It’s been a few days since the Philadelphia Flyers flipped things around in their front office and brought in general manager Chuck Fletcher to replace the ejected Ron Hextall and we are finally getting a chance to see how things might look.
Fletcher intends on using the Flyers’ upcoming five-game road swing to make a few critical determinations about the hockey club going forward. Philly will suit up against the Blue Jackets Thursday at home and then head to Buffalo for a back-to-back.
“I think you have to give people a chance to show how they’re going to work with you,” Fletcher said Wednesday. “It’s easy to have an opinion on the outside. When you’re talking about making a decision on the future of a coaching staff, I think you better have a little more specific information than I have right now. I want it to work. I want to be successful with this group.”
That’s a generally innocent pull-quote, the kind of thing you expect from a new general manager. But it’s what Fletcher added next that stands out:
“It’s not threats or anything, but if we don’t have solutions in-house, we’ll look outside,” he said.
That’s a generally broad quote, as you might imagine, but the implications are clear when contrasted with the Flyers’ stated goal of making the playoffs this year. That puts everyone on the hot seat, including head coach Dave Hakstol.
Canning a coach seems to be the trend of the year and Hakstol may be a sound candidate for the next one on the blocks. He’s 133-98-40 with the Flyers and hasn’t pulled them out of the first round of the playoffs in two attempts.
Fletcher’s already made additions to Hakstol’s staff and the writing could be on the proverbial wall. It’ll become clearer if the road trip isn’t a success.
Goaltending is, obviously, another big issue. The club, sitting seventh in the Metropolitan Division, has used five starters this season and have allowed a boatload of goals against. Only the Senators and Blackhawks are more porous, so the volatility is showing.
Injuries have, in all fairness, been a factor. Brian Elliott is week-to-week with a lower body injury, while Michal Neuvirth has been limited.
The Flyers have turned their attention to Anthony Stolarz, who started against Pittsburgh and found a win Saturday. He should see more starts on the trip, which will give Fletcher a chance to figure out what he has between the pipes. If Stolarz doesn’t pan out, a trade may be in the water.
Steadiness in goal has to be something the Flyers put a high priority on, especially if escaping that first round of the post-season is part of the plan. It’s one thing to get to the playoffs, but Philly has to be hungrier upon reaching the second season.
“The first order of business is to look for in-house solutions,” Fletcher said. “I think you have to give people a chance – players, staff, everybody. If we can get this thing going the right direction maybe we don’t have to go out and be aggressive. But if things aren’t working or we’re not getting traction, then I think you have to look at every angle.”