Flyers at 40 years without Stanley Cup title

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers are set to hit the big 4-0.

Yes, that's 40 years without a Stanley Cup championship.

Winning it all this season would erase one of the longest Cup droughts in the NHL, though this year's team seems far removed from championship contention.

The Flyers were the hit of the NHL in the 1970s thanks to those hard-hitting Broad Street Bullies. Led by Hall of Famers Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber, the Flyers won consecutive Cups in 1974 and 1975 and seemed poised to build a dynasty.

The only thing the franchise has a built is a loyal, yet frustrated, fanbase wondering if the orange-and-black will ever celebrate with a championship parade again through the heart of Philadelphia.

Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (1966-67) have suffered longer than any other team that has won at least one Stanley Cup. Buffalo, St. Louis, Vancouver and Washington all have longer Cup droughts than the Flyers, though those franchises have never hoisted or sipped from hockey's grandest prize.

"I just feel like somehow we're snakebit and somebody's putting pins in a doll," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said.

The Flyers have been close — real close: Philadelphia lost in the Stanley Cup finals in 1976, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1997 and 2010.

They can get to the finals, they just can't win them. The silver trophy is always the star of some other team's championship parade. For those keeping score at home, that's 14,373 days without winning the championship as of Oct. 1, according to the Twitter feed @SinceFlyersCup.

Despite heavy criticism in Philadelphia for failing to win it all, the Flyers have long been considered one of the top NHL franchises. They've earned a playoff berth in 39 of their 46 seasons.

"Seriously, it drives me crazy. It drives me nuts," Snider said. "Like we're chopped liver. You know how many times I hear they haven't won a Cup since 1975? ... I understand we haven't."

The Flyers will need some career years and a bit of luck to even think about playing in June this season. New York eliminated them in seven games in the first round last season and the Flyers haven't advanced past the second round since losing it all to Chicago in 2010.

The Flyers went 42-30-10 (94 points) and finished third in the Metropolitan Division last season.

"I don't know close we are," Snider said.

They'll start to find out when they open the season Oct. 8 at Boston. The home opener is Oct. 9 against New Jersey.

Here are some things of note as the Flyers open the season:

IN A PINCH: Flyers captain Claude Giroux returned earlier than expected when he played in Tuesday's preseason game for the first time since he suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury early in the first practice of training camp. Giroux was selected last season as a Hart Trophy finalist, the league's MVP award. He matched a career high with 28 goals and finished third in the NHL scoring race (86 points), helping the Flyers rally from a 3-9-0 start. He'll be the key to any success the Flyers have this season. Once dubbed the "Best in the World," Giroux will have to live up to that billing for the Flyers to have any shot at playing deep into the postseason.

CHIEF AMONG US: The Flyers seem to love for playing coach Craig Berube. Berube, a former Flyers tough guy and part Cree, led the Flyers to the playoffs after he took over Peter Laviolette four games into last season. With a full season and one training camp behind, Berube has earned the respect of his team. Berube had 20 goals and 54 points over parts of seven seasons with the Flyers and his 3,149 penalty minutes are seventh in NHL history.

"When he gets barking, you don't want to be making eye contact with him too much," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. "If he's' staring at you, you generally did something wrong. But I can say Chief's a player's coach. He's been really good with us. It's been awesome playing for him."

NET RESULT: Finally, the Flyers have found their goalie of the present and future. Well, maybe. Mason, the NHL's rookie of the year with Columbus in 2008-09, pushed aside the doubts that he could become a No. 1 goalie and blossomed last year. Mason won 33 games, had four shutouts and stopped 92 percent of his shots in his first full season in Philadelphia. But can he do it again or will he fall back into his inconsistent ways?

HEX ON YOU: Former Flyers goalie Ron Hextall will get to prove his worth in his first season as general manager. Hextall was promoted to general manager by the Flyers to replace Paul Holmgren, who was elevated to president. Hextall is Philadelphia's all-time winningest goalie and served as assistant GM last year. Hextall preaches patience, something the Flyers have long lacked as they spent years throwing cash at high-price free agents as part of their win-now philosophy. "I think Ron has established a philosophy that is probably long overdue," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. I have probably been a little too anxious to win another Cup." Keep an eye on Hextall around the trade deadline.

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