It’s been almost two years since newly-crowned head coach Alain Vigneault dropped his now famous “be a fucking Flyer” line during the Flyers’ 2019 training camp. The discombobulated soup that the Flyers have diminished into since has really put a damper on the fire Vigneault entered Philadelphia with. After yet another season where they missed the playoffs, making it ten consecutive years that the organization has alternated making and missing the postseason, it’s time for general manager Chuck Fletcher to take a hard look in the mirror and consider what those four little works his head coach spoke in September of 2019 actually mean.
Fletcher, for all his faults over the past calendar year, has at least come out and said the right things as the 2020-21 season went further and further off the rails. He admitted at the trade deadline that “the mix was off” among his group of player which seems like a big victory that he acknowledged the mess us fans were clearly watching on a nigh-to-night basis. He also used the term “redundant” when talking about the players in the lineup, which is a word that nailed another big issue with the team when it came to the diversity, or lack thereof, of different playing styles.
Yet, all the theorizing that has gone on as to who the Flyers could potentially target in either the free agent or trade markets has come with an asterisk; “Here’s how the Flyers can add this guy *if Chuck Fletcher isn’t afraid to do so.” He earned that seed of doubt due to his quiet summer last year after his team was one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals but didn’t address any issues they showed or built the team to continue to grow, and his hands-off approach during the Flyers’ great collapse in March when they were getting blown out of the water on a nightly basis and literally changed nothing.
So he’s said the right things but failed to take any action when he had the opportunity to do so. So which version of Fletcher will we get this offseason?
The thing is, every single hole the Flyers need to fill seemingly has a remedy available this summer.
Top right defenseman? check
top scoring winger? check
middle six center? check
backup goaltender? check
Whether it’s via trade or free agency, there are potential fixes for every position of need. There’s quite literally no reason to not fix multiple holes at once.
The first step will be navigating the expansion draft. Now, We’ve talked ad nauseam about the expansion already, from the likely picks, to the protection methods, to reviewing trades at the 2017 expansion draft, to what the cap will look like if they convinced Ron Francis to take either Jake Voracek or James van Riemsdyk. In order to have any kind of wiggle room in free agency they will have to shed some cap dollars. Voracek or JVR are preferable, but even Ghost’s cap hit getting off the books will be a big help.
Wether Fletcher flubs or nails the expansion draft, shedding cap space still needs to be a priority and there may have to be some pretty ugly deals to free the money they need for upgrades, but that shouldn’t stop them from happening.
Say the worst case scenario happens and they trade away Jake Voracek for a seventh round pick in 2024, but that team eats the rest of his salary in full. Did the Flyers lose that trade? Yes. But what if they then use that $8.25 million in freed cap space to cover Dougie Hamilton’s contract, or make room for 4/5 of Eichel’s current deal, or cover most of not all of two top-six forwards like Sam Reinhart and Zach Hyman? The initial deal may have been a loss but they walk away with an overall net positive. The overall picture needs to be observed as the main target of improvement. They need to win the war despite potentially losing some battles, so to speak.
And for all of you reading this saying” But what about Sanheim and Myers?” There’s a good chance at least one will survive the summer, but even if both make back to the Flyers’ roster and they somehow turn into qualified second pair defenseman, GREAT! Even if those two are at their best, chances are it won’t be enough to push this team to Cup contender status. Take a look around the NHL over the last few seasons and the teams that make deep playoff runs and win the Cup, they’re absolutely stacked with talent. Good players reinforced with even better players. Imagine a defense with Provorov, Hamilton, Jones and a competent duo of Sanheim and Myers. Now that’s a blue line.
Make moves, make trades, sign free agents, do whatever Fletcher has to do in order to provide the team the much needed overall facelift it deserves. If they bring in Hamilton or Jones or Eichel or Reinhart or Laine or all of the above and still fail, at least you can say you tried. Running it back year after year with largely the same roster and just minor tweaks and five years down the road the Flyers are still a bubble team, they deserve every loss they take.
There is a lot on the plates of Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the Flyers front office this summer, but given the sad state of the team, there are no excuses for not making legitimate changes, plain and simple. The complacency has to end. The ball is in your court, Chucky, and now it’s time to salvage the once-great legacy of the Philadelphia Flyers and take the advice of your head coach- step up and be a fucking Flyer.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com