Have you ever watched a movie or TV series that you absolutely love but as the seasons goes on the plot holes emerge and you can see things falling apart before your very eyes? Game of Thrones is a popular example. A beloved series that, by the time the final season rolled around, the train had come so far off the tracks that it made everyone miserable? Fans were furious and demanded the season get remade with a more satisfactory ending to please the palate. They wanted it done because they cared enough to want things wrapped up right.
Let’s focus that energy on Chuck Fletcher’s Philadelphia Flyers.
When the Flyers went through a 10-game losing streak in early December, their third such streak in the last calendar year, there was probably some actual pressure on Fletcher when it came to his job security.
Though as the losses mounted, rumors broke that the Flyers would make a decision on his fate after the World Juniors, after Christmas or early in the new year. Delaying their decision seemed questionable at the time, and when those three weeks passed, the losing streak had ended and the team had a victorious road trip during their yearly post-Christmas California swing. Now, nearly a month after his planned execution date, he still reigns.
It’s totally possible the rumors claiming a post-WJC firing were nothing more than an effort to buy time. The organization didn’t want to make a decision on Fletcher’s fate right then and there so instead they pushed the deadline back a few weeks hoping the on-ice product would turn around, and that’s exactly what happened. Now, those wins came against some of the worst teams in the league, but it was enough for Fletcher to remain as GM.
It makes you wonder if Fletcher’s seat was ever hot at all?
Fans are frustrated. The fact that a few wins against the basement dwelling teams in the league can take all the pressure off Fletcher despite what the last three seasons have consisted of is flat out ridiculous. There’s zero long-term outlook for this franchise and even less self awareness of just how bad their perception has become. The rest of the front office’s hands off mentality with something that clearly isn’t working will ensure the Flyers never reach any kind of sustained success again.
At this point, it’s pretty clear he’s going to see out the remainder if the regular season – including the 2023 trade deadline- with the next chance to fire the guy is the end of the season. It’s still relatively unlikely the Flyers snag a playoff spot, which would make this the third consecutive year the team missed the postseason for the first time since 1992.
That should be a pretty big deal, but it all depends on how the organization wants to spin the results.
“Yes, they missed the playoffs again for the first time in 31 years, but they finished 10th worst in the league, an improvement from fourth worst last season.” Sure feels like a very real thing this front office would pull. Selling minor victories as major wins could very well keep Fletcher employed going into an absolutely critical 2023 draft and offseason.
Though with another missed postseason, the Flyers could realize that he’s not doing enough to get the job done and realize the organization has taken an unimaginable downward spiral under his watch and that could lead to a change in April at season’s end when the organization has a few months to catch their breaths and figure out what comes next versus committing to a important change mid-season.
If Fletcher is given the green light to stick around for yet another offseason, it locks him in for the foreseeable future as well.
Much like this time last year, if there’s enough faith shown in the guy that he keeps his job for the summer moves, they aren’t going to fire him in November if the team fails for the fourth consecutive year. That means the next realistic chance to fire the guy barring (another) legendary collapse would be the trade deadline in 2024, over a year from now.
What are they trying to accomplish with Fletcher? What more can this guy do to prove he isn’t the right guy to lead the team to success. We all know Danny Briere is marinating in the background as Fletcher’s likely successor, so considering there’s an in-house replacement, it makes even less sense that the rest of Flyers’ management and ownership doesn’t just pull the trigger already. The fans have absolutely zero faith in the guy, he has failed on multiple fronts to truly address the very obvious holes on the roster, and now he could get one more offseason to continue the stagnation of the franchise. While Briere’s name value may not hold the same water it did this time last year, he’d certainly be better perceived than Fletcher ever will again.
Sooner or later the fans aren’t going to take it anymore. Everyone’s tired and fed up of the sub-par product. If the Flyers keep Chuck Fletcher employed and go into another offseason and whiff on everything like they did in 2022, it could be the final straw the breaks the camel’s back for a lot of fans that have been stretched to their absolute max over the last handful of seasons.
It’s long overdue for the Flyers to fire Chuck Fletcher and try something new, but he continues to cling on to the same minuscule thread he’s been hanging onto for the last few years. Hopefully the Flyers make the call during the offseason that it’s time for a fresh set of eyes at the helm, but given their hesitancy to make that conclusion over the last couple months, it doesn’t paint a bright picture that things will change for this organization during the summer.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com