 in their lone campaign in Philadelphia – the still standing now three-quarters of a century old NHL record for fewest wins in a season – and then promptly suspended operations. (After five years of dormancy the League finally canceled the franchise in 1936.) [FlyersHistory.net, [http://quakers.flyershistory.net/ Philly's 1st NHL Team.] ]
Philadelphia waited almost 35 years from when the Quakers' played their last home game (a 4–0 loss to Chicago on March 17, 1931) for the NHL to return when the city was awarded an expansion franchise on February 9, 1966. Philadelphia was a bit of a surprise choice since a group from the nearby city of Baltimore were considered favorites to land a team. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hm.cgi?014hm Philadelphia Gets NHL Expansion Team.] ]
The man who often receives the most credit for bringing NHL hockey back to Philadelphia is
Ed Snider. While attending a basketball game in 1964 at the Boston Garden, the then vice-president of the Philadelphia Eaglesobserved a crowd of Boston Bruinsfans lining up to purchase tickets to see a last-place team. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hofprof.cgi?005 Ed Snider's Flyers Hall of Fame Profile.] ] Intrigued, he began making plans for a new arena upon hearing the NHL was looking to expand due to fears of a competing league taking hold on the West Coast and the desire for a new television contract in the United States. Snider made his proposal to the league and the Philadelphia group — including Snider, Bill Putnam, Jerome Schiff, and Eagles owner Jerry Wolman— was chosen over the Baltimore group.
On April 4, 1966, Putnam announced there would be a name-the-team contest and that orange, black and white would be the team colors.Cite web|url=http://www.flyershistory.com/cgi-bin/jerseyhistory.cgi|title=Flyers History - Flyers Jersey History Gallery|accessdate=2008-09-09|publisher=FlyersHistory.net] Wanting what he referred to as "hot" colors, Putnam's choice was influenced by the orange and white of his alma mater, the
University of Texas, and the orange and black of Philadelphia's previous NHL team, the Quakers. Also announced on April 4th was the hiring of a Chicago firm to design the team's arena.
Details of the name-the-team contest were released on July 12, 1966. As sponsor of the contest, ballots were available at local
Acme Marketsgrocery stores and included a top prize of a RCA21" color television, two season tickets for both the second and third prize winners, and a pair of tickets to a game for the next 100 winners. Among the names considered behind the scenes were Quakers, Ramblers, and Liberty Bells. The first two were the names of previous Philadelphia hockey teams and given the connotations of losing (Quakers) and the minor leagues (Ramblers), were passed over. Liberty Bells, though seriously considered, was also the name of a local race track. Bashers, Blizzards, Bruisers, Huskies, Keystones, Knights, Lancers, Raiders, and Sabres were among the other names considered.
, who had spelled it "Fliers" on his entry, [Professional Hockey Server, [http://moo.hawaii.edu:1749/hockey/misc/teamnames.html Origins of NHL Team Names] ] won the drawing and was declared the winner.
With the name and colors already known, Philadelphia advertising firm Mel Richmann Inc. was hired to design a logo and jersey. With Tom Paul as head of the project, artist Sam Ciccone designed both the logo and jerseys to represent speed. Ciccone's winged P design, four stylized wings attached to a slanted P with an orange dot to represent a puck, was considered the "obvious choice" over his other designs which included a winged skate. Ciccone's jersey design, a stripe down each shoulder and down the arms, represented wings.
The men hired to build the expansion Flyers were
Bud Poileas General Manager and Keith Allen as Head Coach. Both were former NHL players and were Western Hockey League coaches in the years preceding expansion, Poile with the San Francisco Seals and Allen with the Seattle Totems. On May 8, 1967, the Flyers purchased the American Hockey League's Quebec Acesand with them acquired the NHL rights to eleven players, including Bill Sutherlandand Ed Hoekstra. The NHL Expansion Draft was held a month later on June 6. The six expansion franchises selected 20 players from the Original Sixteams, though most of the players available were either aging veterans or career minor-leaguers before expansion occurred. Among the Flyers' 20 selections were Bernie Parent, Doug Favell, Ed Van Impe, Joe Watson, Lou Angotti(who would be named the Flyers' first captain), Leon Rochefort, and Gary Dornhoefer.
Beginning play in 1967–1968, the Philadelphia Flyers made their debut on October 11, 1967, losing 5–1 on the road to the
California Seals. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hm.cgi?001hm Flyers First Ever Game.] ] Bill Sutherlandscored the first goal in franchise history. They won their first game a week later, defeating the St. Louis Blues on the road, 2–1. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hm.cgi?002hm Flyers First Ever Win.] ] The Flyers made their home debut in front of a crowd of 7,812, shutting out their trans- Pennsylvaniarivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, 1–0 on October 19. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hm.cgi?003hm Flyers First Home Game.] ] The Flyers' top goal scorer that first season, Leon Rochefort, scored only 21 times. With all six expansion teams grouped into the same division, the Flyers were able to win the division with a sub-.500 record despite being forced to play their last seven home games on the road due to a storm blowing parts of the Spectrum's roof off. [PhiladelphiaFlyers.com, [http://flyers.nhl.com/team/app?service=page&page=NewsPage&bcid=1891 News: This Date In Flyers History... March 1, 1968... Roof Blows Off Of Spectrum.] ] Playoff success did not come so quickly, as the Flyers were upset by St. Louis in a first round, seven-game series.
In 1968–1969, the Flyers returned to the Spectrum. Lou Angotti, who was the first captain of the club, left the team and was replaced by defenseman Ed Van Impe in that role. Led by Van Impe and the team-leading 24 goals of Andre Lacroix, the Flyers struggled by finishing 15 games under .500. Despite the poor regular season showing, they made the playoffs; however, they were manhandled by St. Louis in a four-game sweep. Not wanting his team to be physically outmatched again, owner Ed Snider instructed General Manager
Bud Poileto acquire bigger, tougher players. [PhiladelphiaFlyers.com, [http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com/history/halloffame/snider.asp Ed Snider's Flyers Hall of Fame bio.] ] While head coach Keith Allen soon after replaced Poile as GM, this mandate would eventually lead to one of the most feared teams to ever take the ice in the NHL.
The keystone of those teams was acquired when the Flyers took a chance on a 19-year-old diabetic from
Flin Flon, Manitobanamed Bobby Clarkewith their second draft pick, 17th overall, in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft. By the time training camp came around it was clear that Clarke was the best player on the team, and he quickly became a fan favorite. His 15 goals and 31 assists were only a decent showing, but earned him a trip to the NHL All-Star Game. Despite his arrival, the team struggled in 1969–70 recording a franchise worst (as of completion of the 2006–07 season) in wins (17). Even with such a bad output, the Flyers had a seven-point lead on the Oakland Sealswith six games to play. However, the Flyers lost their last six games and Oakland made up the deficit. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/games.cgi?1969-70 1969–70 Regular Season Game Results.] ] [SealsHockey.com, [http://www.sealshockey.com/season_1969-70.html Seals 1969–1970 Season.] ] They lost the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot to Oakland, missing the playoffs for the first time.
1970ssaw the Flyers transition from a struggling expansion franchise to an intimidating contender no opposing team relished playing against. With the mandate from Ed Snider in mind, the team was built through the draft and by making more than a few shrewd deals. The Flyers became yearly Stanley Cupcontenders for the next twenty years.
Bobby Clarke suffered no sophomore slump as he led the team in goals (27), assists (36), and points (63) in 1970–71. He was, however, held scoreless in the playoffs as the Flyers were swept in four games by the Chicago Black Hawks in the first round. Even though the team had improved their record in his second season behind the bench, head coach
Vic Stasiukwould be replaced by Fred Sheroin the off-season.
Clarke continued to progress as he led the team in goals (35), assists (46), and points (81) in 1971–72 and he became the first Flyer to win an NHL award, the
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophyfor perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. However, in the season's final game, the Flyers needed a win or a tie against the second-year Buffalo Sabresto beat out Pittsburgh for the final playoff spot. The score was tied late in the game, but with just four seconds on the clock, former Flyer Gerry Meehantook a shot from 80 feet away that somehow eluded Flyers goalie Doug Favell. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/boxscore.cgi?19710544 Philadelphia-Buffalo boxscore from April 2, 1972.] ] The Flyers lost the tiebreaker to Pittsburgh and missed out on the playoffs for the second time in three years.
It was during the 1972–73 season that the Flyers shed the mediocre expansion team label and became the intimidating Broad Street Bullies, a nickname coined by Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone of the
Philadelphia Bulletinon January 3, 1973. [Jim Jackson, "Walking Together Forever: The Broad Street Bullies, Then and Now", Sports Publishing L.L.C., pp. 1–3] That same month, Clarke was the youngest player (at that time) in NHL history to be named team captain, replacing Ed Van Impe. Rick MacLeishbecame the first Flyer to score 50 goals in a season and the Flyers recorded their first winning season. An overtime goal by Gary Dornhoeferin Game 5 turned the tide of their first round series with the Minnesota North Starsin the Flyers' favor, as the Flyers got their first playoff series win in six games. The goal was later immortalized as a bronze statue on the south side of the Spectrum. They were outmatched in the semifinals by the Montreal Canadiens, however, losing in five games. After the season, Clarke was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophyas the NHL's Most Valuable Player.
=1973–1974— Stanley Cup Champions=
Goaltender Bernie Parent, an "Original Flyer", would return to the franchise in the off-season, and the Flyers would prove that the expansion teams could challenge the
Original Sixin 1973–74. The Bullies would continue their rough-and-tumble ways, led by Dave Schultz's 348 penalty minutes, and they would reach the top of the West Division with a record of 50–16–12. The return of Parent proved to be of great benefit as he established himself as one of if not the best goaltender in the league by winning a record 47 games. Since the Flyers, along with Chicago, allowed the fewest goals in the league, Parent also shared the Vezina Trophywith Chicago's Tony Esposito.
Come playoff time, the Flyers swept the
Atlanta Flamesin four games in the first round. In the semifinals, the Flyers faced the New York Rangers. The series, which saw the home team win every game, went seven games. Fortunately for the Flyers, they had home ice advantage as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finalsby winning Game 7. Their opponent, Bobby Orrand the Boston Bruins, took Game 1 in Boston, but Bobby Clarke scored an overtime goal in Game 2 to even the series. The Flyers won Games 3 and 4 at home to take a 3–1 series lead, but Boston won Game 5 to stave off elimination. That set the stage for Game 6 at the Spectrum. The Flyers picked up the lead early when Rick MacLeish scored a first period goal. Late in the game, Orr hauled down Clarke on a breakaway; the penalty assured the Flyers of victory. Time expired as the Flyers brought the Stanley Cup to Philadelphia for the first time. Parent, having shutout Boston in Game 6, won the Conn Smythe Trophyas the Playoff MVP.
=1974–1975— Stanley Cup Champions=
In 1974–75, Schultz topped his mark from the previous season by setting an NHL record for penalty minutes (472 in all). Clarke's efforts earned him his second Hart Trophy and Parent was the lone recipient of the Vezina Trophy. The Flyers as a team improved their record slightly with a mark of 51–18–11, the best record in the league. After a first-round bye, the Flyers easily swept the
Toronto Maple Leafsand were presented with another New York-area team in the semifinals. The Flyers looked to be headed toward another sweep against the New York Islandersafter winning the first three games. The Islanders, however, fought back by winning the next three games, setting up a deciding seventh game. The Flyers were finally able to shut the door on the Islanders, winning Game 7, 4–1.
Facing Buffalo in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers won the first two games at home. Game 3, played in Buffalo, would go down in hockey lore as The Fog Game due to an unusual May heat wave in Buffalo which forced parts of the game to be played in heavy fog, as Buffalo's arena lacked air conditioning. The Flyers lost Games 3 and 4, but won Game 5 at home in dominating fashion, 5–1. On the road for Game 6, Bob Kelly scored the decisive goal and Parent pitched another shutout (a playoff record fifth shutout) as the Flyers repeated as Stanley Cup Champions. Parent also repeated as the playoff MVP, winning his second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy, as well as his second-consecutive Vezina Trophy.
The Flyers recorded the best record in team history (points wise) with a record of 51–13–16 in 1975–76. The LCB line, featuring
Reggie Leachat right-wing, Clarke at center, and Bill Barberat left-wing, set an NHL record for goals by a single line with 141 (Leach 61, Clarke 30, Barber 50). Clarke, on his way to a third Hart Trophy, set a club record for points in one season with 119. Heading into the playoffs, the Flyers squeaked past Toronto in seven games and defeated Boston in five games, Game 5 featuring a five-goal outburst by Leach, the Riverton Rifle, to head to a third straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. However, the Flyers didn't come close to a third straight championship, as they ran into an up-and-coming dynasty in Montreal, and were swept in four straight games. Despite the loss, Leach was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for scoring 19 goals in 16 playoff games.
The highlight of the season had no bearing on the season standings. On
January 11at the Spectrum, the Flyers, as part of the Super Series '76, played a memorable exhibition game against the Soviet Union's dominant Central Red Army team. As the Bullies had put intimidation to good use the past three years, the Flyers' rugged style of play led the Soviets to leave the ice midway through the first period, protesting a hit on Valeri Kharlamov, whom Clarke had slashed on the ankle in the famous Summit Series '72, by Ed Van Impe. After some delay, the Soviets returned after they were warned that they would lose their salary for the entire series. The Flyers went on to win the game rather easily, 4–1, and were the only team to defeat the Red Army outright in the series. Head coach Fred Shero would proclaim, "Yes we are world champions. If they had won, they would have been world champions. We beat the hell out of a machine"." [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/hm.cgi?006hm Flyers vs. Red Army.] ]
Dethroned, the heyday of the Broad Street Bullies came to an end, as prior to the 1976–77 season, tough-guy Dave Schultz was traded to the
Los Angeles Kings. Despite a slight drop-off in performance, the Flyers dominated the Patrick Division with what proved to be their 4th straight division title. After disposing of Toronto — after which series Toronto coach Leo Kelly claimed "I don't think I'd call [Bobby] Clarke dirty — mean is a better word" — in six games, the Flyers found themselves in the semifinals for the fifth consecutive season. Pitted against Boston, the Flyers lost Games 1 and 2 at home in overtime and would not return home as they were swept in four straight games.
The Flyers lost their hold on the Patrick Division in 1977–78 and settled for second place.
Tom Bladon's 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists) in a game against the Cleveland Barons on December 11 set an NHL record for a defenseman. After sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2 games in the preliminary round, the Flyers moved on to beat Buffalo in five games. They faced Boston in the semifinals for the second consecutive season, and lost again, this time in five games. Following the season, the Flyers were stunned when head coach Fred Shero left to take the general manager & head coaching jobs with the Rangers. As compensation for The Fog, the Flyers received the Rangers' first-round draft pick which (along with their own first-round selection) the club used to select defenseman Behn Wilsonand center Ken Linsemansixth and seventh overall respectively at the 1978 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal the following June. Bob McCammon, who had just coached the Flyers' first year AHL Maine Marinersfarm club to a Calder Cuptitle, replaced Shero behind the bench, but after a slow start the Flyers brought up Shero's previous assistant coach, Pat Quinn, who was then guiding the Mariners to replace McCammon who then returned and coached the AHL club to a second consecutive Calder Cup title. The Flyers rallied under Quinn and finished in 2nd place. However, it was during the 1978–79 season that Bernie Parent suffered a career-ending eye injury. Matched-up against the Vancouver Canucksin the preliminary round, the Flyers won the series in three games. Ironically, the Flyers' season came to an end against Fred Shero's Rangers in a five-game quarterfinal loss.
The Flyers began the 1979–80 season with a somewhat controversial move by naming Clarke a playing assistant coach and giving the captaincy to
Mel Bridgman. While Clarke was against this initially, he accepted his new role. The Flyers would go undefeated for a North American professional sports record 35 straight games (25–0–10), a record that still stands to this day. [FlyersHistory.net, [http://www.flyershistory.net/streak.htm Some Facts & Figures About the Streak.] ] In doing so, the Flyers wrapped up the Patrick Division title with 14 games to spare and the No.1 overall seed in the playoffs. Their regular-season success continued into the playoffs, as the Flyers swept a young Wayne Gretzkyand his Edmonton Oilersin the first round, then went on to get revenge against Fred Shero and his Rangers by beating them in five before disposing of Minnesota in five to lock up a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. Facing the Islanders for the Cup, the Flyers would ultimately lose in six games on Bob Nystrom's overtime Cup-winning goal. The end result of the series was marred by controversy, as the Islanders' fourth goal in that game was clearly offside, but no whistle was forthcoming. Linesman Leon Stickle admitted after the game that he had blown the call. [CNNSI.com, [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/flashbacks/heroes/nystrom/ SI Flashback: Putting the Hammer to the Old Bugaboo – June 2, 1980] ]
As the old guard moved on, a new guard of young players took over the reins of the team in the
1980s. Despite being one of the best teams in the league, the Flyers were unable to win a Stanley Cup as a dynasty led by The Great One, coupled with the sudden and tragic death of their superstar goaltender, prevented them from etching their names on the Cup on two separate occasions.
In 1980–81, the Flyers finished second in the Patrick Division. After a tough, five-game preliminary round series win against the
Quebec Nordiques, the Flyers moved on to face the Calgary Flamesin the quarterfinals. After falling behind 3 games to 1, they managed to force a Game 7 by winning the next two games. The Flyers lost Game 7, 4–1, at the Spectrum.
In 1981–82, Mel Bridgman was growing unhappy with the Flyers' organization, and was replaced as captain by
Bill Barberbefore being traded to Calgary for defenseman Brad Marsh. With the Flyers playing listlessly and their season on the brink of disaster, head coach Pat Quinn was fired and re-replaced by Bob McCammon midway through the year. Darryl Sittlerwas acquired in January from Toronto. After a third-place finish the Flyers lost in four games to the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. For the first time in nine years they failed to make it past the first round.
Mark Howe, son of hockey legend Gordie Howeand a star defenseman in his own right, was acquired via a trade with the Hartford Whalersprior to the season. He would immediately become the team's best defenseman garnering 67 points and a superb +47 in 76 games. Midway through the season, McCammon replaced Barber as captain with Bobby Clarke, who lost his title of playing coach when Pat Quinn was fired. Clarke led the team in points and Brian Proppand Sittler scored 40 goals each as the Flyers won a Patrick Division title with 106 points. However, for the second consecutive year, the Flyers were eliminated by the Rangers in the first round, this time in a three-game sweep. They allowed a total of 18 goals in the three games.
Bob McCammon replaced Keith Allen as General Manager in the off-season, and retained his position as head coach. The youth of the team began to take over the reins from the old guard as
Tim Kerrrecorded his first 50-goal season. The team finished in third place but was swept in three games by the Washington Capitalsin the first round of the playoffs. After the loss, Flyers President Jay Snider informed McCammon he could no longer continue as head coach. As GM, McCammon disagreed a change was needed, so he resigned from both positions altogether. Afterwards, Bobby Clarke retired from playing and was named Vice President and General Manager of the team. Also, the 1983–84 season saw Bill Barber play his final games as he would officially announce his retirement following the next season, after being unable to return from reconstructive knee surgery.
"Iron Mike" Keenan, a relative unknown at the time, was hired in 1984 to coach the team, and named second-year player
Dave Poulinteam captain. Behind the goaltending of Pelle Lindbergh(who led the league with 40 wins and won the Vezina Trophy) and two 40-goal scorers, Kerr and Propp, the Flyers posted a record of 53–20–7, good enough to be the best in the NHL. The Flyers would roll through the playoffs by sweeping the Rangers in three games, defeating the Islanders in five, and beating Quebec in six to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. Though they defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Oilers in Game 1 by a score of 4–1 at home, Edmonton won the next four games and the series.
A month into the 1985–86 season, Pelle Lindbergh was fatally injured in a car accident. The team rallied and showed perseverance by garnering the best record in the Wales Conference and matching their win total (53) from the previous year. Tim Kerr scored 58 goals and the defense pairing of Howe and
Brad McCrimmonled the league in plus/minus with two shocking ratings, a +85 and a +83 respectively. Bob Froesefilled in admirably in net for Lindbergh, being named a 2nd Team All-Star and sharing the William M. Jennings Trophywith teammate Darren Jensen. Despite their regular season success, an emotionally exhausted Flyers team lost in the first round of the playoffs to a "Cinderella" Rangers team in five games.
In 1986–87 the rejuvenated Flyers found themselves with another Vezina Trophy goaltender between the pipes with a
Brandon, Manitobarookie named Ron Hextall. He became the third Flyers goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy, joining Parent and Lindbergh. With Hextall providing the critical stops at crucial times, the Flyers captured a third-straight Patrick Division title, and were able to gain revenge on the Rangers by beating them in six games, as well as surviving a tough seven-game test from a gritty Islanders club. By the time the Flyers defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Canadiens in six to win the Wales Conference and return to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers had again been decimated by injuries, including losing Tim Kerr for the remainder of the playoffs. As a result, the Flyers lost in heartbreaking fashion to Edmonton in seven tough, hard-fought games. Oddly enough though deservedly so, Hextall was voted playoff MVP, the second such time a Flyer won the Conn Smythe Trophy despite being on the losing team, the other being another Manitoban, Reggie Leach, in 1976.
Hextall became the first NHL goaltender to score a goal by firing the puck into an empty net in a December 8 game against Boston. The Flyers stumbled in 1987–88, finishing third in the Patrick Division (after a first-place finish the previous three years). In their first round playoff series with Washington, the Flyers blew a 3–1 series lead as Washington forced a Game 7. They then blew a 3–0 lead in Game 7 as Washington won in overtime 5–4. It was because of this playoff collapse that "Iron Mike" was fired.
Paul Holmgrenwas named Keenan's replacement, the first time a former Flyer was named the club's head coach.
In 1988–89, Kerr and
Rick Tocchetboth scored 40 goals and despite finishing at the .500 mark, the Flyers made the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season. Facing first-place Washington in the first round, the Flyers pulled off the upset in six games. Ron Hextall managed to score another empty-net goal in the waning moments of Game 5, becoming the first NHL goalie to score a goal in the playoffs. The Flyers then defeated Pittsburgh in seven games to make the Wales Conference Finals before bowing out to Montreal in six games.
The 1989–90 season got off to a bad start for the Flyers, and continued to get worse. Hextall missed all but eight games due to suspension, contract holdout issues and injury, the suspension given for attacking
Chris Cheliosat the end of the Montreal playoff series the previous spring. Holmgren replaced Dave Poulin as captain in December with Ron Sutter, which led to Poulin's (and later that season, Brian Propp's) trade to Boston. As a result, the Flyers missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1972. Bob Clarke, having been with the Flyers organization since he was drafted in 1969, was fired and replaced as GM by Russ Farwell.
1990ssaw the Flyers fall from grace and miss the playoffs five straight years after having missed the playoffs only twice before in 1970 and 1972. Led by a player once labeled as The Next Oneand components from a key mid-season trade, the Flyers returned to the playoffs and yearly Stanley Cup contention in the latter half of the decade.
Rick Tocchet scored 40 goals and
Pelle Eklundrecorded 50 assists. However, Hextall continued to be hampered by injuries during the 1990–91 season. He only played in 36 games and as a result the Flyers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, finishing fifth in the division and three points short of a playoff spot after a late-season collapse.
Prior to the 1991–92 season, the Flyers acquired
Rod Brind'Amourfrom St. Louis. Brind'Amour would lead the Flyers in goals (33), assists (44), and points (77) in his first season with the club. With Ron Sutter gone to St. Louis in the Brind'Amour trade, Rick Tocchet was named team captain. As the Flyers continued to flounder, Paul Holmgren was fired midway through the season and replaced by Bill Dineen, father of Flyer Kevin Dineen. On February 19, the Flyers and Pittsburgh made a major five-player deal which featured Tocchet — who never grew comfortably into the role of captain — heading to Pittsburgh and Mark Recchicoming to Philadelphia. Recchi recorded 27 points in his first 22 games as a Flyer, but the team missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year, due in large part to an awful road record (10–26–4). With Tocchet traded, the team would remain without a captain until Kevin Dineen was named to the post in 1993–94, and instead chose to go with three alternate captains.
In June 1992, the Flyers began putting their plan for returning to their place amongst the NHL elite in action, as they won the arbitration battle for 1991 #1 overall pick
Eric Lindrosagainst the Rangers. It was determined that Quebec had made a deal with the Flyers before making a deal with the Rangers. In order to acquire Lindros' rights, the Flyers parted with six players, trading Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, a 1993 first round draft pick ( Jocelyn Thibault), a 1994 first round draft pick ( Nolan Baumgartner), and $15 million to Quebec.
After two seasons as GM of Minnesota, Bob Clarke returned as a Senior Vice President, to assist in management duties and partially to be a mentor to Lindros. The trio of Lindros, Recchi, and
Brent Fedykwould form the Crazy Eights line in Lindros' first two years in the league, the eights being the player's jersey numbers (88, 8, and 18 respectively). In 1992–93, Recchi set the franchise record for points in a season with 123 (53 goals, 70 assists) and Lindros scored 41 goals in 61 games. Brind'Amour added 86 points (37 goals, 49 assists) of his own. After struggling early the Flyers made a run at the playoffs, but came four points short of the last spot. Head coach Bill Dineen was fired at the season's end. Clarke left the Flyers in June to take the GM position with the expansion Florida Panthers.
Terry Simpsonwas hired as the new head coach in hopes that the Flyers would finally return to playoff contention after four consecutive off-years. Recchi would record 107 points (40 goals, 67 assists) and Lindros 97 (44 goals, 53 assists). Brind'Amour improved with another 97 (35 goals, 62 assists) and Mikael Renbergset a Flyers rookie record with 82 points. Offense was generated yet the Flyers still failed to clinch a playoff berth, again falling four points short of the final playoff spot. Jay Snider stepped down as President, forcing his father Ed Snider to take over day-to-day operations. The elder Snider had decided he had seen enough of Farwell as GM, and began courting Bob Clarke to leave his GM post with Florida to return to Philadelphia. Farwell's last move as GM was firing Simpson after a lackluster performance.
Bob Clarke returned again for 1994–95, this time as both President and GM, and immediately began putting his stamp on the team. New head coach
Terry Murrayreplaced Kevin Dineen as team captain with Lindros prior to the start of training camp. In order to shore up the defense, Ron Hextall was re-acquired from the Islanders and high-scoring winger Recchi was traded to Montreal for John LeClair, Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionneearly in the abbreviated season. Lindros and LeClair teamed with Renberg to form the Legion of Doom line, a mix of scoring talent and physical intimidation. Lindros came in second to Jaromir Jagr by a tiebreaker in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, the NHL scoring championship, but made up for it by capturing the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's MVP. The playoff drought was finally over as the Flyers won their first division title in eight years and clinched the No.2 seed in the Eastern Conference. After dispatching Buffalo in five and sweeping the defending Stanley Cup champion Rangers, the Flyers lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the New Jersey Devilsin six games.
Lindros eclipsed the 100-point mark for the first time in 1995–96, gathering 115 points, and LeClair scored 51 goals, as the Flyers repeated as Atlantic Division champs and clinched the No.1 seed in the East. Facing the 8th-seeded
Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers dropped two of the first three games. They rallied by winning three straight games to win the series. After taking two of the first three games against their second-round opponent, Florida, the Flyers were defeated in overtime in Game 4 and double-overtime in Game 5. An upstart Florida club with stellar goaltending from John Vanbiesbrouckended the Flyers' season in Game 6. The Flyers said goodbye to the Spectrum and prepared to open a new arena – the CoreStates Center – for the next season.
Though Lindros missed 30 games in 1996–97, LeClair still managed to score 50 goals for the second consecutive year. Despite finishing just one point shy of a third straight Atlantic Division title, the Flyers blitzed their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Backstopped by the goaltending tandem of Hextall and
Garth Snow, the Flyers dominated Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the Rangers all in five games apiece to win the Eastern Conference championship, and clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1986–87. However, their opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, swept the Flyers in four straight games. After Game 3, Terry Murray said that the team was in a "choking situation". It is said this remark cost Murray his job, as he was fired soon after.
The man picked to replace Murray,
Wayne Cashman, was deemed ill-suited for the job as the Flyers played inconsistently throughout the 1997–98 season and so Roger Neilsonwas hired in March to take over the head coaching duties. John LeClair was able to score at least 50 goals for the third consecutive year (netting 51), the first time for an American-born player, and Sean Burkewas acquired at the trade deadline to shore up the ever-worsening goaltending situation. In a season in which the Flyers — despite a hard fall to Detroit the previous year — were heavily favored to repeat as Eastern champs and return to the Finals, they never came close, as they were dominated in the first round by Buffalo in five games.
In the off-season, the Flyers went looking for a new goaltender. Burke hadn't worked out well enough and Hextall was about to enter his final season as a backup. They chose to sign former Panther John Vanbiesbrouck over former Oiler
Curtis Joseph, who ended up signing with Toronto. The 1998–99 season was marred by a life-threatening injury sustained by Eric Lindros on April Fools' Dayduring a game against the Nashville Predators, a season-ending injury later diagnosed as a collapsed lung. Up until that point, Lindros was having an MVP-type season with 40 goals and 53 assists in 71 games. It is said that if roommate Keith Jones had not intervened at the last minute, Lindros might have died on the plane ride back to Philadelphia. Without Lindros, the Flyers were fortunate to have re-acquired Mark Recchi at the trade deadline. Although Vanbiesbrouck allowed nine goals to Joseph's eleven allowed, the Flyers lost their first round series with Toronto in six games.
One of the most tumultuous seasons in franchise history, 1999–2000, actually started in July three months prior to the start of the regular season. In the span of a few days, longtime broadcaster
Gene Hartdied due to illness and defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny, coming off his rookie season, was fatally injured in a freak boating accident. The season itself was no better as head coach Roger Neilson was diagnosed with bone cancer, forcing him to step aside in February 2000 to undergo treatment. The team was left in the hands of interim coach Craig Ramsayfor the rest of the season.
In January, longtime Flyer and fan favorite Rod Brind'Amour was shipped to Carolina for
Keith Primeau, with the intention of acquiring a big center to complement Eric Lindros. Meanwhile, the strife between Flyers management (particularly GM Bob Clarke) and Lindros, continued to worsen. Less than a month after Ramsay took over, Lindros suffered his second concussion of the season. He played several games after the initial hit and afterwards criticized the team's training staff for failing to initially diagnose the concussion after it happened. It was after this that the Flyers' organization decided to strip Lindros of the captaincy on March 27 and sew the "C" on the sweater of defenseman Eric Desjardins. With Lindros out indefinitely, the Flyers rallied to overcome the distractions and a 15-point deficit in the standings to win the Atlantic Division and the No. 1 seed in the East on the last day of the regular season.
They easily defeated their first round opponent, Buffalo, in five games. Primeau's goal in the fifth overtime of Game 4 against the team's second-round opponent, Pittsburgh, turned that series in the Flyers' favor as they won in six games, coming back from a 2–0 series deficit. After dropping Game 1 to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Flyers peeled off three straight wins to take a 3–1 series lead. But New Jersey refused to give up. After New Jersey won Game 5, Lindros returned to the lineup for the first time since March for Game 6 in another losing effort. Early in Game 7, Lindros was on the receiving end of a controversial hit by
Scott Stevens, giving him another concussion and leaving the Philadelphia crowd deflated. Without Lindros, the Flyers lost the decisive game by a score of 2–1. It was the 2nd time in franchise history the team lost a series after being up 3 games to 1. To add insult to injury, New Jersey went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Salaries escalated in the
2000sand the big market teams spent large sums of money on player personnel in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. The Flyers, topping out at $68 million in 2004, [CFO.com, CFO Magazine [http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/3217475/c_2984368/?f=archives Hockey Team's Accounting Questioned.] ] failed to win in those laissez-faireyears. A season-canceling lockout and a salary cap later, a so-called New NHL was born.
The Big E would never don Philly's orange and black again, as Lindros sat out the season awaiting a trade. Also, Craig Ramsay retained the head coaching position as Neilson was not asked to return, which became a matter of some controversy. Ramsay only lasted until December when he was replaced by former Flyer great Bill Barber.
Brian Boucher, who as a rookie backstopped the Flyers' playoff run the previous season, couldn't duplicate his performance in 2000–01 and therefore lost the starting goaltending job to Roman Cechmanek, a former star goalie in the Czech Republic. The performance of Cechmanek, worthy of a Vezina nomination and being named a 2nd-Team All-Star, helped the Flyers stay afloat, but they lost in the first round to Buffalo in six games.
In the off-season, the Flyers re-vamped their lineup by signing
Jeremy Roenickand finally trading Lindros to the Rangers for Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl, and a 2003 3rd-round draft pick ( Stefan Ruzicka). Desjardins stepped down as team captain eight games into the season and was replaced by Primeau. The Flyers began 2001–02 with high expectations and with Roenick leading the team in scoring the Flyers finished with an Atlantic Division title. The power play was one of the NHL's worst however, so Adam Oates, the third leading point-producer in the league at the time, was acquired from Washington at the trade deadline. It was of no benefit as the Flyers couldn't muster much offense, scoring only two goals in their five-game, first-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators. It turned out there was much discontent in the locker room as Bill Barber and his coaching staff were fired. The Flyers hired a proven winner when they turned to former Dallas Stars& Stanley Cup-winning head coach Ken Hitchcock.
prior to the trade deadline; however, they fell one point short of a second straight Atlantic Division title. As a result, the Flyers endured a long, brutal seven-game first round match-up with Toronto that featured three multiple overtime games, all in Toronto. After winning Game 7, 6–1, the Flyers fought Ottawa in the second round with equal vigor as they split the first four games of the series, Cechmanek earning shutouts in both wins. Cechmanek's inconsistency showed through, however, as he allowed ten goals in the final two games and Ottawa advanced in six games. Cechmanek was traded to Los Angeles for a 2004 second round draft pick during the off-season despite having the second-best goals-against average in the league over his three years in Philadelphia.
, the Flyers would come up short once again losing Game 7 in Tampa, 2–1.
With the NHL preparing for looming labor unrest, the Flyers let their leading scorer, Mark Recchi, leave for Pittsburgh during the off-season. Unsure about what the future would bring, the Flyers were unsure about Recchi's worth. The NHL Lockout forced the cancellation of the 2004–05 NHL season. Though the season was lost, the Flyers franchise had reason to look forward to a bright future as their two minor hockey league affiliates, the
Philadelphia Phantomsof the American Hockey Leagueand the Trenton Titansof the ECHL, were champions in their respective leagues. The Phantoms in particular had many top prospects such as Jeff Carter, Antero Niittymaki, Joni Pitkanen, Mike Richards, and R.J. Umbergerplaying key roles on the team's championship run. Hockey was not an after-thought in Philadelphia as a sellout crowd of 20,103 filled the Wachovia Center for the Calder Cup-clinching Game 4. [Bruce "Scoop" Cooper, [http://centpacrr.com/ahlphl/ A Brief History of The American Hockey League & Minor League Pro Hockey in Philadelphia: 1927 – 2006] ]
The Flyers were one of the more active teams once the NHL Lockout came to an end. Replacing the high-profile names of Amonte, LeClair, and Roenick were superstar
Peter Forsberg, along with defensemen Derian Hatcherand Mike Rathje, as well as several players from the Calder Cup-winning Phantoms. When all was said and done, the team had experienced a turnover of nearly two-thirds of the roster. The Flyers began the season with lofty expectations. Despite being hampered by injuries prior to and during 2005–06, the Flyers lived up to those expectations in the first half of the season, reaching the top of the league standings in January while simultaneously holding a ten-point lead in the Atlantic Division. The Deuces Wild line of Forsberg, Gagne, and Mike Knublerecorded 75, 79, and 65 points respectively while Gagne, with Forsberg feeding him, scored a career high of 47 goals. The sobriquetis due to their numbers: Gagne, Knuble and Forsberg's numbers are 12, 22 and 21, respectively.
However, the injuries began to accumulate and take their toll. Keith Primeau suffered a concussion on October 23 in Montreal and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. In late January, Hatcher was named interim team captain for the duration of Primeau's absence. All told, the Flyers were third in the NHL with 388 man-games lost to injury, tops amongst playoff teams. [TSN.ca, [http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=178272&hubname=nhl Why is no one talking about the Flyers?] ] The second half of the regular season was defined by a record hovering around .500, sending the Flyers on a steady slide in the standings. The Flyers fell short of an Atlantic Division title, finishing second by tie-breaker to New Jersey, drawing the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and a first round match-up with fourth-seeded Buffalo. The injury-riddled Flyers lost the series in six games.
The Flyers' 40th year anniversary season turned out to be the worst in franchise history. Having lost
Michal Handzusin a trade with Chicago, Kim Johnsson to free agency and Eric Desjardins and team captain Keith Primeau to retirement in the off-season, the Flyers found themselves without many leaders to guide the team. Peter Forsberg replaced Primeau as team captain, but a chronic foot injury had him in and out of the lineup throughout the season and limited his effectiveness. Eight games into the regular season and with a record of 1–6–1, General Manager Bob Clarke resigned and head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired. Assistant coach John Stevens replaced Hitchcock and assistant general manager Paul Holmgren took on Clarke's responsibilities on an interim basis.
The changes did little to improve the Flyers fortunes in 2006–07 as setting franchise records for futility became the norm. They had several multiple-game losing streaks including a franchise worst 10-game losing streak and a 12-game home losing streak that stretched from November 29 to February 10. Ultimately, the Flyers finished with a 22–48–12 record, the most losses in franchise history and the worst record in the league. They also set the NHL record for the biggest points drop off in the standings in a one-year span (101 points in 2005–06 to 56 points in 2006–07, a difference of 45 points).
With the team clearly on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, Holmgren set his sights on rebuilding the team and preparing for the future. Forsberg, unwilling to commit to playing next season, was traded to Nashville for
Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and 2007 1st and 3rd-round draft picks. Veteran defenseman Alexei Zhitnikwas traded to the Atlanta Thrashersfor prospect defenseman Braydon Coburnand disappointing off-season acquisition Kyle Calderwas sent to Detroit via Chicago in exchange for defenseman Lasse Kukkonen. The Flyers also acquired goaltender Martin Bironfrom Buffalo for a 2007 2nd-round pick. Given wide praise for his efforts, the Flyers gave Holmgren a two-year contract and removed the interim label from his title.
The Flyers began the 2007-08 season with the intention of putting the disaster of the previous season behind them. In June, the Flyers made a trade which sent the first round draft pick they had acquired in the Forsberg trade (23rd overall) back to Nashville for the rights to negotiate with impending unrestricted free agents
Kimmo Timonenand Scott Hartnell. Both were signed to six-year contracts. After much speculation as to whether the Flyers would trade the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Flyers stayed put and selected New Jersey native James vanRiemsdyk.
The Flyers wasted no time in addressing their free agent needs. On July 1, the Flyers signed Buffalo co-captain Daniel Briere to an 8-year, $52 million contract. Continuing to revamp their defensive core, Joni Pitkanen and
Geoff Sandersonwere traded to Edmonton for Oilers captain Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul. Smith was named Flyers captain on October 1st.
The season began in the image of the "Broad Street Bullies" era, with multiple-game suspensions handed out to 5 separate players, the most serious being 25-game suspensions to
Steve Downieand Jesse Boulericefor two separate incidents. A 7-3 start in October and a 9-3-1 January run had the Flyers near the top of both the division and conference standings. But a disasterous 10-game losing streak in February reminiscent of such a streak the previous season nearly derailed the Flyers' season. An 8-3-4 run in March coupled with two huge wins over New Jersey and Pittsburgh over the final weekend of the regular season put the Flyers back in the playoffs as the 6th seed and a 1st round matchup with Washington.
After taking a 3 games to 1 lead over Washington, the Capitals won Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7 in Washington. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit, the Flyers won the series in overtime on Joffrey Lupul's powerplay goal. The Flyers then drew a matchup with heavily-favored Montreal in the 2nd round. Despite being outshot and outplayed a majority of the series, the Flyers upset Montreal in 5 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the 1st time since 2003-04 to face Pittsburgh. Before the start of the series, the Flyers suffered a fatal blow when it was learned that Kimmo Timonen was out with a blood clot in his ankle. Coupled with a gruesome facial injury to Braydon Coburn in Game 2, Pittsburgh ran roughshod over the Flyers' depleted defense and jumped out to a 3-0 series lead. The Flyers won Game 4 at home to stave off elimination, and although Timonen returned for Game 5, Pittsburgh finished off the Flyers in 5 games.
* [http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com/ Philadelphia Flyers official website]
* [http://www.flyershistory.net/ Flyers History - unofficial fan website]
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