The Flyers came to a crossroads two offseasons ago.
They could have gone in one or two directions. One side of the path had them rebuilding the team, pushing a youth movement that would make them a dangerous contender in a couple years. The other path was the same win-now mentality the Flyers have had for the last two decades, resulting in a couple Stanley Cup berths and a handful of Conference Finals appearances.
Unfortunately, general manager Paul Holmgren tried to travel down both paths at once and wound up falling flat on his face this season.
(Photo: Wayne Simmonds (front) and Sean Couturier (back) were both a part of the youth movement. Photo by John Russo/The Checking Line)
Flyers fans will always remember where they were on June 23, 2011 when two of the biggest trades in team history took place.
In some ways it feels like an eternity ago, while in other ways it feels like just yesterday. But forget who and what left Philadelphia that Thursday afternoon two years ago.
The only thing that still matters most today is the acquisition of the 1st round draft pick that became Sean Couturier and the acquisition of 21 year old Brayden Schenn.
The trades changed the face of the franchise, and suddenly the Flyers became a team of youth with not only two but three of the best rookies in the NHL during the 2011-12 season thanks to those trades and the slick signing of college free agent Matt Read almost exactly three months prior.
That trio of rookie forwards shined in Philadelphia throughout the 2011-12 season, and the future was looking bright. But unfortunately what happens to even the best players in the NHL after a stellar rookie season is the dreaded sophomore slump.
(Sean Couturier. Photo by John Russo/The Checking Line)
For most of the 2013 season it seemed the bounces just weren't go the Flyers' way.
Bad bounces led to opponents' goals while they stayed out of the nets when the Flyers were on the offensive. Along with a complicated mixture of other factors, it kept the Flyers out of the post season for just the second time in the last 18 years.
That luck would finally change for the Flyers when it didn't really matter, but it felt good anyway.
In a 60-minute game for the Flyers, a minuscule seven-second window produced two goals which lead to the Flyers' eventual 5-2 win over the Bruins.
(Pictured: Matt Read during warm-ups before his game against the Bruins. Photo by John Russo/The Checking Line)
With a horrible season coming to a close, it's time to count the positives
The easiest way to feel positive about things in the present for the Flyers is to relate them to the future. And the best way to do that is to take a look at the youth.
We are seeing Oliver Lauridsen and Erik Gustafsson get playing time, the Schenn's (Older brother Luke and younger brother Brayden) are both standing out in a good way, and Sean Couturier is taking advantage of increased ice time.
Couturier, specifically, is fantastic news. He went from a dazzling rookie to a player in a serious sophomore slump.
Playing the latter of a grueling back-to-back, the Flyers overcame a late surge by a good Toronto Maple Leafs team, holding on to win 5-3 Thursday night. It was their fourth straight win and earned them two huge points in the standings.
Sean Couturier had a fantastic game. He was all over the ice, notching a pair of assists and seemingly looked like he was always out there despite playing just over 13 minutes.
(Pictured: Kimmo Timonen and Sean Couturier take out Mikhail Grabovski in the 2nd period. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
The Flyers had five minutes of overtime to work with in hopes to not allow the game to carry to a shoot-out.
What many consider to be a glorified skills competition, the Flyers have considered their lack of success in the final determination of the second point to be a nightmare. It's been especially hard on Ilya Bryzgalov, who was going to be the netminder of choice in the Flyers dance with chance.
(Pictured: Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov makes a snow angel save in the overtime period. AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Despite going to the shootout, the Flyers managed to escape their home-and-home against New Jersey with two points.
Backed behind a brilliant game by Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers needed a full 65 minutes and three rounds of the shootout to beat the Devils, 2-1, and earn an incredibly important two points in their win on Friday night.
Despite going 0-for-4 on the power play, they held the Devils scoreless on their power play attempts as well, and a part of that was a result to Bryzgalov's timely saves.
Bryzgalov stopped 21 shots in the win, including 11 in the third period and over time despite his team being out-played and out-shot, 11-5, in those two frames.
(Pictured: Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)