With the Phillies in recovery mode after a humiliating end to a season which began with such enormous expectations, Philadelphia fans have been left in search of something — anything — to lift their spirits in these disheartening times. Unfortunately, the state of misery has yet to be remedied in the weeks since the Phillies’ elimination. The Eagles, who have been inconsistent at best through the first 7 games of their 2011 campaign, currently sit at 3-4, with a world of question marks hovering over them. They look like a team that will be lucky to merely qualify for the postseason; a playoff run seems far more implausible.
In addition, the NBA lockout has prevented the Sixers from assisting in the effort to boost morale — not that the fanbase seems to have taken any notice. The Sixers have been perennially mediocre and uninteresting for the better of a decade now, their level of irrelevance rising so high that this year, very few people in the city even care whether or not they take the court. So with basketball on indefinite hiatus and football looking as if it will more than likely be finished — at least in the City of Brotherly Love — by early January, the Flyers stand as arguably the only team in Philadelphia generating any real excitement at the moment.
At the conclusion of the 2010-11 NHL Season, the Flyers’ future appeared ominously murky to those both in and outside the organization. After a disappointing 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Flyers were left feeling disenchanted with the structure of their roster, but looked to largely be stuck with it as a result of several long-term, lucrative contracts on their payroll that would be challenging to deal away. However, as he has done repeatedly during his five years at the helm, General Manager Paul Holmgren proceeded to shock nearly everyone.
By the time training camp rolled around in September, the Flyers as their fans had known them were virtually unrecognizable. Gone were veterans such as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, one-time fan favorites who had fallen out of favor in recent seasons; in were young, promising talents like Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn, along with veterans Max Talbot — a gritty former rival brought over from the Pittsburgh Penguins — and Jaromir Jagr — a future Hall-of-Famer with something to prove after a three-year absence from North American competition.
Through the first 12 games of this season, the Flyers have shown flashes of the team that their supporters dreamt of following Holmgren’s creative offseason remodeling. With a 8-4-2 record through Saturday’s games, good for 18 points and fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, the potential appears great for a successful year. Unlike many Flyers teams of the past, this bunch has the look of a team that should thrive in postseason play. Though the season is not yet a month old, the idea of the Flyers hoisting the Cup at the end doesn’t seem all that crazy — but Philadelphia fans will undoubtedly go crazy if it comes to fruition.