“Be a fucking Flyer,” the battle cry of head coach Alain Vigneault that seemed to fall on deaf ears for much of his two year tenure behind the bench. When the team hit rock bottom during March of the 2021 campaign, we saw a stretch of some of the worst hockey in the history of the organization and the moral, both from players and fans, was at an all-time low. It’s clear massive changes were needed and Chuck Fletcher needed to finally live up to the “fucking Flyer” title his head coach demanded of him.
To give Fletcher credit, he dropped plenty of bread crumbs during the dying days of the 2021 season that the effort was not going to be tolerated. From such quotes as “the mix is off” in regards to the personalities in the room, to the “redundancies” throughout the lineup, he spoke like a man that was well aware his hockey team sucked.
Though, with a lackluster track record during his two-and-a-half years in Philly, which included a quite 2020 offseason despite supposedly being the hardest working GM when it came to looking for a defenseman, and a underwhelming run in Minnesota, there was a fair amount of skepticism thaat Fletcher would put his money where his mouth was when it comes to making the necessary additions.
Through all the doubt, Fletcher proved us all wrong. He made a huge splash shortly before the expansion draft roster freeze by acquiring Ryan Ellis in exchange for Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers. That move alone was the biggest trade he had made during his time in Philly, and was possibly the best trade he had made during his entire general managing career. It’s a caliber of move than quite frankly didn’t seem likely he possessed.
He followed that up by trading for Rasmus Ristolainen in Buffalo, which came at the price tag of a first round pick, marking the first time the organization didn’t make a selection in the first round since 2010. Then traded Jake Voracek to Columbus for Cam Atkinson, who has a $2.45 million less cap hit than Voracek. His free agent frenzy was a bit underwhelming, but there was only so much he could have done with limited cap space.
When I wrote the original piece, It’s time for Chuck Fletcher to be a Fucking Flyer, I made sure to add a distinction at the end.
“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.“
While the names they added may not have the sex appeal of Dougie Hamilton or Jack Eichel, the overall point stands. He is not going to run it back again. He made significant changes to the roster, and gave the team a fresh chance to succeed with his targets all being leaders in their previous teams. He is not only rebuilding a hockey team, he is rebuilding the culture of the franchise, an issue that seemingly hasn’t been addressed in almost a decade.
I don’t think this is my apology to Fletcher, but rather an acknowledgement that he finally stepped up to the plate, in a much bigger way that I think most people would give him credit for. He defied all the doubt that was stacked against him. He didn’t make make a few casual tweaks and called it a day, he revamped an organization over a 10 day window. Whether the moves end up panning out or not is a different story entirely, but this time around the ball is in the court of his head coach and players to pick up the slack and carry forward. The blood is no longer on his hands. So, well done, Chucky. You earned your vacation this summer and were finally a fucking Flyer.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: NHL.com