Former Flyers captain and current Flyers executive Bob Clarke hates the idea of tanking.
Like, really hates it.
“It pisses me off that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys . . . and Malkins,” Clarke tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn’t want to be.”
Ironically, Clarke’s remarks were found in an article about the Flyers’ 40-year Stanley Cup drought. Since winning their second straight title in 1975, they’ve been to the finals five times, losing all five times.
Most recently, in 2010, the Flyers lost to a Blackhawks team that was led by Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006, on a goal by Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.
As proven this year by the Rangers and Ducks, it’s not absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom in order to assemble a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks, champions in 2010 and 2013, bottomed out first. So did the Kings, allowing them to draft Drew Doughty second overall in 2008, and win it all in 2012 and 2014. And yes, the Penguins did too, drafting Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. They won the Cup in 2009.
Oh, and has anyone noticed how important Victor Hedman, second overall in 2009, has been in the playoffs for the Lightning, whose captain, Steven Stamkos, was the first overall pick in 2008?
That’s why management in a place like Buffalo has done what it’s done over the past couple of years. And that’s why the Flyers have, until lately, received their share of criticism for choosing quick fixes over long-term solutions. In the salary-cap era, if winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, there are clear incentives to — um, how did Darcy Regier once put it? — “go in a very distinct direction.”
There are no guarantees that direction will work out for the Sabres. Or the Oilers. Or the Leafs. Or the Coyotes. But until the incentives change, teams will continue to tank, whether some people like it or not.