Missanelli: The Flyers — Yes, the Flyers — Are Philly’s Best Franchise Right Now
It was a bleak sports decade, the 1970s in Philadelphia, until the Philadelphia Flyers won two Stanley Cups.
The Flyers’ Cups were a kickstart to what would turn out to be a golden winning era in Philly. From there, the Phillies, with a maturing lot from their farm system, became contenders, culminating in a 1980 World Championship. The Eagles, under Dick Vermeil, went to a Super Bowl. The Sixers were in a hunt every year until finally pushing through in 1983.
What does that have to do with today? Perhaps, as Yogi would have said, it’s déjà vu all over again.
I’m on the record saying that in the year 2020, all four of Philadelphia’s major sports teams will be contenders. But the Flyers may be way ahead of schedule.
They have come from nowhere to secure (almost) the eighth playoff spot in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs. If they stay at eight, they get to play the vaunted Washington Capitals, a team that has clinched the NHL’s President’s Cup for accumulating the most points in the league. But the Caps have a flimsy playoff record — they have been consumed by demons in the playoffs — and it might be best for the Flyers to get them early, before the Caps can accumulate any momentum by winning a series. The Flyers shellshocked the Caps a few nights back in a shootout, which has to get the number one seed thinking a little bit.
On my radio show the other day, I asked the fan base four rhetorical questions:
- Are the Flyers the next team to win a championship in Philadelphia?
- Are the Eagles the least favorite team to win a championship in Philadelphia?
- Is this NBA lottery and NBA draft the determining factor as to whether the Sixers’ Sam Hinkie plan will ever work?
- Using a percentage scale, how much of a championship factor will the Phillies be over the next five seasons?
Almost overwhelmingly, the Flyers came up with the most positive results. They are far ahead of any other franchise in town.
I have it ranked as follows: The Eagles are No. 2 in the pecking order. Despite the doubts we have about the hierarchy, the doubts about Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson, teams in the NFL can get good really quickly. I think the Eagles can get to 8-8 or 9-7 this season — which may be enough to win their lousy division. From there, you have a launching pad. Add talent to a weak spot here and there, and that 8-8 jumps to an 11-5 within two years.
The Phillies are ahead of the Sixers in that they already have young talent in place in their farm system. Just like two previous eras — the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, homegrown talent grew into big-time major league players that collectively became contenders.
The Sixers, meanwhile, are lost. I have no idea how long it’s going to take for them to come together. I’m still worried about Joel Embiid.