So far this season, the Flyers have endured their worst eight-game start in franchise history at 1-7 , saw their head coach hit the unemployment line after all of three games, made headlines for all the wrong reasons after a goalie “fight,” and have gone through such awful offensive dry spells that their most-skilled players wouldn’t have been able to shoot the puck into the ocean at times.
And while the team has played much better hockey of late and may have turned a corner under new coach Craig Berube, who has led the them to a 7-7-2 record since taking over behind the bench for Peter Laviolette, the Flyers sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and last place in the Metropolitan Division … and are just four points out of a playoff spot.
You read that correctly.
With 16 points, the Flyers -- prior to Monday night’s games -- sit just four points out of playoff spot as in a weak Eastern Conference and an even weaker -- and terribly named -- Metropolitan Division.
But how is that possible given how poorly the Orange and Black started the year?
There are a few explanations.
When the NHL realigned over the summer to put Winnipeg out west, it created two divisions for each conference and forced the league to revamp its playoff system.
Eight teams from each conference will still qualify, but the league created a bracketed, division-based playoff system, much like it used to have in the 1980s when the Flyers were in the Patrick Division of the Wales Conference.
The top three teams from each division are guaranteed playoff spots while two “wild-card” spots will go to two remaining teams with the most points regardless of division. The wild-card team with fewer points will go into the playoff bracket that has the team with the most points, leaving the other wild-card team in the other bracket.
The Metropolitan Division is probably the worst division in hockey right now. The NFC East is pretty logical comparison. Both divisions feature marquee teams and big-name superstars, but both divisions are incredibly average for the teams and talent they feature.
Washington currently sits in first place in the Metropolitan with 25 points. But outside of Alexander Ovechkin and their power play, there’s nothing too menacing about the Capitals.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are in second place with 24 points, but Evgeni Malkin is having a down year when it comes to putting the puck in the net, their defense isn’t the best, and Marc-Andre Fleury is an elephant-sized black and gold question mark in net.
The New York Rangers are in third with 20 points but are missing their top offensive player in Rick Nash and can’t find the net to support goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The New York Islanders have John Tavares and loads of offensive talent, but don’t have much defense nor a goalie. New Jersey can’t score. Carolina and Columbus are nothing to write home about.
Currently, the Atlantic Division’s Detroit and Montreal hold the East’s wild card spots. Detroit has 25 points and Montreal has 22.
That leaves the Flyers just five points out of the last wild card spot, too.
Compare all of this to the stacked Western Conference, where the last divisional spot belongs to St. Louis at 29 points and the last wild card spot is held by Los Angeles, which also has 29.
If the Flyers were in the West, they would be 13 points out of each of those spots. When you are about to scarf down some turkey next week for Thanksgiving, be thankful the Flyers aren’t in the Western Conference.
So, with all turmoil and issues that have surrounded the team, despite the facts its three games under .500 in regulation and Claude Giroux has just one goal seven weeks into the season, the Flyers are just four points out of that last division spot and five points out of that last wild-card spot.
Could be worse.