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Therien's Take: Commitment and Identity Needed From Day One

by Chris Therien @ctherien6

As the 2019-20 season draws upon us, it is important for this Philadelphia Flyers team to get back to the fundamentals that has made this the successful franchise it has been for well over 50 years. That starts with commitment from every player on the team -- not lip service to commitment, but the real thing. 

Everyone wants to win but that's not good enough in and of itself. Players also have to genuinely hate to lose; take it personally when anything less than a "W" at the end of the night is the outcome.Woulda, coulda, shoulda is not acceptable.  

Much has changed about hockey through the years, but here are two things that will never change: bonafide winning teams are ones built on their commitment to team defense and strong goaltending. The two things walk hand-in-hand and those elements will either lift each other up or eventually drag one another down. 

 

For the 2019-20 Flyers to be a success, cutting down the number of goals the team gives up has to be priority number one.

Last season, the Flyers ranked 29th in the NHL in goals against average. There were many reasons behind it, but the bottom line is that it was flat out unacceptable, and reflected poorly on the whole team. 

Consider this: Sixteen teams make the playoffs each season, and 15 miss. Last year, each and every one of the 11 teams at the bottom of GAA -- the 21st to 31st ranked clubs, in other words -- failed to qualify for the playoffs. Meanwhile, 16 of the top 20 teams in GAA at least got into the playoffs. 

Playing better team D will also lead to an increase in transitional opportunities on offense. Better breakouts will mean spending more time on the attack. More commitment to playing as five-man units will make life easier on Carter Hart and Brian Elliott. In turn, the goalies will have to step up when there are some breakdowns (which are inevitable for every team, because mistakes happen). 

That is how winning is done. It isn't always fun, and it certainly isn't easy. There's a lot of hard work involved, and players sacrificing personal goals for team goals. It sounds corny and clichéd, yes. But it's also true. It's an attitude and a mentality, from top to bottom on the roster.

When I played for the Flyers, I was fortunate enough to break into the league under Terry Murray. Murph was pretty tough on me at times, and there were certainly when I didn't really like the message. My third season, I got benched for awhile. I didn't like it one bit. But I also learned from it, and got better for it. 

The bottom line was this: The Flyers went from missing the playoffs for five straight years to winning our division back-to-back years, and getting to an Eastern Conference Final and a Stanley Cup Final along the way during my first three years in the NHL. The 1980s teams had a winner's mentality, and the Broad Street Bullies era teams mos definitely had it in spades.

There was a lot of talent on those teams, yes. But talent alone doesn't win in this league. It was all about playing the right way, and replicating it every single day. That is where identity comes from; play hard, play fearlessly, and play for each other. If you can't do that or don't want to do that, good luck somewhere else. 

Remember this: Any team can lose. Not any team can win. 

Last season was a disappointment in many facets for the Flyers but the look of the orange and black has always been one of pride integrity and work ethic. That is the foundation of what this organization is all about. 

Many new faces will be suiting up for the Philadelphia Flyers this season, including a pair of new veteran defensemen who played heavy minutes on contending teams (in one case, a Stanley Cup champion). New coaches will stand behind the bench and a new management team will oversee the product from their perch in the Press Box. 

This Flyer team should be vigilant in finding more wins through the course of the regular season to qualify for the Stanley Cup Tournament in April but more importantly this is a team that needs to identify once again what it means to wear the Orange and Black and represent this city with the foundation this team was built on with Ed Snider's vision. 

There are many vanilla franchises in professional sports and in no world should the Philadelphia Flyers accept being "just another team." No one should accept anything short of excellence. Instilling a winner's identity and commitment from Day One onward is the job of many people as NHL Camp opens.

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