Inconsistencies remain consistent for the Philadelphia Flyers.
After coming off of a 98-point season and a playoff appearance during the 2017-2018 campaign, the Flyers were expected to make huge strides this season towards being a true playoff threat. But so far they have found themselves struggling to get a rhythm going.
Different players have found themselves facing criticism from the increasingly impatient Philadelphia fans. Claude Giroux “isn’t a good leader” and JVR “was a terrible signing” and Nolan Patrick “is a bust.” It is easy for fans and writers to critique an individual when the whole team is not getting the job done, however the real issue with this team starts with the coaching.
Coaches may not be the ones on the ice playing each night, but a coach is responsible for preparing his team and coming up with a game plan to put his players in the best position possible to capture two points.
Dave Hakstol simply hasn’t gotten the job done.
There is a silver lining, though. Chuck Fletcher was introduced as the new Flyers General Manager about two weeks ago.
Flyers fans already have huge expectations for the new Boss, but they need to be logical about what can happen and the time frame he has to do it.
Over the course of the first week as Flyers GM, Fletcher saw his team compete against one of the top teams in the league and beat them handedly and then immediately get blown out by the Jets. In just a few days, Fletcher experienced what the Flyers have been for decades: Consistently inconsistent.
In order to properly find a solution to a problem, he first needs to figure out exactly what the problem is. It wouldn’t be logical for him to come in and immediately burn everything down, especially considering all the good things Ron Hextall left the Flyers with. Instead, Fletcher needs to take the time to assess his organization and figure out what exactly is going wrong and who needs to be held accountable for it.
Despite wanting to take the time to assess everything, the changes have slowly started to happen. Gord Murphy and Chris Pryor, two of Hextall’s closest confidants, have both been let go. But there is still much more work to be done.
Ian Lappierre, realistically, should be the next coach to go. How he still has a job running the penalty kill is beyond comprehension at this point. The numbers are against him and continue to get worse as the penalty kill has been at the bottom of the league every year under his control.
The PK used to be the heart and soul of the Flyers. There were times when a successful penalty kill would gather more appreciation from the fans more than goal. If there was a way to get the building excited in South Philadelphia, killing a penalty was one of the best ways to do it. Now, the energy is not the same when the Flyers are a man down.
But this team needs to do more than address the failing penalty kill. It needs a systemic renaissance. The current “dump and chase” strategy hinders the Flyers’ ability to dictate the pace of the game and the “play not to lose” mentality when they’re winning fails more often than not.
Fletcher mentioned in a recent interview with Jim Jackson that a team can generate physicality from speed and puck pressure and that is exactly where the game is going. He specifically mentioned Tampa as a team that may not be big on paper, but has the speed and aggression to cause that physical play.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 10, 2018
This is a great perspective from the new general manager and hopefully points towards an impending change that will rejuvenate the system so it can compete with teams like Tampa.
Most importantly, Fletcher is doing his homework. A road trip is the perfect time for a general manager to bunker down and really get to evaluate his team.
The Flyers have multiple roster positions to address.
First and foremost, the goaltending needs to be upgraded. Anthony Stolarz, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are all on expiring contracts, so after this season the Flyers are left with only Alex Lyon and Carter Hart as the organization’s pro-level goalies.
While Hart projects to make the NHL roster next season, there still needs to be a veteran upgrade to help him grow into the role.
One possible solution could be throwing a lot of money at Sergei Bobrovski, but he will come at a very high cost and could end up blocking Hart’s path to the starter’s role. Jonathan Quick is another name that has been floating around, which would have been great a few years ago. But Quick’s injury list is quickly getting longer and longer, so he likely isn’t the best choice either. A logical option could be Jimmy Howard. He’s an aging veteran on an expiring contract who could provide some guidance and leadership for Carter Hart to help him adjust to the new level.
Other possible moves include trading a core player like Wayne Simmonds or Jake Voracek. Simmonds will be a free agent at the end of the year, and it’s unlikely the Flyers will want to bring him back. Voracek will be harder to move, based on his longer contract. But teams may still be interested in adding the reliable winger, especially those looking to contend for the Cup.
The St. Louis Blues seem to be filled with drama and may need a trade partner sooner rather than later. The Flyers need to bolster the blue line, so Colton Parayko could be an option for Fletcher to bring in.
If the Flyers remain inconsistent, expect moves to be made either after the current road trip or shortly after the holiday season. But regardless of what moves Fletcher makes, it’s time for the organziation to find their new identity.
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