We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is like a book.” It’s not. You can reread a book, turn back its pages and even stop reading if you don’t like it. Life isn’t like that. Once a page is turned you can never go back. The words on that page can never be changed. Any typos or grammatical errors can never be corrected. The most frightening part about the whole thing is that we do not control when the pages turn, Time does. And Time has no pity for humanity. We are all being carried against our will on Time’s ceaseless march into the future which ends in the same place for all living things: Death.
Modern day philosopher Aubrey Graham, better known by his stage name, Drake, once said, “You only live once: that’s the motto, (expletive), YOLO.” No one understands Mr. Graham’s words as well as those whom’s life is about to end. Original owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and Chairman of Comcast Spectacor, Ed Snider, hasn’t been young for a long while. Snider turned 80 in January and hasn’t seen the Flyers win a Stanley Cup since he was 42 years old. For all you math fans out there, that’s almost half of Snider’s life. I’m 21 years old as I write this and even I’m jonesing for a Cup. I can hardly imagine how Mr. Snider feels having sipped from Lord Stanley’s chalice twice before and having invested the majority of his life to his hockey team.
All of this is why I believe that Ed Snider and the Flyers’ management’s impatience comes from the ticking of the clock. Mr. Snider wants another Cup before he departs this world and he knows that he only lives once; his only shot is to make the Flyers a contender year in and year out, desperating (some would say) trying to taste that glory one last time.
As a fan, especially a young one, this can be kind of annoying. It seems as if the Flyers have no plan and, as Flyers’
gurus and two people’s opinions on the game I respect more than most, Bill Meltzer and John Saquella, put it, “are always trying to win last year’s Stanley Cup.”
For example, after being eliminated (swept) by the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals after an otherworldly performance by Boston goalie Tim Thomas, Ed Snider decided he wanted a legitimate starting goalie too, which lead to the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov. A second example would be, after losing in 5 games to the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Conference Semis, Snider stressed that he’d like to see the Flyers play a tighter defensive system, much like the Devils used to beat the Flyers.
ASIDE: It should also be noted when talking about impatience that the Flyers dressed 13 home grown players (not including second stint players such as Gagne, Fedotenko and Boucher), 5 of whom played more than half the season (24 games or greater; Giroux, Couturier, Read, Rinaldo, Gustafsson). Of those 13, 9 were forwards and 4 were defensemen.
Many fans have called for some sort of plan; maybe try drafting and developing young talent, even if that means sucking for a few years. There’s even evidence to support the idea of building through the draft via high picks versus making bold moves and signing veteran guys to sizeable contracts to fill out a roster. The last 4 teams to win the Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Bruins and Los Angeles Kings, all had multiple down years leading up to their dominance. From 2001-02 to 2005-06, the Penguins failed to make the playoffs and selected 5th overall, 1st overall, 2nd overall, 1st overall and 2nd overall, respectively, in the corresponding Entry Drafts (selected Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. Kris Letang was also a 2nd round pick in 2005). The Blackhawks missed the playoffs except for one season (lost in the quarterfinals) in the span of a decade from 1997-98 to 2007-08 (plus got a little lucky in 2007. You all know what I’m talking about). The Bruins missed the playoffs in consecutive years in 1999-00 and 2000-01 and again in 2005-06 and 2006-07 while also making some advantageous trades for high picks and prospects (i.e.Tuukka Rask and the pick that turned into Tyler Seguin). Last but not least, the Kings didn’t see playoff hockey for 6 years from 2002-03 to 2008-09 and had a lot of homegrown, high-end talent on their team including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick when they won the Cup in 2012. In contrast, the Flyers have made the playoffs every year (save 2006-07) from 1994-95 to 2011-12 (16 seasons) but have only advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals twice (2-8 record) and lost in the Conference Finals 4 times, the Conference Semifinals 4 times and were bounced in the Quarterfinals 6 times.
Before I go on, it would be remiss of me not to mention that not every team that sucks for an extended period ends up ultimately having success. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers have made the playoffs a total of 15 times this century (starting in 1999-00) with nothing to show for it while the Detroit Red Wings haven’t missed the playoffs in two decades and won the Cup in 2008.
Regardless of what teams are winning the Cup and how, the Flyer’s bold moves, born out of impatience, are justifiable, not because of what the Red Wings have accomplished or what the Leafs have failed to accomplished, but because human mortality says so. Can we, as fellow humans, condemn Snider for doing what he feels is necessary in a desperate attempt to fulfill his final dream in life? We are taught growing up to always chase our dreams (especially here in America) and to let nothing stop us from achieving them. This is precisely what ol’ Ed is doing. Most people don’t want to die for one reason or another but we all know it’s inevitable that we will (understanding it is something else entirely). The last thing any of us want is to be on our death beds feeling a sense of unfulfillment or regret and there is no reason why Ed Snider wouldn’t fear the same thing. Are there better ways of going about building a Cup Contender, even with impatience, than we’ve seen since 1975? Maybe, but that’s a topic for another blog.
We’ve seen more than one bold move since 1975, bringing in veterans and stars as well as trading them away for young talent. Pass-their-prime eventual Hall of Famers have passed through the city including Darryl Sittler, Paul Coffey and Adam Oates as well as future Hall of Famers Peter Forsberg and Jaromir Jagr, all in an attempt to get to the top of Hockey’s Mount Everest. The acquistion of Eric Lindros seemed like the trumpets were sounding for a decade’s long climb but, as well all know, that ended bitterly. We’ve also see massive roster shake ups like back in 2011 when Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were shipped out for younger guys and cap space. Now the Flyers have a new crop of talent lead by Claude Giroux. Can the “Ginger Jesus” lead the Flyers to salvation? Only Time will tell, like always. Ed Snider knows that better than anyone.
There will always be critics to the methods of the Flyers’ management and its aging puppeteer from a hockey fan standpoint but when we strip away the rules and logos in front of it all, we’re faced with a man, a passion and a clock that could stop ticking at any second. It’s terribly morbid to think about but it’s the truth nonetheless. At 80 years old, Snider doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around while prospects develop (or so he may believe). The certainty of youth is gone. One thing’s for sure: Ed Snider cares more about his team than the vast majority of owners in all of professional sports. He is both a businessman and a fan and no one deserves to see another banner hoisted into the rafters more than Snider. As his lifetime dwindles and Time continues it’s perilous march forward, Ed Snider continues his attempts at getting the Flyers back to the Promise Land, both for himself and the city that he’s grown to love, before his clock stops ticking for good.