Inconsistency, identity crisis plague Flyers 

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
10:19
AM ET
Schenn/CouturierUSA TODAY SportsBrayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are part of a talented young group of Flyers.
The emotion steaming from Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider during the Peter Laviolette firing news conference three games into this season is one of the most memorable moments of the early NHL schedule. Especially when he was questioned about the culture of his franchise.

"The culture is to win," he said, agitated by any implication otherwise.

The anger was real and, at least before the Flyers were blown out by the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, appears to have lifted.

Snider is far from satisfied with where his team is, but he's seeing progress.

"We're still not where we want to be, but we're certainly a lot better off than we were," Snider said when we chatted after the NHL's board of governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif. "I think we have to be more consistent with the system. Some games we played it beautifully and things have gone very well. Other games, we lose sight of it. It's something that has to be ingrained over a long period of time."

The Flyers' freshly concluded road trip exemplifies that assessment. It's not even a game-to-game issue, but period to period. On Wednesday night against the Blackhawks, Philadelphia looked strong in the first then got absolutely steamrolled in the second.

In a victory over the Red Wings earlier in the trip, the Flyers were outplayed for parts of two periods then scored four times in the third to win in Detroit for just the second time since 1989-90.

On this six-game trip, the Flyers finished 2-3-1, returning home with just as many questions about where they are as a group as they left with.

Craig Berube's assessment of the road trip? "Nobody's satisfied with it," he told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. "I don't think my players are either. We could have done a lot better."

The best thing the Flyers have going for them is that they play in the awful Metropolitan Division. Even with flaws, Philadelphia is still just three points outside the No. 3 seed in the Metro, a spot currently held by a Carolina team with flaws of its own (and a minus-16 goal differential that is better than only the Islanders within the division).

With this road trip concluded, it's perfectly feasible to expect Philadelphia to go on a little run during the rest of December. Not because the Flyers are particularly good, just that the schedule sets up for it.

There's an upcoming home-and-home with a Capitals team that is playing well but is certainly beatable. Then another with a Blue Jackets team that plays hard for Todd Richards but doesn't stack up talent-wise with the Flyers. The schedule goes West-heavy after that, but it's against the more winnable cohort of the West, highlighted by games against the Oilers and Flames.

If the Flyers are going to emerge at all from the marshes of mediocrity in the Metro Division race, this is the stretch to do it.

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