Inside the Flyers: Snider reflects on frustrating Flyers season

"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Ed Snider said. "It was the perfect storm."
"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Ed Snider said. "It was the perfect storm." (Staff)
Posted: May 06, 2013

The last time the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a box-office sensation, sentences were handed out for the Watergate cover-up, and gas was about 57 cents a gallon.

Yeah, it's been a while.

Thirty-eight years, to be exact.

No one is more frustrated than Ed Snider, the Flyers' founder and chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the team's parent company.

The frustration grew this season. First there was the senseless lockout. Then the Flyers' head-scratching, inconsistent play caused them to miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 years.

Snider said there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the abbreviated, 48-game season.

"I don't want this to sound like excuses because all teams had a shortened schedule and just a one-week training camp," Snider said. "Some teams did well [the previous season] and were happy with their system. We got knocked out by New Jersey in the second round, and New Jersey dominated, and I think the coach wanted to tweak the system."

That, Snider said, was difficult to accomplish in a short training camp. "And we ended up with the worst schedule in the league. At one point, we played 20 games, and Boston had played 15 [actually, 14]. You already have a compressed schedule, and ours was compressed more than anyone else's. And when you have tweaking, no practices, and a bad start, we never recovered."

Injuries, Snider said, didn't help. Neither did this: The Flyers didn't have the resiliency (like Ottawa), the depth, or the speed to compensate.

"Most teams would have a difficult time recovering from a depleted defense like ours," Snider said. "It was sort of like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was the perfect storm."

For all of those reasons, Snider gives coach Peter Laviolette a pass on the 23-22-3 season, one in which the Flyers finished fourth in the five-team Atlantic Division and 10th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.

"He's the same coach who won a Stanley Cup in Carolina and took us to the Finals," Snider said. "I like him and his style of play."

That said, Laviolette figures to be on a short leash next season. This is a franchise whose trademark does not include patience.

Asked to evaluate general manager Paul Holmgren's performance, Snider said: "No one is happy with the year we had. I'm not happy with Ed Snider, so let's start at the top. Paul's not happy, and he knows we tried to do things and didn't have success."

Holmgren was unable to land marquee free agents Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, or Zach Parise, and his Plan B fell woefully short.

"Paul's overall performance is outstanding," said Snider, giving Holmgren a mulligan for this year, a pronouncement that will bring grief to the countless tweeters who want a new general manager.

Snider said the emergence of winger Jake Voracek and a terrific cameo by goalie Steve Mason were among his highlights this season. He also had praise for defenseman Erik Gustafsson.

"Gus came on as an NHL defenseman and as a guy who can move the puck, and some of the other young defensemen showed tremendous promise," he said.

Mason, who was rookie of the year in 2008-09, had been awful for most of the last four seasons with Columbus, but he was lights-out in seven games with the Flyers.

"It's not too small of a sample," Snider insisted. "It's not like he's just a kid right out of juniors. He had great credentials coming into the NHL, and those credentials don't just float away."

If the Flyers don't use a buyout on Ilya Bryzgalov, he and Mason will battle for the No. 1 job in training camp. But if the Flyers need to get Bryzgalov's annual $5.7 million cap hit off the books to acquire or sign another player, he will be bought out.

The Flyers' wish list includes a No. 1 defenseman and a sniper forward, preferably with size.

"If Paul has to get under the cap for a specific reason, he will. But if you're not getting a player, you don't have to," Snider said. "It's a game of chess, and that's still up in the air."

Despite almost four decades without a Stanley Cup, the Flyers' fan base has not abandoned them. The Flyers have had 106 consecutive sellouts at the Wells Fargo Center.

"Our fans love the game and know we're trying hard every year to get better," said Snider, whose youth hockey program has helped hundreds of young players stay in school. "Fans aren't stupid. They know when an organization is doing everything possible and when it's not. They probably wouldn't support us if we weren't working our butts off."

Still, going Cup-less since 1975 has to be draining on the 80-year-old Snider.

"We've been to the Finals several times [six] since then," Snider said, "and some unbelievably strange things have happened to us. Bernie [Parent] got hurt. We got robbed by the officials against the Islanders. . . . The Finals against Chicago a few years ago when we got beat by a crazy goal that no one saw.

"I think," Snider added with a grin, "someone has a pin in a voodoo doll somewhere and is putting it to us."


Not-So-Special Flyers

The Flyers failed to make the playoffs this season despite having elite special teams. The reason? They were mediocre - or worse - in most other categories, including five-on-five play, goals-against average, faceoffs, and minor penalties committed. Here is how they ranked this year among the 30 NHL teams:

CATEGORY STATISTIC RANK Point percentage.51020 Power-play success21.6%3 Penalty-kill success85.9%5 Faceoff success48.5%23 Shots per game2915 Shots-against per game28.612 Goals per game2.759 Goals-against per game2.9022 (tie) 5-on-5 (GF/GA ratio)0.8625 (tie) Giveaways per game4.615 Takeaways per game3.2519 Hits per game27.45 Blocked shots per game16.33 Penalty minutes per game15.729 Minor penalties21330 Major penalties3528 (tie) Bench minors

929 (tie)


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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