A Critical Offseason for Chuck Fletcher

With the Flyers most likely missing out on playoffs for the 2018-2019 season, it is important to understand where they currently are as a franchise and why they are in that position.

Season Summary

After a disappointing start and being one of the worst teams in the league, the Flyers were able to compete and battle for a playoff spot, even after all of the early season drama that took place.

Ron Hextall was fired in the season because of his inability to take that next step forward. It seemed as if this team was destined to remain stagnate under his authority and eventually Paul Holmgren and upper-management had to step in and make a change.

Dave Hakstol was not relieved of his duties and was given a chance to show if he could get the team to play, but management quickly learned that Hakstol could not get the most out of his players and he was eventually shown the door as well.

Scott Gordon was the easy interim decision, simply because he was a coach with a youthful roster as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach.

Gordon had experience working with Carter Hart, Phil Myers, and Sam Morin, so it was an easy call to have Gordon replace Dave Hakstol.

With Gordon in place, Chuck Fletcher also made the first player transaction as general manager of the Flyers, and that was calling up goaltender Carter Hart. With the way the goalies were being injured and playing at sub-par levels, Chuck had no other options but to call up Carter Hart.

Promoting Carter Hart was an early move that was also followed by sending Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera to Lehigh. Jordan Weal was also traded and moved to the Arizona Coyotes.

Fans were thrilled to see these players moved and rightfully so, because Dave Hakstol and company seemed to rely on these players way too much. These players did not yeild the proper results for them to be so heavily relied upon, so Chuck made the proper call and removed them from the roster.

With such a dramatic and disappointing season coming to a conclusion, the excitement should start to build because this offseason is critical for the future of this franchise.

The time to compete for the Stanley Cup is right now and that starts with an aggressive offseason from Chuck Fletcher.

Fans have been let down in the past, however, this offseason has a different feel to it, and it is still very early because the season has not ended. Chuck Fletcher has a long list of needs and there is a list to put this team on the right path, although the Flyers already have huge pieces in place.

One of the most critical aspects of this season is gathering needs so that the start of the 2019-2020 season begins at game one and not game thirty.

 

Offseason Priorities:

  • Re-signing players:
    • Ivan Provorov
    • Travis Konecny
    • Travis Sanheim
    • Scott Laughton
    • Ryan Hartman
    • Justin Bailey
  • Figuring out the back-up goalie situation:
    • Cam Talbot
    • Brian Elliott
  • Signing youth/Phantoms depth
    • Michael Vecchione
    • Tyrell Goulbourne
    • Nicolas Aube-Kubel
    • Cole Bardreau
    • Byron Froese
    • Greg Carey
    • Jacob Graves
  • Adding a veteran to help with defensive zone coverage
  • Adding a top 6 or 2/3C to help create mismatches
  • Searching for a new head coach
  • Replacing Ian Laperriere and Kris Knoblauch

This may seem like a long list, but the less important signings will get done easily, especially with cap space being close to 30 million.

Current Roster

Even though it was a disappointing season, there are still many positives that need to be noted.

  • Sean Couturier has been phenomenal and has taken that step to be one of the true leaders of this team.
  • Carter Hart has proved he is the goalie of the future and will help bring success to this franchise.
  • Travis Sanheim has had some strong games and learning curves, but this is exactly what you want for a young player who is getting used to an increase role as he becomes heavily replied upon.
  • Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick started the season slow and have hit some roadblocks along the way, but their game is continuing to grow and they are starting to fill their roles and make a difference night in and night out.
  • Oskar Lindblom has had a great season and has increased his role with the team.
  • Phil Myers expereinced an increased role and has been solid since his debut with the team club.

Fans have been asking for these younger players and that is exactly what happened this season. Younger players have had their roles increased, which has also brought them to the point where they made mistakes at higher levels, but this is exactly what was needed.

Younger players making mistakes and learning from them is being in a position where they can use those mistakes as motivation during the offseason. Younger players understanding their role help with their offseason because they will know what to train for and what to work on so that they will be ready to go for game one instead of game twenty.

Training Camp

Training camp will also be a huge factor in regards to the roster with Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee trying to make the team out of camp. However, I think it makes the most sense to have them grow with the Phantoms to start the season, but if they prove otherwise, Chuck should make the call to have start with the Flyers, but this depends on their performance and developement.

With the recent signing of Joel Farabee, training camp has become even more interesting. Add names like Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe into the mix of potentially making the team out of camp and training camp becomes even more exciting.

Ultimately, I believe Farabee, Frost, and Ratcliffe will start the season with the Phantoms. Coming from the NCAA and OHL, these prospects need to adapt to the physicality and speed of the professional game, however, this does not mean that they should be buried in the AHL all season. If these players give Chuck no choice but to make the call, they should be up with the Flyers.

Another important aspect Chuck will have to combat is the idea of players blocking the youth. Chuck should go out and see who he can make a run at. If he wants to go after a player like William Nylander, Matt Duchene, Jeff Skinner, or Artemi Panarin, he should. If he can get such a quality player, he needs to make the call, regardless of how close Frost, Farabee, and Ratcliffe may be. The pieces are in place to potentially have a very lethal roster.

Chuck Fletcher

Chuck has his starting goalie for the next 10 years, so that is a huge need that can be automatically crossed of the list. The mindset of Chuck Fletcher will be most important going into such a critical offseason. Being aware of past mistakes, Chuck will have to make sure he does not throw all of his eggs in one basket, it is as simple as that.

The downfall of Paul Holmgren was investing too much into Chris Pronger. Pronger was here to be the leader of the defensive core, along with being the leader and voice of the team. After his unfortunate injury, Paul Holmgren went out and made multiple short-sighted moves because he felt this team needed to stay relevant.

It is essential for Chuck Fletcher to avoid making the same mistakes as Holmgren. However, it will be much harder because Fletcher is in a much better situation than Paul Holmgren ever was. Even though Ron Hextall made his mistakes, he helped put Chuck Fletcher in a position that many general managers would dream of.

As much as fans tend to blame Paul Holmgren for the past issues with salary cap mismanagement, most fans forget that Ed Snider was a major voice for a lot of the unpopular signings as well. Chuck will need to be aggressive like Holmgren, but composed like Ron Hextall and find that blend of acceptable aggressiveness.

The Flyers are an Original Six expansion team with success and popularity as a franchise. This current Flyers team has its goalie of the future, older core, younger developing core, assets, cap space, and draft picks.

Ron Hextall was fired and Chuck Fletcher was brought on board for a reason.

There are many decisions Chuck has to make and that starts with a head coach. Scott Gordon has been a decent replacement for this team and has clearly been respected by the players. With that said, I do not think he is the long-term solution that will help bring the Stanley Cup back to the city of Philadelphia.

Joel Quenneville is a hall of fame coach who will be on the radar of every team that thinks they can afford his services and the Flyers will hope to be atop that list.

Chuck Fletcher is John Middleton and Joel Quenneville is the Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Flyers offseason. Putting such a respected and successful coach behind the bench of a team that is ready to make a Stanley Cup run is crucial.

The assets are in place for this team to be successful.

  • Older core is in tact
  • Younger core developing and understanding their roles
  • Goalie of the future is here
  • Depth will be more manageable with prospects improving and cap available

Being ready to start game one of the season is the biggest aspect to being a contender and that is where the Flyers must improve dramatically. It is nearly impossible for a team to start the season thirty games in and dig themselves out of the hole they created by not being prepared for game one.

To be considered a serious threat throughout the league, a team needs to create mismatches with their depth and that is something that Flyers have not been able to do, especially while struggling with their special teams play.

This is where the Carter Hart aspect of the team is significant. The Flyers will not have to spend the offseason worrying about who the starter is, but who the back-up will be. This is one of the biggest differences compared to seasons in the past.

Chuck has no choice but to be aggressive this offseason, however, he needs to go about it in a way that will help this team make consecutive runs at the Stanley Cup. Fans have been let down by management in the past and that is why some are reluctant to believe in a successful offseason, but Fletcher is set up for success and has all of the assets he needs to have a successful offseason.

 

Photo Credit: Heather Barry Images™

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About Anthony DiGrazio

I am currently a student at West Chester University studying Marketing/Management. I have been playing ice hockey for almost 20 years now. I am nothing short of a Flyers fanatic and I am hoping to spread my knowledge and love of the game to all Flyers fans.

View all posts by Anthony DiGrazio →

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