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Something Needs to Change for the Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers’ plunge to the bottom of the NHL standings continues. How much more of a runway does GM Chuck Fletcher have to get his blueprint for success working in his favor?
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The Philadelphia Flyers’ plunge to the bottom of the NHL standings continues, with them putting up a gnarly 3-8-3 record since Feb. 1.

 Consequently, they’re now tied with Ottawa for the fourth-worst record in the league, and the worst record in the Metropolitan Division. It has been an unmitigated disaster of a year for Philly, Yet, somehow, the man responsible for it – GM Chuck Fletcher – has escaped accountability, and is still deciding major moves for the franchise, including the looming trade of captain and star center Claude Giroux.

If you look around the league this season, you’ll note that teams with better records than the Flyers have dismissed their GMs. The Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks both cleaned house; the Edmonton Oilers fired their head coach; and the league-worst Montreal Canadiens let go of their GM and coach.

So, what makes the Flyers so different that dismissing veteran bench boss Alain Vigneault was the only major move they’ve made thus far? How can Fletcher have been so wrong about not only this season, but last season as well, and still be trusted to chart their next course? It`s not as if Fletcher can point to a lot of success since he took the Flyers`job in December of 2018. Yes, Philadelphia won a playoff round in the 2019-20 campaign, but other than that, the Flyers have missed the post-season in two of the past three seasons, and they`ll be 1-for-4 in playoff appearances after this year concludes. That is not a statistic that inspires confidence Fletcher will be able to pull them out of this tailspin, especially when you take into account Fletcher`s well-publicized comments about his belief in this group at the beginning of this season.

It isn’t as if there is a shortage of qualified candidates to replace Fletcher. Indeed, there are all sorts of up-and-coming hockey minds that currently are serving as assistant GMs, scouts, and other management roles. The Flyers could take the reins away from Fletcher today, have someone such as former NHLer and present-day special-assistant-to-Fletcher Daniel Briere take over in an interim basis for the rest of the season, and hire a permanent replacement this summer. That would at least prove to Flyers fans there are repercussions for disappointing play. Right now, there’s no sense Fletcher should be held to account for his miscalculations.

Surely, the pending deal for Giroux is going to be hugely important to the Flyers as they attempt to reverse their current trajectory. But the bounty they receive for his services isn’t going to effect the notable change the franchise needs. According to CapFriendly.com, Philadelphia has 13 players under contract for next season, at a salary cap hit of $73.4 million. That leaves them just $8 million to sign 10 players. That is not enough to bring in elite talent to take the place of the veterans and new kids who haven’t worked out over the past two years.

Ideally, if they can’t make the playoffs, NHL teams provide their fan base with optimism that they’ll get there soon. But that vibe doesn’t surround the Flyers at the moment. Fans are rightfully skeptical Fletcher will be able to improve the Flyers’ status and make them a playoff team in the highly competitive Metro division. One or two small moves – or one big move, and a handful of small moves – will not be the panacea they’re looking for.

For now, the Flyers’ struggles will probably continue, and they’ll be in tough to unseat the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. That’s what Philly fans have to ask themselves - which of those aforementioned four teams are going to suddenly drop off in performance and allow the Flyers to leap past them in the standings? It’s a question that carries with it the potential for even more disappointment in Philadelphia.

So, how much more of a runway does Fletcher have to get his blueprint for success working in his favor? It says here that, at the first sign of trouble next season, Fletcher should be fired. If you want to give him one more shot at getting it right, you need to put the same expectations that have been in place for the Canucks, Blackhawks and other major-letdown franchises this year. You have to tell your paying customers the status quo is not being clung to. The Flyers need to be better, and soon. Or someone other than the head coach needs to pay for it with their job.

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