This is a guest post from longtime reader, commenter and friend of The700Level Brent Blanchard, aka 2sentz.
This morning I was struck by how just two weeks ago, many fans and blog commenters were lamenting this team’s “lack of toughness,” then suddenly even more fans expressed outrage at Friday night’s antics. How could those views coexist? Regardless of where you stand, opinions on this underachieving team are like tracer-fire right now… winging in every direction and rarely hitting the moving target.
So really, how accurate is the Flyer’s current “bully” narrative, and how much has it tangibly hurt the team during this and the past few seasons? I was curious enough to spend almost half-a-lunch-break today researching the internet’s convenient “Flyers section,” and data indicates while their current reputation may be warranted, allegations of a tangible negative impact are not.
First, there’s penalty minutes by team. Perhaps predictably, the Flyers finished either first or second in team PIM in four of the past five years, which indicates aggressiveness, maybe even some recklessness. However, during those seasons they made the playoffs all but once, including a first-round, two second-round and a Finals appearance.
So the aggressiveness hasn’t seemed to hinder them too much… or at least not as much as holding only two solid defensemen has.
Then there’s the more literal measure of bullying and sloppy recklessness that can really hurt your team, suspensions. Over the same past five years (including start of this season), there have been 136 player suspensions for a total of 488 games (my favorite offense: “giving throat slashing motion”). Of that, the Flyers have received nine for a total of 29 games, and half of those went to their indispensable playmaker Jody Shelley.
So while the Flyers have arguably earned their fair share of suspensions, they’re not well beyond the league average, and certainly not operating roughshod with a collective cheap-shot “bullying” mentality that warrants criticism beyond any other team. There’s simply no evidence of this.
Of course there are occasional days where an untimely slash or trip leads to a critical power play. But at the end of the day, the numbers indicate—like Ray Emery, Scott Hartnell and other players have been stating—the team’s lack of ability to score and play solid D (read: talent and execution) have led to frustrations that result in fights and penalties, and not the other way around.
Nobody’s out there “gooning it up” or hurting this team with any regularity, and viewed in this context, perhaps the isolated freak-out that occurred last Friday can—as fans are hoping—actually help inspire this team without defining it. The Flyers have numerous significant issues, however aggressiveness and hard play does not appear to be one of them.