Standing behind the bench, Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. The makeup of this Flyers team reminds him of a squad he once played on that was pretty successful.
As a 21-year-old rookie, Berube played seven games for the 1986-87 Flyers and another five in the playoffs, a team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers beat them in seven games.
According to some accounts, that team is eerily similar to this year’s Flyers. Scoring, toughness, overpowering youth … yeah, we’ve seen a lot of that this season.
“The competitiveness and the spirit this team plays with, I can see a lot of that back in that team,” Berube said. “We played with a lot of that jam and stuff like that.”
Some players never get a taste of playoff hockey. Berube did his rookie season, and a handful of Flyers are getting the same experience this spring. Matt Read is the only one of this year’s rookie crop that was even alive when the Flyers made their big run 25 years ago, one Berube believes could have been longer.
“That team was as close to a championship team as you’re gonna get,” he said. “I think if the injuries didn’t pile up, we might have beat the Oilers.”
Many consider those teams of the late ’80s to be some of the best the franchise has put on the ice. They had a young core sprinkled with veteran leadership. Berube thinks the same could easily happen with the Flyers as they’re built now.
“With the youth and stuff that’s here, definitely,” Berube said. “You’ve got a lot of young players that haven’t developed yet into what they’re gonna become. It’s a very good team. It’s a close team.”