And not a second too soon. Lost in a Masters-filled Sunday will be the final game of the Flyers' 2006-2007 season, where the team will finish dead last in the NHL and with the worst record in their storied 40-year history.
If you're a Flyers fan, tune in for at least a few minutes today, because it's the last time you'll see some of these faces. Paul Holmgren will look to this failed campaign as a one-year rebuilding period, marked by key free agent signings in what will be one of the biggest and deepest unrestricted groups in the history of the league. Homer's already begun, inking goalie Martin Biron to a two-year deal and bringing in some youth to evaluate or deal for next season. All indications are that this was a one-year fluke, and that the Flyers will be at the top of the standings, but then again, no one saw this season's abysmal showing coming. At least they had one player lead the league in something: Ben Eager, penalty minutes. The team rewarded him by naming him its Most Improved Player. Not often the guy who leads the team in PIM is named its MIP.
Greatest Need: A New Suit
With the virtual guarantee of some proven talent being signed by a franchise that's never been afraid to spend money, the biggest question mark is coach John Stevens. In a word, Stevens' first season after taking over for an impulsively fired Ken Hitchcock was unimpressive. Under his direction, the Flyers saw an NHL record drop in points from one season to the next (47). However, he was resigned to an extension, so we'll probably see him behind the bench again next season.
I won't complain if Stevens is back, not right away anyway, but there is one guy I think the Flyers brass should look at before too long: Claude Julien. Despite his Devils team being poised for a Cup run in second place in the East, and winning four of their previous five, Julien was fired by insane but brilliant GM Lou Lamoriello, who will coach the team in the playoffs. The GM said it was because the team lacked intensity, but I think Double L is just a bit unhinged; he's done this before, and he'll do it again.
It's Not Your Fault. It's Not Your Fault.
So to the Flyers' faithful, you had a helluva season. Despite an absolutely horrid stretch of home games this year, you came out in force every night and showed recognition of this team's history of winning. I think next year you'll be rewarded for not breaking your ankles jumping off the bandwagon.