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Ten reasons the Phillies are Champs and the Flyers are not

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As the Pittsburgh Penguins hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, it is a futher reminder that the Flyers once again came up short in their quest for their third Stanley Cup. The Penguins have now supplanted the Flyers as the city in Pennsylvania with the most Stanley Cup wins. As the now 34-year Stanley Cup drought in Philadelphia is extended another year, we give you ten reasons as to why the Flyers continually fail to get the job done, and what differentiates them from the World Champion Phillies:

 

10. The Phillies ONLY Canadian was a playoff hero

His name: Matt Stairs. His victim: Jonathan Broxton.  His decree: overnight legend

9. They employed a slick chemist of a general manager

Pat Gillick immediately reconstructed this team- his Phillies- in late 2005 by trading franchise face Jim Thome for a healthy mix of talent, guts, and desire in the person of centerfielder Aaron Rowand. Next, in July 2006, he traded long time Phillie and underachiever Bobby Abreu and proclaimed that 2007 would not be a year to expect the Phillies to contend. In a few slick moves, he reshaped the image, character, and attitude of the entire franchise. He believed in blending talented players into a team of his likeness. As a result, Gillick’s Phillies were a mere two years away from no longer settling for contending.

8. Defense wins championships

Gold Gloves. Strong arms. Speed, hustle, and athleticism. A penchant for fundamentals and timing. The 2008 Phillies stepped up their defense when it counted most. In contrast, even in their finest years, the Flyers fell short of a complete defensive unit. For every Mark Howe, Eric Desjardins, and Kimmo Timonen, there was a Terry Carkner, Karl Dykhuis, and Steve Eminger. Even hall of famer Paul Coffey couldn’t save the day during his tenure here.

The Phillies were solid, if not terrific, everywhere on the diamond with the exception of first base. But when your one glaring defensive weakness drives in almost 150 runs, things are looking good.

7. The team was built with character and talent, not size and speed

For years, the Flyers brass searched for what they felt was the perfect mix to get them to the promised land. At times they were big, at times they were fast, and at times they were both. But they never seemed find a multitude of talent that blended together the way that the 2008 Phillies did. Perhaps their end result feeds this perception. But many will believe like I do that this perception is the reality.

6. Claude Lemieux does not play baseball

Flyers fans know the man well. He showed up dressed up like the Devil in 1995 and spoiled the party. He did the same five years later. He had a penchant for scoring timely goals and breaking the hearts of Philadelphians. Thankfully, the Tampa Rays rid of their own “Devil” just in time. Rejoice!

5. No concussions, car (or boat) accidents, or costly castaways

Eric Lindros, Brian Propp, and Keith Primeau. Pelle Lindbergh. Dmitri Tertyshny. Peter Forsberg and Mike

Ricci. Ruslan Fedotenko. The names all represent “what could have been” for decades of Flyers fans.

4. No drama between general manager and star players-

An entire era of Flyers potential can sadly be wrapped up into a series of childish, soap opera- esque dialogues between general manager Bobby Clarke and franchise superstar Eric Lindros. There was plenty of off ice drama, ill-will, negativity, and tension thick enough to spread on toast. For general manager Pat Gillick and his 2008 Phillies, there was no theater production, no media manipulation, and no petty squabbles. They became the toast- of the whole damn town.

3. The Phillies actually wanted to win (not lose) for their coach (manager)

Think Bill Barber in 2002. It is well documented that many of his Flyers players eyed one common goal: to quit on him and make sure he was fired. The Stanley Cup seemed almost secondary.

Think Charlie Manuel in 2008. His players simply did just the opposite.

2. They capitalized on their chance against Tampa Bay

In 2004, the Flyers faced a Tampa Bay Lightning team full of youth and talent, but low on playoff experience and void of a winning history. This had to be the time for the Flyers. Instead, they were defeated by a Tampa team that would later hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup and shatter the hearts of those in the Delaware Valley.

In 2008, the Phillies faced a Tampa Bay Rays team full of youth and talent, but low on playoff experience and void of a winning history. This had to be the time for the Phillies. And it was.

1. The Phillies finally got themselves a “goalie”

His name: Brad Lidge His role: closer extraordinaire His destiny: perfect champion

Plain and simple, it is no strange coincidence that the year the Phillies finally got their stopper, they could not be stopped themselves. Brad Lidge is something the Flyers brass has not witnessed since Ron Hextall’s 1987 Conn Smythe run. That year, Hextall almost single-handedly defeated an Edmonton Oilers team that two decades later could occupy an entire wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Unlike Bobby Clarke and company, Pat Gillick strategically assembled character players around his core talent like puzzle pieces. There was no drama. No apparent bias against Russians. No soap opera dialogues. No ill-willed changes in personnel. In 2008, the Phillies simply had a ton of talent blended with good character players seizing their opportunity as the Cubs, Angels, and Red Sox were scraped out of their path. They had flash, guts, grit, and a “we’re doing this now” mentality that painted the town RED. They needed no primer to gloss over the fading orange and black that stains our haunted memories with empty promises

The Phillies won with pitching and defense, despite their immense offensive prowess. When all was said and done, they had the one thing that has eluded the Flyers for decades. The 2008 Phillies had a “goalie”, a stopper, a last line of defense that would prove to bridge the gap between contender and legend. Lindbergh may have been the answer long ago; sadly, that is something we’ll never fully know. Instead, this man arrived in a bow-tied box marked as an early Christmas gift from “Fast Eddie” Wade, oft-criticized ex-general manager and key contributor to our current glory.

His name wasn’t Hextall. It wasn’t Esche or Snow. Not Biron or Burke. Not Boucher or Beezer. His name was Brad. Last name Lidge. He came to town and dealt the final blow. He ended the perfect season.

The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies were the champions of baseball because they had the last man standing. That is, until he dropped to his knees in a moment of humble joy that will live forever.