Our “Best Teams Ever” NHL Saturday miniseries looks at a successful expansion franchise: the Philadelphia Flyers. In 54 full seasons, the Flyers have made the postseason 40 times—winning the Stanley Cup twice despite coming up short in six other Finals appearances. That’s a lot of deep playoff runs! Interestingly, the Flyers have just 4 postseason appearances since 2012, so the team has fallen on hard times lately. But this list is quite interesting, for sure … enjoy!
No. 5: 1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers
With a 53-20-7 record for 113 points, this squad finished first in the Patrick Division—and is the one representative on this list not from the 1970s heyday of the Broad Street Bullies. The Flyers were No. 4 in scoring, No. 3 in goal prevention, and No. 2 overall in the SRS. In the postseason, Philadelphia rolled over the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, and the Quebec Nordiques—dropping just 3 games total—to reach the Finals against the Edmonton Oilers dynasty.
The four top scorers were forward Tim Kerr (54G, 44A, 57 PIMs), left wing Brian Propp (43G, 54A, 38 PIMs), center Dave Poulin (30G, 44A, 59 PIMs), and right wing Ilkka Sinisalo (36G, 37A). The No. 1 goaltender was Pelle Lindbergh (40-17-7), but backup Bob Froese (13-2-0) wasn’t too shabby, either. But there was no stopping those Oilers in the mid-1980s, really: the Flyers won the opening game, but then they lost four straight by a combined 20-10 score. Boom!
No. 4: 1976-77 Philadelphia Flyers
This is the only team on this list not to make it to the Cup Finals. But a 48-16-16 record for 112 points won the Flyers the Patrick Division, nonetheless. These Flyers were No. 2 in scoring, No. 3 in goal prevention, and No. 2 overall in the SRS. In the first round of the playoffs, though, Philadelphia needed six games to dispatch the Toronto Maple Leafs, and that series left them a little empty in the tank to face the Boston Bruins—who swept the Flyers out of the postseason easily.
The scoring was center-driven: Rick MacLeish (49G, 48A, 42 PIMs) and Bobby Clarke (27G, 63A, 71 PIMs) were the only two skaters to clear 60 points. But these were still Bullies—five players topped 100-plus PIMs, as the team combined for 1,541 PIMs, in total. In net, Bernie Parent (35-13-12, 5 shutouts) was ably backed up by Wayne Stephenson (12-3-2, 3 SOs). However, against the Bruins, the Flyers lost the first three games by a goal each time, twice in overtime games.
No. 3: 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers
This was the first-ever expansion franchise Stanley Cup champion … with a 50-16-12 record, 112 points, and a first-place finish in the West Division. Don’t ask. The Flyers were fifth in scoring, first in goal prevention, and second overall in the SRS. They swept the Atlanta Flames in the first round, and then Philly had to go the full seven games to beat the Rangers. In the Cup Finals against Boston, it took six games for the Flyers to hoist Lord Stanley’s chalice for the first time ever.
Clarke (35G, 52A, 113 PIMs) and MacLeish (32G, 45A, 42 PIMs) did the scoring, while LW Dave Schultz (20G, 16A, 348 PIMs) paced the team to a whopping 1,728 PIMs. Parent (47-13-12, 12 SOs) played in a shocking 73 games to dominate the crease (1.89 GAA, .932 S%). The Game 7 home win over the Rangers came by one goal, and in the Finals, three games were one-score affairs, with Philadelphia clinching the Cup with a 1-0 shutout at home in Game 6. All hail the Bullies!
No. 2: 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers defending their title with another successful postseason run, built upon a 51-18-11 record for 113 points—and a first-place standing in the Patrick Division. They were No. 3 in the SRS overall, putting up the No. 6 scoring offense and the No. 1 goal-prevention unit. In the playoffs, a first-round sweep of Toronto was followed by another 7-game scrap, this time against the Islanders. And then in the Finals, Philadelphia outlasted the upstart Buffalo Sabres in six games to win.
Four skaters topped 70 points, led by Clarke (27G, 89A, 125 PIMs). Schultz (9g, 17A) posted 472 PIMs this time out, as the team outdid itself with 1,953 PIMs in total. For all that noise, though, it was Parent as the anchor once again: 44-14-9, 12 SOs, 2.04 GAA, and a .918 S%. The Flyers went up 3-0 on the Isles, before losing three straight (twice by one goal). Parent won Game 7 by a 4-1 margin, and then the Finals … his .937 S% was incredible as he held Buffalo to just 11 goals.
No. 1: 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers
With a team record 118 points (51-13-16), this remains the standard for the franchise as Philly won another Patrick Division crown. Strangely, the Flyers were No. 1 in scoring and No. 3 in defense—and No. 2 in the overall SRS. As the two-time defending champs, though, they struggled in the opening round against the Maple Leafs, needing seven games to win. Then, Philly dispatched Boston in 5 games to get primed for the Finals … but Montréal swept the Flyers, brutally.
Clarke (30G, 89A, 136 PIMs) was joined by LW Bill Barber (50G, 62A, 104 PIMs) and RW Reggie Leach (61G, 30A, 41 PIMs) in the scoring penthouse—while Schultz (13G, 19A) managed “only” 307 PIMs. But then, the team combined for 1,970 PIMs. A neck injury sidelined Parent, so Stephenson (40-10-14) was the top goalie, and the team managed just a single shutout on the season. That was the difference in the Finals as the Bruins outscored Philly just 14-9 in the sweep.