The Flyers are in a sad state and indeed have been for some time. While the 2021-2022 season has represented a unique nadir for the historically successful franchise, it has been a decade since a consistent, balanced roster took the ice at the Wells Fargo Center. Alain Vigneault’s successful debut season was an outlier rather than a trendsetter, and Dave Hakstol before him lost two of the most feeble playoff series in recent memory during his 4 seasons at the helm. With Vigneault gone and GM Chuck Fletcher surely a lame duck, Comcast, the Flyers’ maligned parent corporation, has an opportunity to change the way they run the team for the better.
Comcast has changed the Flyers’ hiring MO in the past; they just failed to do so effectively. In 2018, the dismissal of Ron Hextall ended a line of team legends in upper management dating back to Bob Clarke’s stint as GM. While Clarke and his successor Paul Holmgren still exist in the organization in other capacities, Hextall’s replacement by former Minnesota general manager Fletcher signaled that the Flyers would finally look outside the organization for success.
The problem? Fletcher never had success outside of the organization. In 9 years with the Wild, Fletcher’s teams never reached the conference finals. This failure was despite the expensive acquisitions of veterans like Dany Heatly, Ryan Suter, and Zach Parise. Nothing has changed in Philadelphia, except perhaps that Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes were never near the caliber of Suter or Parise. Fletcher has tried to save his stint on Broad Street by doubling down on Rasmus Ristolainen and beginning a tentative rebuild by trading Claude Giroux. Still, with the team over budget and underperforming, the writing should be on the wall nonetheless.
The Flyers cannot go back to relying on their great players to be great executives. That does not mean they have to recycle other teams’ junk, though. Where unknown elements on the bench often get chewed up and spit out, unknown elements at the general manager position can be exactly what a team needs to change its organizational character. Surely there are people in Florida or Colorado, highly successful homegrown teams, who have contributed directly to the success of those franchises and would relish the chance to head their own front office. That is a preferable option to giving somebody who washed out of another team a chance to do it again in Philadelphia.
Photo: Jose F. Moreno/Philadelphia Inquirer