When you talk about Philadelphia Flyers fans, you’re dealing with one of the most hardcore fanbases in sports. They’re familiar with previous regimes and ownership groups that were very straight forward with the fans about the state of the team. Now, during the Dave Scott/Chuck Fletcher power trip, there has been lie after lie told to the fans, and it’s breeding mistrust between the Flyers organization and its fans in a situation that quickly feels like it’s reaching a boiling point.
Whether it’s the status of injured players or the direction of the franchise, the front office just can’t help themselves but to stretch the truth. After years of dishonesty, Chuck Fletcher and co have worked themselves into a corner when it comes to conveying a message to the media where fans naturally skeptical of anything they say, and that’s a troubling issue.
Sean Couturier, who underwent unspecified back surgery last season ended up missing training camp and the preseason. Anthony SanFilippo broke the news that he re-injured his back and he could be done for the season. Then Chuck Fletcher came out and fed everyone a line of vague but upbeat dialogue trying to convince us that Couturier may not be out that long after all. He was given the week-to-week designation but less than a month later, Couturier underwent a second surgery and may miss the rest of the season after all. This is the same player whom the organization signed a year early and is in the first year of his eight-year, $62 million extension.
In an isolated indecent, it may be a forgivable mistake. Every once in awhile plans change or wires get crossed, which is just a natural hiccup and everyone moves on within a few days. But that’s not the case here. The mixed messages the front office has been sending for years now are starting to add up. Partner the lies with the decayed state of the on-ice product of the franchise and they’ve got themselves some very unhappy customers. Couturier’s injury situation comes on the heels of Ryan Ellis’ injury situation, which played out very similarly- downplay the injury at first, promise a return on the horizon before being forced to admit that there are major issues and his career is in jeopardy.
It begs a very simple question- Why can’t they just be honest?
In a sense, they just love punting the ball down the field, like not doing work on a Friday afternoon under the pretext that you’ll handle it Monday morning, only for you to hate yourself when you sit at the desk during a brand new work week. “We’ll tell folks Ryan Ellis will be ready to got next season” – Chuck Fletcher (probably) in April, only to have to then admit in September that his career is more than likely over, an outcome they were in all likelihood aware of last season.
And we haven’t even touched upon the “aggressive retool” Chuck Fletcher had promised during the 2022 offseason, which ended up being nothing more than a massive contract to an enforcer and giving up assets for a single defenseman before refusing to clear some cap and bring home forward Johnny Gaudreau or pick up sniper Alex DeBrincat at a reasonable price. They promised change and delivered an almost identical roster to the team that won a measly 25 games last season.
Now here’s the thing, most of the fans were ready for a rebuild and would’ve accepted a quiet summer if it was presented to them. The current team just isn’t working and many were ready to commit to change. But with an aggressive retool promised, fans expected the organization to spare no expense in an overhaul of the roster. So while the outcome was potentially the right way of going about things, why did they take the most painful approach possible to get there?
At best, the front office looks like a bunch of incompetent assholes who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. At worst, they’re perceived as the villains who are destroying a franchise that was once upon a time the most beloved in the league.
The lies are damaging what little trust the fans have left in an organization that has attempted to go radio silent, leaving an already weary group in the dark. If they’re intent on trying to play their cards to their chest, fine, but with seemingly endless disasters popping up, they don’t exactly have the benefit of the doubt when news does trickle out.
It gives off an aura of trying to deceive the fans. The problem is, Flyers fans, despite what may be seen on social media, aren’t that dumb.
In the case of injury, especially in the case of Ryan Ellis where they were trying to buy him as much time as possible to receive the proper diagnosis and time to recover, being vague and hopeful is fine. In the case of a promised “aggressive retool” then following it up by doing nothing of note but Fletcher still snarkily claiming he lived up to his plans during a press conference just wreaks of a holier than thou attitude that is totally undeserved considering his abysmal track record since joining the Flyers.
Cam York got hurt over the weekend in Lehigh Valley with what appeared to be a nasty leg injury, then the next day it was announced he was just day-to-day, insinuating that he avoided serious injury. Yet the responses on social media from the fanbase was very sarcastic and just assuming that the organization is lying and he’s done for the season. So even if York is actually fine and will return soon, nobody believes it because we’ve been mislead in so many other injury cases.
That’s a pretty serious problem.
How does the front office fix this? In all honesty I’m not sure they can. The guilty verdict has been brought down in the court of public opinion and with so many fresh examples to point to, there may not be a way this current leadership group can truly earn back the trust of the fanbase.
Starving the fans of a successful team for so long doesn’t help their goal either. Even though they didn’t necessarily lie about Johnny Gaudreau, refusing to move a human traffic cone like James Van Riemsdyk to make room for a home town hero after promising an aggressive retool just leaves a bad taste in the mouths of a down trodden fanbase.
In a way, the mixed messages are a microcosm of the entire state of the organization. We were all hoodwinked by Ron Hextall, and Chuck Fletcher and his band of merry jagoffs in the front office have tried their best to continue to deceive the masses with little success. It’s just not a proper business strategy when things have been trending in the wrong direction for years. The casual fans have long since given up and the hardcore fans are having their patience tested like never before. How many more big lies does this organization have in them before they cross a line they just can’t come back from?
“Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure” – James Altucher
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Photo credit: inquirer.com