They were looking like the club that every pundit of the hockey world predicted -- fast, strong, skilled and intimidating.
Then suddenly -- inexcusably -- it all stopped. To the point where they have scored just 22 goals in 12 games and their power-play has produced four goals in the last 33 chances. In the wake of a 3-0 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 3, their head coach of three-plus seasons was fired.
The Flyers have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons this season. Following a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday -- their 10th defeat in 12 games -- a prideful Chris Pronger had had about enough.
"We need to bear down and take a look in the mirror," Pronger said. "No one is going to help us get out of this. It's got to come from inside this locker room and, at the end of the day, you have to find a way to become victorious in those tight games and right now, we're not. We're finding a way to lose them and that's the problem. Winning is the name of the game here. Winning is fun and everything else (stinks)."
In essence, Pronger is admitting that the Flyers need to play with more emotion, more passion and, most importantly, play for each other. It hasn't been the coaching; rather, those being coached.
"When pucks aren't going in consistently, you start to squeeze the stick a little bit," said rookie James van Riemsdyk, who's been held pointless in seven straight games. "But we just have to get pucks to the net and work hard around the net. We've been playing really well defensively, but it comes down to us bearing down around the net and putting some pucks in."
At the time John Stevens was fired, the Flyers were coming off six losses in seven games and stood 11th in the Eastern Conference. Under Laviolette, the Broad Street Bullies have gone 1-4-0 and have slipped to 13th in the East -- 16 points behind second-place New Jersey.
"I've seen us take steps in the way we want to play the game like when we beat the Islanders (on Dec. 8)," Laviolette said. "I thought we played a hard game against Ottawa but were just missing that final attack to the net. We showed signs, but showing signs just isn't good enough right now.
"You have to win hockey games and it doesn't matter how -- we have to put ourselves into a position to get into the playoffs, qualify for home ice and compete for the Stanley Cup."
While the players have made strides during Laviolette's nine days on the job, it hasn't helped that most practices have been relatively on-the-fly since his arrival.
"I think we've taken strides in the way we need to play and create a certain identity on the ice, but we're not there yet," the coach said. "We're taking small steps and I think with success, we'll take bigger steps and gain more confidence. You hope that continues to grow and you can get some momentum behind you."
"No one is going to help us get out of this. It's got to come from inside this locker room and, at the end of the day, you have to find a way to become victorious in those tight games and right now, we're not. We're finding a way to lose them and that's the problem."
-- Chris Pronger
"We're learning on the fly and learning through our games and video sessions before games," Pronger said. "We haven't had a whole lot of practice time to work on things but we need to bear down and focus on what we can do from our own skill set and structure of the team.
"There's an old saying, 'You're never as bad as you think you are and never as good as you think you are.' I don't think we're that bad, but we're getting there if we don't start looking in the mirror and coming with an attitude each and every day to the rink. Whether it's game day or not, you have to come with the attitude you want to work, prepare properly and execute in practice from pregame skate and then the game."
And he didn't stop there.
"We need to focus on what we could do within the structure of what the coaching staff has put into place within our skill set and go out, execute and play well to our abilities," he continued. "Right now, it's one or two little mistakes that are costing us games and if we can sure those up, we'll be on the winning side of things."
Flyers captain Mike Richards feels the team just hasn't created enough offensively and, instead, has been looking for the perfect play that just never materializes.
"We obviously want to get more pucks to the net and create more offense," Richards said. "We've been playing well defensively but we just haven't created enough offensively because we're trying to create too many fancy plays."
Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen feels the club is actually adjusting well to Laviolette's pressing style. It just hasn't transferred to wins -- yet.
"I don't think it's been anything drastic that Peter has tried to implement," Mullen said. "He did it in little bits and pieces, you can't give it to them all at once. It's just too much information, too much change. You have to change one thing and then ease into it, change another and ease into it -- a little bit here and a little there."
Contact Mike Morreale at: firstname.lastname@example.org.