Philadelphia Sports Franchises: Philadelphia Flyers
March 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Stanley Cups: 1973-74, 1974-75 (2)
Retired Numbers: #1 Bernie Parent, #4 Barry Ashbee, #7 Bill Barber, #16 Bobby Clarke, #99 Wayne Gretzky (retired league-wide)
The Flyers have been one of the NHL’s most consistent teams, reaching the playoffs with regularity throughout their history. The club won Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975 with lineups starring left wing Bill Barber, center Bobby Clarke, and goaltender Bernie Parent.
The Philadelphia Flyers joined the NHL in 1967 as part of the first wave of expansion beyond the Original Six. In their first season, the Flyers finished first in the new Western Division but were upset by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. In the next few seasons, the franchise experienced some success over the next few years, but it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that they made their presence truly known in the NHL.
From 1972 to 1989, Philadelphia won nine division titles and reached the postseason every year. The club’s premier player during this era was Bobby Clarke. In the 1972-73 season, Clarke won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player after becoming the Flyers’ first player to collect more than 100 points in one season.
In 1974, the Flyers became the first of the NHL’s 1967 expansion teams to be crowned NHL champion when they defeated the Boston Bruins in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals. For his play in the regular season, Bernie Parent won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, and was also lauded as MVP of the playoffs. Flyers head coach Fred Shero received the accolade as the NHL’s top coach.The Flyers won the Stanley Cup again in 1975, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 2. Clarke led the team and won his second Hart Trophy, and Parent once again won the two awards he had earned the previous season.
Under head coach Pat Quinn, the Flyers won their division title in the 1979-80 season. The club established an NHL-record of 35 consecutive games without a loss during that season, behind a truly superb defense. The Flyers returned to the Stanley Cup Finals, but fell to the Islanders in six games.
Philadelphia returned to the Stanley Cup Finals again in both 1985 and 1987, but they lost each year to the Edmonton Oilers. Center-right wing Tim Kerr led the team in scoring from 1983 to 1987, and Mark Howe anchored the defense. After postseason appearances in 1988 and 1989, the Flyers suffered a five-year playoff drought.
New hope came to Philly in 1992, as the team obtained 19-year-old center Eric Lindros from the Québec Nordiques. Lindros scored 41 goals in his first season, and after the 1994-95 season, he won the Hart Trophy, having led the Flyers to their first division crown in eight seasons. In the 1996-97 season, the Flyers acquired defenseman Paul Coffey. They closed the regular season in second place in their division and subsequently advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in a four game sweep.
They also lost the Final in 1985, 1987, 1997 and 2010 (after a stunning playoff run), but have established themselves as one of the NHL’s most successful franchises on and off the ice. Most recently, the Flyers have found moderate success, winning their division in the 2000-01 and 2003-04 seasons, while winning the conference championship last season, 2009-10.
The Flyers began the 2009–10 season with some major changes, allowing goaltenders Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki to depart via free agency, and replacing them with Ray Emery and former Flyer Brian Boucher, and significantly upgrading the defense with the addition of Chris Pronger from Anaheim. The season began relatively well but soon began to unravel with mediocre play that cost John Stevens his job in December. Peter Laviolette was hired as head coach in order to reinstitute accountability and restore success to the Flyers but the results were not immediate, as injuries took a major toll on the Flyers. However, no position was nearly affected as much with injuries as goaltending. Emery suffered a hip injury in December, played sporadically afterwards and had season-ending surgery. Boucher suffered a hand injury shortly thereafter which allowed journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton to step in and make an immediate impact. Leighton went 8–0–1 in his first 10 starts, including a tough 2–1 overtime loss in the 2010 Winter Classic to Boston at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day. However, Leighton was forced out of the line-up in March with a high ankle sprain, necessitating Boucher’s return as starter. All told, seven different goaltenders suited up for the Flyers at various points. Mediocre play down the stretch forced the Flyers into a do-or-die shootout with the Rangers in the last game of the regular season for a playoff berth. Boucher stopped final shooter Olli Jokinen to clinch the 7th seed in the East and a 1st-round matchup with New Jersey.
Boucher and the Flyers consistently outplayed Martin Brodeur and New Jersey and pulled off the upset in five games. The Flyers faced 6th-seeded Boston in the 2nd round, and despite playing at an even level with Boston the Flyers found themselves in a 3–0 series deficit. Gagne returned in Game 4 and scored in overtime to force a Game 5 which the Flyers won convincingly, 4–0. Boucher suffered MCL sprains during the game in both knees which forced Leighton back into net in his first time suiting up since March. Boucher and Leighton became the first goalies since 1955 to share a playoff shutout. A 2–1 Flyers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 in Boston. Falling behind 3–0 in Game 7, the Flyers pulled off the biggest comeback in both franchise and league history, winning 4–3 on a late goal by Gagne. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Flyers had home-ice advantage as they faced Montreal.
The Flyers won the Eastern Conference Championship in 5 games and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997 to face Chicago. Dropping 2 close games in Chicago, the Flyers returned home to win Game 3 in overtime and Game 4 to even the series. But a convincing 7–4 win by Chicago in Game 5 and an upsetting Game 6 that went into overtime gave way to a Philadelphia defeat, and gave Chicago their 1st Stanley Cup since 1961.
On January 25, 2011, the Flyers became only the 7th NHL Franchise, and 1st expansion-era franchise to win their 1000th game at home by defeating the Canadiens. Stay tuned tomorrow as we cover the state of today’s Flyers’ franchise!