The three year anniversary of Chuck Fletcher’s hiring in Philadelphia took place during a very tumultuous time in the organization’s history. Things have gone from bad to worse and his hail Mary summer didn’t produce the desired results. It has left the organization scrambling for answers as to what their next steps are, but is all the blood on Fletcher’s hands?
While Fletcher’s overall tenure as general manager in Philadelphia has been well received, he had a few mistakes that were costly in the grand scheme of things. Thinking back to his 2020 trade deadline before the pandemic hit, the Flyers were on a nine-game win streak playing some of the best hockey they have in the past decade. Fletcher proceeded to add Nate Thompson and Derek Grant to address the team’s lack of center depth which backfired horribly during the 2020 playoff bubble when Grant was useless and Thompson was in over his head.
Yes, the play stoppage killed any momentum they had dead in it’s tracks, but if Fletcher properly rounded out the depth, maybe they would’ve stood a better chance when the puck dropped in August.
During the offseason, Fletcher opted to more or less run it back, using the returning Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom as in-house free agent acquisitions along with signing questionable defenseman Erik Gustafsson on the blueline. Gustafsson was a disaster and Patrick and Lindblom were throughly underwhelming during their triumphant returns. Had he built off the momentum from the previous season and went heavy in the free agent or trade markets, the possibility of salvaging the momentum from the season prior would’ve been a possibility.
He learned from his mistakes and went hard in revamping the team during the 2021 offseason, but between limited cash and a timid market, he couldn’t address every hole plaguing the Flyers. The moves Fletcher did make during the offseason were all individually good and brought a renewed sense of hope to the team and fans alike, but it was too little too late to salvage what was a team full of possibilities in 2019-20.
Fletcher was late on the draw to save the team, there’s no question about it, but the question seems to be why did we see two very different approaches in back-to-back summers?
It’s important to remember that Chuck Fletcher isn’t atop the food chain in the Flyers universe. He answers to Dave Scott, the president of Comcast Spectacor, the parent company of the Flyers. Is it possible that he limited the funds Chuck was able to spend during 2020? After all, the company was struggling from the pandemic too, and not having butts in seats in the Wells Fargo Center for an undetermined amount of time hurts the pocketbook.
Chuck Fletcher is not a dumb man. He graduated from Harvard, he has worked as a player agent, he has worked in a handful of NHL front offices during his career including nine years as the GM of the Minnesota Wild. Not to mention his dad is Hockey Hall of Famer Cliff Fletcher. He knows what needs to get done. He was very candid during his interviews late in the 2020-21 season that saw such quotes as “the mix is off in the room” and opening admitting there was redundancy in the lineup he had created. He backed up his words with a very impressive summer the likes of which the franchise hadn’t seen in almost 15 years.
During the 2021 offseason, Chuck Fletcher made various trades and signings that accumulated to nine new players on the roster. Not to mention he got rid of perceived problem players Jake Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere and everyone he added wore an “A” on their sweater with their previous team. It was an attempt to fix the shoddy leadership and add some proper depth to the team.
It should’ve been a franchise-altering offseason, but yet the Flyers are still spinning their tires in the mud. Now that the organization is once again searching for answers, the burnt out fanbase is turning its attention to Fletcher, who is guilty in the court of public opinion.
As the unrest grows, the biggest challenge yet lies ahead for Fletcher and it boils down to one simple question; What comes next?
Does he keep the current coaching staff? His long history with Mike Yeo suggests he may not try too hard to find his replacement, but is the current trio of Yeo, Darryl Williams and Nick Schultz a capable group to lead the team to the promised land? It certainly doesn’t feel like it.
What does he do when it comes to the roster? Given how much change he made last summer, does he try and flip the other half of the roster or find a few big time free agents or trade acquisitions, or does he admit defeat and realize this current team isn’t worth saving and it’s time for a teardown and full rebuild.
A better picture into the mindset of the organization will be painted as the trade deadline approaches at the end of March. If they look to sell off some of the upcoming free agents, or even captain Claude Giroux, it could signal the start of a much needed rebuild, if they keep the team primarily together because the playoffs are technically still in reach, then there might be a bigger problem.
All in all, Fletcher seems to be a competent enough leader for the Philadelphia Flyers. Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and there’s far more going on behind the scenes that we as fans aren’t privy to. So even though the heat from the fans may be growing, the chances Fletcher’s seat is hot from inside the organization seems slim, but not impossible. So whether you like him or not, you may as well get comfortable with Chucky two-trades in Philly, and just hope that moniker applies to a rebuilding squad as well.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com