Poor Chuck Fletcher. The Philadelphia Flyers are down and out. Yes, the general managed constructed the team, but it bears little resemblance to the one he put together.
Currently, the Flyers (13-22-8) have eight injured players, including Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, and Derick Brassard.
Fletcher did not build enough depth to overcome the injuries, and that’s on him.
On the other hand, not many teams could withstand such a run of injuries.
That said, the Flyers were relatively healthy when they lost 10 straight earlier in the season. Now they are winless in their last 13 games, a dubious franchise record. They will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94, and they have as many wins (13) as the expansion Seattle Kraken.
With that as a backdrop, Fletcher and (surprise, surprise) team chairman Dave Scott addressed the media Wednesday, and here are 12 quick takeaways:
1. Fletcher will remain as the general manager, Scott said. He said Fletcher was “my guy” and that he deserved a chance to turn things around.
Scott said the injuries prevented Fletcher’s offseason moves from working.
“Chuck made some smart moves. I think we put a really strong roster together,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for us. If you would ask me what our No. 1 challenge is today, it’s injuries. It’s not an excuse, but it’s our reality.”
2. Comcast does not plan to sell the Flyers, as a lot of fans were hoping. Comcast is “absolutely” committed to keeping the team, per Scott.
3. Fletcher has had talks with Claude Giroux’s agent, Pat Brisson, about the captain’s future in Philadelphia. Giroux can become an unrestricted free agent and would bring a huge haul if he was traded before the March 21 deadline, but he would have to waive his no-movement clause.
“We will continue to have conversations, and ultimately, a decision will have to be made one way or the other. It’ll be Claude’s decision” on whether he is agreeable to a trade, Fletcher said.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 26, 2022
4. Couturier, who skated in sweat pants on Thursday in Voorhees, and Ellis will not return in the immediate future, and there is a chance they may need surgery — and a chance they won’t play again this season, Fletcher said. He added that neither injury, which he still wouldn’t specify, is career threatening.
Fletcher added that they were both trying to avoid surgery.
“At this point, we have a long road ahead of us this year, (so) let’s get these guys right for next year,” Fletcher said. “If they get healthy and can play this year, great, but the focus has to be on their long-term health.”
5. Fletcher made it sound as if he hopes to make lots of trades at the deadline and add prospects/draft picks. He also admitted the team, even when healthy, needs improving.
“There’s no question we need more top-end talent,” he said. Fletcher said Flyers will “aggressively retool.”
6. The Flyers’ bad luck this season isn’t only on the ice.
Fletcher revealed that John Torchetti went into COVID protocol two hours after he was picked up at the airport after the Flyers hired him as an assistant coach this week.
“That about sums things up,” Fletcher said. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
7, Fletcher is trying to resign Rasmus Ristolainen, who is a pending UFA. Fletcher conceded he gave up a lot — Robert Hagg and first- and second-round draft picks — to acquire the physical defenseman from Buffalo.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 26, 2022
8. Moving forward, Danny Briere will get more involved in the Flyers’ hockey ops’ decisions, Fletcher hopes.
That’s a smart move because Briere’s player-evaluations are spot-on.
9. Many Flyers have returned from injuries this season and quickly been re-injured, and Fletcher doesn’t know if it’s because they have come back too soon.
“Players say they feel fine, and then injuries recur,” he said. “But we’re looking at everything.”
He said evaluation of the medical department will happen after the season.
10. Scott was asked if he was worried about the dwindling attendance and what could be done to rectify it.
He apologized to the fans for the dreadful season, and said “we’re in a terrible spot right now, and I can tell you, I’m angry, I know our fans are more than angry, and the whole organization is angry. We’re sick of losing.”
“Bottom line, we have to get better; we have to win games,” he said, adding that COVID has had something to do with the low attendance.
Only about half the Wells Fargo Center was filled in the Flyers’ last home game, a 3-1 loss Monday to Dallas.
11. Scott was adamant that the Flyers don’t need a three-to-five-year rebuilding plan. (I respectfully disagree.) He says they can be a winner next season.
“I don’t really see this as being a three-, four-, five-year rebuild at all. I don’t think Chuck does, either,” Scott said. “We have a pretty good core. I think it really starts with a healthy Coots and Hayes, and Farabee. We’d love to have Ellis back. We’ve got a core group to build on, so I think as we look at the reality of it, two, three (additional) pieces would be great. Maybe a little more. But the core is good. We just have to get healthy.”
From here, Scott is overvaluing his players.
“I don’t see it being a three-, four-, five-year thing,” Scott repeated, treating the word rebuild like it was the enemy, perhaps because he fears it would cause attendance to drop (again) next season. “We should get this thing right, and we should be in it next year.”
By “it,” I assume he meant the playoff race.
12. Fletcher said this was the worst season of his long career.
“Probably the biggest disconnect I’ve ever felt on what we should be and what we are,” he said of the 2021-22 Flyers.
He said he wanted to let the season “play out” before making a coaching decision.