The Blame Game: Who is at Fault for the Flyers’ Struggles?

In case anybody hasn’t heard, the Philadelphia Flyers aren’t very good right now. There are endless fingers being pointed for the lackluster disappointment the team has turned into and everyone has their favorite target. Some point to the current or former general manager, some point to ownership, others blame everything on Nate Thompson, but who is really at fault for the current state of the Flyers?

Well, Chuck Fletcher is the current man at the helm and has been since December of 2018. Now that he has some tenure as the general manager and the team is going belly up on his watch, he’s the natural target for the blame.

There is something to be said about Fletcher being slow on the draw, though his first offseason he brought in Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, who were all key pieces during 2019-20. His lackluster 2020 trade deadline and offseason potentially set them up for failure during the shortened 2021 campaign, but he tried his best during the 2021 offseason to turn the ship around. His moves were all individually good, the biggest roster overhaul the Flyers had since the summer of 2007, but an ungodly amount of injuries stopped any progress the team had dead in its tracks. His attempt to salvage the roster assembled by his predecessor has failed.

Which leads us to Ron Hextall. The now-famous snake oil salesman who convinced everyone German Rubtsov would be the hero the franchise has been waiting for, the former GM spearheaded the current struggles the team is facing. He put the brakes on any momentum the team had in the years following their Cup run in 2010 and filled the fanbase with the delusion that if you just believed in his “process” that one day decades later things would magically fall into place. That led to years of sub-par drafting and main roster mismanagement that went unchecked by fans and front office members alike. While it was ultimately his behind-the-scenes insanity that cost him his job, he left behind a crop of underwhelming prospects and an aging core that was no longer in their primes.

There’s always a finger remaining to point at ownership, and it’s easy to guess which finger most fans would use to point at Dave Scott. Scott, who has been at the head of the Comcast Spectacor table since Ed Snider’s passing in April 2016, is the man at the top of the food chain in Flyerland. Under his watch the team has turned from a family friendly, welcoming winning environment into a cold, corporate-run business entity whose questionable dealings have frayed a once strong bond between organization and fans. Not to mention he seems to have a close hand in the day-to-day hockey operations as well, put on display when he ultimately had the final say when it came to firing Alain Vigneault in December.

The current state of the Philadelphia Flyers is not one man’s fault, but rather the result of a decade of failures and incompetence from the full cast of characters. Paul Holmgren tried his best to salvage the Cup team he composed in the early 2010’s, but ultimately did more harm than good. Ron Hextall’s process was a miserable failure, not only failing to build a new foundation for the team, but letting the pillars established by his predecessor disintegrate. Chuck Fletcher tried his best to save the old core and try to win a Cup in the Giroux-Couturier era, but it just wasn’t enough. Dave Scott is responsible for killing the culture of the fanbase and letting a once-proud organization devolve into the laughing stock of the city.

The team didn’t get into this mess overnight, and they won’t get out of this mess overnight either. It’s going to take months of not years to build up the trust of the fans once again, and that’s done through rebuilding the on-ice product and putting a worthwhile experience together off the ice. Right now, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of Dave Scott and Chuck Fletcher and considering how they’ve done so far, the light at the end of the tunnel still seems bleak and very far in the distance.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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