The Philadelphia Flyers are working themselves into a corner. The walls are closing in around general manager Chuck Fletcher and it feels as though he’s on borrowed time before he loses his job. But the endgame for the Flyers isn’t quite that simple. They don’t get the pleasure of firing Fletcher and having the sunshine and rainbows open across the Wells Fargo Center. The reality of parting ways with a bad general manager opens an entirely different can of worms that forces them to look at the construction of the rest of the front office as well.
By no means is this a sympathy piece for Fletcher. Dude should’ve been fired many times over the last calendar year, from the first 10-game losing streak, to the second 10-game losing streak to whatever that 2022 offseason was, to the current 10-game losing streak. But the reality is he’s worked this team back into such a corner of roster constraints and long-term financial struggles thanks to stupid contracts that serving up Fletcher’s head on a silver platter may temporarily appease the fans, but it doesn’t actually provide any real solutions or light at the end of the tunnel for the franchise, it just prevents the hole from getting dug any deeper.
Who ultimately replaces Fletcher is hands down the biggest question mark, and that unknown factor really dampens the parade that should be had when Chucky gets canned. There are plenty of names out there, but so few feel exciting or like a legitimate upgrade. And if they just end up promoting Danny Briere, who may have been a fan favorite player over a decade ago, one has to wonder if anything changes at all?
These days, there tends to be two paths- the right way, and whatever it is the Flyers choose to do, which so often feels like the complete 180° wrong choice. And that’s really where pandora’s box begins to open for the Flyers.
There’s a good chance the entire front office is rotten. From Dave Scott and Val Camillo to Chuck Fletcher and Danny Briere. In a perfect world, anybody with a title in the front office should be fired and the organization should be rebuilt from scratch. Whether there’s too many cooks in the kitchen or not enough cooks, something just isn’t right. There’s a palpable sense of disarray that stems far beyond Chuck Fletcher, he just so happens to be the most public face the angry mob of fans have targeted their frustrations at.
The patience of the fanbase is pushed so thin these days thanks to ten years of bullshit from two separate general managers that the organization can’t even afford to slow down to catch its breath and think through the next step. Theoretically, that was the entire point of the 2022-23 season, to “take a year off” for roster assessment purposes, but unsurprisingly the roster is an injury-riddled suck fest, which should’ve been pretty obvious to anybody paying attention over the last couple years, and the fanbase is already rejecting the patience at just the quarter mark of the season.
Given the self-inflicted contract hell Chuck Fletcher has put them back into, in a way it may be best just to piss away a few more years until the salary cap goes up enough where dumping contracts once again becomes a semi-realistic option. Ironically enough, someone like Ron Hextall coming in and clearing a couple nasty contracts off the books while hoarding draft picks (though with much better execution that Hextall) into a small scale rebuild would probably be the best path forward for the Flyers, but it’s a luxury they just can’t afford thanks to all the wasted time and bad decisions.
Reality is, they may be forced to go pedal to the metal this offseason by clearing as much money as possible at whatever the cost to give themselves a fighting chance to add noteworthy talent in free agency. Which, after the 2022 offseason where a similar plan should’ve taken shape and Fletcher crumbled under the pressure, does anybody trust him to execute that plan flawlessly this time around? Adding high end talent, clearing millions in cap and overseeing the development of some crucial prospects is a tall task for a top GM in the league, let alone a nincompoop like Fletcher or a fresh face like Danny Briere.
The Flyers feel stuck. Chuck Fletcher needs to go. It’s not up for debate. But in a sense firing Fletcher creates far more questions than it does answers. Who replaces him? Does Fletcher stick around as president? Does anybody else get fired too? Does Briere get promoted? Does anything actually change in Fletcher’s absence? What direction is the organization heading in?
The Philadelphia Flyers are on life support, and for many, are already dead. This is a far cry from the team we all grew up with and it feels like they’re too far gone to save. The continued reliance on guys like Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren, who struggled in a salary cap world isn’t doing them any favors, yet most of the rest of the front office seems to be stitched together with non-hockey people, who also have no grasp on the current state of affairs in the NHL. While Chuck Fletcher is the one destined to pay for their sins, it’s far from the end of the nightmare for the Flyers and their fans, who will continue to suffer until legitimate franchise-altering changes are made.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com