It's all over for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Yes, they're only three points behind the New York Rangers, currently the number-eight seed in the Eastern Conference.
But they're also only three points ahead of Florida, the worst team (points-wise) in the National Hockey League.
They've played 26 games and won 11. They've scored 72 goals (seventh in the Eastern Conference) and given up 80 (tied for third-worst). They're 4-10 on the road.
Simply put, they're not very good.
And this last week's slate of games was the ultimate kick in the pants. No one expected the Flyers to take down New York, Pittsburgh and Boston, but going 0-3 against your biggest rivals is one more dagger to the heart of a season that keeps on slipping away.
Sean Couturier (two goals, five assists) is regressing after a dynamite debut year. Ilya Bryzgalov is regressing after a dynamite first month of the season (2.20 GAA to 2.80 GAA; .923 SV% to .899 SV%). Only seven Flyers have more than 10 points.
Injuries haven't helped; Ryan Suter, Zach Parise or Shea Weber would've. But the team is the team, and the guys that are on the ice every night deserve the record they're currently saddled with.
If this keeps up, and I suspect it will, heads are gonna roll. Maybe Peter Laviolette's, maybe Paul Holmgren's,
most likely Bryzgalov's (via amnesty buyout) and the unrestricted free agents
(Simon Gagne, Ruslan Fedotenko). With James van Riemsdyk busting out in Toronto (14 goals in 26 games), the organization will most likely show some patience with its remaining bushel of young talent.
But that won't help this floundering bunch in the spring of 2013.
"It seemed like we packed it in," Scott Hartnell said after yesterday's shutout loss. Nobody's disagreeing.
The season isn't over; the standings are still very much in flux. Maybe they'll cobble together some wins versus lesser foes and sneak into the playoffs.
But the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, and the Flyers are miles behind those squads in both talent and execution. I can't imagine a scenario where they get hot late and mirror what the Kings accomplished last year, or what the Flyers themselves achieved in 2010. And beyond that, there's not much else to root for.
There are 22 games left in the 2012-2013 season, 22 more opportunities to right the ship and at least avoid a repeat of the 2006-2007 disaster. At this point, that might be the best they can do.