1) There has been a lot of news to digest over the last two days about the NHL's return-to-play plan. We know the basic structure that has been agreed upon, and that the 2019-20 regular season is over for statistical and record-keeping purposes. What we still do not know is WHEN the league will be ready to hold training camps (we only know that it won't be before July 1, at the soonest) or games (several weeks later) or WHERE they'll be played.
The league is considering 10 cities for two "hub" locations; one in the east, and one in the west. The hope is to choose two hubs in three or four weeks.
On the Flyers' official website, I ran down the eight most important facets of the return-to-play plan as it would specifically affect the Flyers. Earlier in the day, I condensed the NHL's 22-page memorandum about how Phase 2 (small-group workouts at team training facilities) down to four-point synopsis of what it would look like for the Flyers who return to the Delaware Valley to skate and work out at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. Phase 2 is tentatively targeted to begin in early June.
2) As I see it, the three-game round-robin that would see the Flyers play one game apiece against the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for seeding is like a week of playing with house money. The Flyers have already clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and cannot move down from the fourth seed. They could only move up to a higher seed during the round-robin.
On the flip side, if I were the Bruins (the only team in the NHL with 100 points this season) or the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues, I would be less than thrilled with the round-robin format. The only benefit is that the games mean a bit more than three exhibition games would before the start of the playoffs.
The thing about hockey is that, over small sample sizes, outcomes are quite unpredictable. Look at how Tampa Bay got swept in the first round of the playoffs last year after running away with the President's Trophy, or how a truly awful Detroit Red Wings team (17-49-5) started this year's regular season by winning three of their first four games and subsequently pulling off two separate upset wins over Boston.
Add in the fact that, by the time the NHL plays its round-robin and qualification-round games there will have been -- at minimum -- a four-plus month break between the last game any team played. Then consider the fact that the qualification round (and, possibly, the conference quarterfinals and semifinals) will be best-of-five series rather than best-of-seven.
Given all of these factors, it would be more surprising if there were NOT some major upsets involving teams that were below the playoff cutoff line at the time the NHL went on pause on March 12. For those reasons, it really doesn't matter in the big picture whether the Flyers enter the playoffs as the first, second, third or fourth seed in the East. What will matter is hitting their stride once the playoffs start.
2) Last night, I cast my ballot for the Flyers team awards for which I am eligible to vote. I am no longer a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association -- under PHWA rules, I had to give up membership when I started doing content work directly for an NHL team -- so I no longer get a vote in NHL Awards. However, I still can vote for the recipients of the Bobby Clarke Trophy and Barry Ashbee Trophy among the Flyers team awards. When we cast our ballots, we are asked to submit our first-place, second-place and third-place choices for each.
Several weeks ago, Chris Therien invited me to contribute my choices for both the Flyers team awards and then for the NHL's official awards. In Part 1 of the "Bundy and Bill" Awards, we looked at the Flyers awards (both real ones and some categories that Chris added). My real-life votes for the Clarke and Ashbee trophies were identical to what I laid out in that article, based on the same reasoning I gave for each.
In Part 2, Chris and I selected our NHL Award winners. I had Alain Vigneault as my Jack Adams winner (Bundy selected Craig Berube), and Sean Couturier for the Selke Trophy (as did Chris) as the two Flyers-affiliated choices that I made.
3) 45th Anniversary: Flyers Win 2nd Straight Stanley Cup
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Flyers' 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the 1975 Stanley Cup championship. With the victory, Philadelphia won hockey's ultimate prize for the second straight year. The run of Stanley Cup Final appearances would continue the next year but, unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens swept the injury-riddled Flyers (missing both two-time defending Vezina/Conn Smythe winner Bernie Parent as well as high-scoring Rick MacLeish) by three one-goal margins and a two-goal margin in a game that had been tied in the third period.
Something that often gets overlooked about the Broad Street Bullies era Flyers is that, apart from the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, three straight Cup Final appearances and utter dominance on home ice, the team had quite a run of reaching at least the Cup semis. Fred Shero guided the Flyers to at least the penultimate round of the playoffs in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. By 1977, the playoffs were a four-round tourney, although the first round was a mini-series.
The streak came to an end after Shero left the Flyers to accept the head coach and general manager job the the New York Rangers. In his first year with the Rangers, Shero's team knocked off the Flyers in five games in the second round. One year later, the 1979-80 Flyers were back in the Stanley Cup Final under head coach Pat Quinn.