By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
When the Flyers took the ice on Thursday, there was potential history on the line. It’s not the kind of history you like to be linked to. It’s chapters like this that you want to erase from memory.
That’s how last season felt, as a 6-2-2 start quickly evaporated into one humiliating loss after another. That was against the same seven opponents all season. That was without competing against the rest of the teams in the league, which makes it a little difficult to determine placement in the league.
But in the 2021-22 season, everything is back in play. There have been West coast trips, trips north of the border, opponents from all divisions. And the Flyers have established that they are one of the bottom-feeders.
To lose 10 games in a row in a season is really not as uncommon as it may seem. It’s actually happened four times already this season. Of course, two of those happen to be streaks belonging to the Flyers, the latest an ongoing streak that reached double-digits with Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Columbus.
There have also been only 12 such streaks since the 2017-18 season, and that includes an additional 10-game losing streak for the 2017-18 Flyers. So the Flyers account for 25 percent of the 10-game losing streaks around the NHL in the last four seasons.
First, this is now a part of Flyers history. Including the current streak, the Flyers have had nine double-digit “winless streaks” in franchise history. This is the first time they have had two in the same season.
This is a feat that hasn’t happened since the 2010-11 season, 11 seasons ago when the Colorado Avalanche had two 10-game losing streaks. It has happened 38 other times in NHL history, but only two other times since the 2004-05 lockout. The Flyers join said Avalanche team and the 2005-06 St. Louis Blues.
It has only happened five other times since 2000. In the last 30 years, it has only happened 12 other times. In four of those instances, multiple 10-game losing streaks were the result of expansion teams still in their first two seasons of existence and trying to create an identity.
But here’s where things really heat up. Where the Flyers take it to a new level is how quickly it has happened. For plenty of teams that have endured two 10-game losing streaks in a season, the second streak came late in the season, usually within the final 10 games. This can be somewhat understandable for teams that have nothing left to play for, not much more road left ahead, and may also have traded away players to contenders. The NHL roster takes a hit as a result, and the losses can pile up.
In the Flyers case this season, these two streaks have come just 40 games into the season, not even the halfway point.
Do you know how many times that has happened? Since the Expansion Era began in the 1967-68 season, only four other teams have done this.
In 1967-68, the Oakland Seals had two such streaks following 38 games. That was their first year of existence.
In 1974-75, the Washington Capitals reached this mark in 29 games. That was their first season in the league.
In 1984-85, the Toronto Maple Leafs took just 28 games to reach this mark.
And finally, the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators reached this mark in 38 games, also in their first season in the league.
This is obviously not the Flyers first season in the league, and one thing that those four teams have in common is that they all played prior to the lockout when ties were abolished and the shootout was brought into the game. Ties at that time prolonged such “winless” streaks. And they were indeed that, since a tie got you one point in the standings.
For the Flyers, this is different. These are losing streaks, whether the loss comes in regulation, by virtue of a 3-on-3 overtime, or the dreaded skills competition that is the shootout.
It hardly mattered whether there was a point up for grabs in overtime or the shootout. In their first 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were 0-8-2, having just two games go beyond regulation. On this current streak, they are 0-7-3. Collectively, in 20 games this season, they have earned five points without getting a win.
To make matters worse, since Nov. 16, the Flyers final win prior to the first 10-game losing streak, the team had an 8-4-2 record through 14 games and a total of 18 points in the standings. In the 26 games since, the team has a 5-15-6 record and has earned just 16 additional points to be at 34 total.
Finally, a look into the future. With more than half the season still ahead – the official halfway point comes Saturday in Buffalo – who’s to say there isn’t an additional streak of some kind still ahead. Or what if this streak extends to establish more unfortunate franchise records.
The Flyers aren’t all that far off from one. Sitting at 10 straight losses, the longest Flyers winless streak is 12 games in the 1998-99 season. Obviously pending the results in Buffalo and at home against Dallas on Monday, the team could be in position to set a new record as soon as next Tuesday when they make a return trip to Long Island to face the Islanders.
And whenever this streak does finally come to an end, how many games will be left for another one to possibly take place? Only six times in NHL history has a team had a winless streak of 10 games in a row three times in a season. That hasn’t happened since the 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning.
Only two of the aforementioned four teams to reach this mark within 40 games had a third streak. The 1992-93 Ottawa Senators had a third 10-game winless streak that season.
The 1974-75 Washington Capitals are the only team in NHL history to have four such streaks in a season.
Why does this matter? Well, because there is no end in sight for any of this for the Flyers. Sure, they will eventually win a game soon enough to snap this streak. But there will be deadline deals to be made. There will be changes coming during the season. There will not be much help in terms of currently-injured players returning or the team suddenly finding an identity or determination that makes them a team to be reckoned with and challenging to play. And that’s going to lead to plenty of losses down the stretch, maybe even consecutively.
The last two months have featured two losing streaks that reached double-digits. It feels like the entire season has come and gone in that time. But, no, there are still 42 games left on the schedule beyond this. Still 42 games that could prove to be even more futile than the first 40 have already been.