May 8, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell (19), right wing Wayne Simmonds (17), defenseman Eric Gutsafsson (26), left wing James van Riemsdyk (21), and left wing Eric Wellwood (47) watch as New Jersey Devils players celebrate after game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center. The Devils defeated the Flyers 3-1, to win the series 4 games to one. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
The Flyers offseason has a lot of similarities with last year, except in how it is being received. I like this Philadelphia better.
It has been over two weeks since the Flyers ended their season. In that time frame, the team has released their list of players that require surgery, signed a former 7th round draft pick, signed an undrafted player out of an unknown league (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League), and fired their AHL coach.
WIth such minor moves dominating the news cycle, one could successfully argue that the biggest story after the season ended was whether or not head coach Peter Laviolette's system needs tweaking going forward.
That's all a long way of saying things are quiet on Broad Street. A little too quiet.
It was only a short year ago when fans and writers alike were questioning whether their Captain was capable of leading the team, whether the Flyers would finally get a big name goalie, which big name player would be traded to create cap space, how serious Chris Pronger's back injury actually was, and more.
It seems like a pretty easy offseason. A little too easy.
Remember when a miserable second round sweep marred by poor play in all three zones, an apparent lack of effort and questionable goaltending led to questions about who should have a 'C' on their chest next year, and what big free agent was needed to come in and fill a hole were the topics of the day?
The same issues that dominated - and energized - the summer last year exist this year, too. Add in the star player requiring wrist surgery seen drinking an alcoholic beverage during his time off, and you have all the major story lines from last summer here again this summer.
Reasonable expectations and proper perspective goes a very long way.
The Flyers won 5 playoff games this year but the season was still looked at as a success largely because this year's team was young, battled injuries throughout the year and had a complete makeover in the summer.
Last year, the Flyers won 4 playoff games and the season was looked at as a failure despite having less defensive depth than this year's team, weaker goaltending than this year's team, and similar injury issues up front.
But this year, the focus is on the positive, not the negative. This year, the talk is of adding to the core, not removing the foundation.
Unlike Leonardo at the end of the above clip, I like this quiet on Broad Street. I like the refusal to criticize the star player for having a fun, responsible weekend after a grueling season where he showed he was one of the best in the game. I like the refusal to blame the goalie for the 18 skaters in front of him failing to show up in the second round. I like the insistence that the team has the core to win a championship.
The Flyers had a very good season with low expectations. They played a type of hockey the fans of this city can be proud of. They proved to be a very likable bunch, both on the ice and off (based primarily on 24/7 portrayals and Hartnell's video uploads). They made it easier to cheer for them than previous teams did.
That's almost certainly why it's easier to forgive them for committing the same mistakes as last year's team. It's easier to accept their failure to show up in the second round, to accept that their goaltending just wasn't good enough, to accept that their coaching exhibited serious flaws in a similarly stubborn fashion, and to forgive their mental mistakes at the end of the year.
Lowered expectations and a more personable team make discussing and following them a calm, enjoyable experience.
I only wish this sense of calm rationality was present in previous years.