Fletcher’s end-of-season song sounds like the same sorry tune – Delco Times


VOORHEES, NJ — The wrong general manager at the wrong time in the wrong city for the wrong franchise made another of his regular selling points Tuesday at the Skate Zone. As usual, it was unclear what he was selling.

Chuck Fletcher is good at it. He can take a situation and smother it in syllables, grabbing a piece from either side of any hockey discussion, hoping that any dissent will crumble in the middle. He can promise to rebuild without promising to rebuild, promise to win now but also build for later, promise to restore the Flyers to their rightful place among NHL royalty, but never set an exact timeline.

A few days ago, the Flyers wrapped up their fourth season under Fletcher, and it was a certified glitch that featured two coaches, 57 losses and alarmingly vacant sections of the Wells Fargo Center.

Not that he was any more surprised by it all than he was a year earlier when the Flyers lost 31 of their 56 games.

“Not necessarily, no,” he said. “There were a lot of different circumstances. Last year was very different from this year. This year there were a lot of different factors involved and we’re going to be spending the next four to six weeks as we go into our meetings going through it all. Clearly injuries were a big part of it, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that. We really struggled this year.

He needs four to six weeks of meetings to figure out what the Flyers should do hockey-wise, ignoring the fact that either way it will be his decision. So imagine that by the second week of June, he’ll figure out what was obvious, which is that the Flyers are rudderless from the front office down.

On Tuesday, when he shared that Mike Yeo had both the “interim” and the “coach” stripped of his title, Fletcher fidgeted, unable to say with conviction that he had a plan. When asked directly if he was about to demand a win-now initiative or if building for the future might be his approach, Fletcher didn’t even consent to take that free kick.

“A little of both,” he said.

It doesn’t work that way, not in practical terms, not in the eyes of a clientele conditioned to expect the Flyers to always be trying to win a championship. But even if Fletcher had had the guts to say he was ordering a retreat into a rebuild, it would have been a plan. Instead, he kept flipping the names of young Flyers who were either too injured, too inexperienced or too lousy at ice hockey to have helped much this season, implying they’ll come in the fall.

Even when he played the injury card – which was his right, given there was barely an empty chair in the coaching staff’s room waiting room all season – it didn’t. resonated. Instead, he mentioned more than once that Sean Couturier’s return after season-ending back surgery would be the hockey equivalent of adding a top center.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get a No. 1 center this summer,” Fletcher said. “Sean is healthy. We believe he is. He is 30 years old. He is a very good hockey player.”

Couturier is destined for space on one of those Franchise Hall of Fame flags hanging from the ceiling. But who knows if this reinvented back will allow him to return to All-Star form? And if so, didn’t the Flyers have him under contract anyway?

Trying to throw in an injured player is the same as adding another center player is insulting because defeatist. Bring back Couturier and also find another great player. It’s the attitude the Flyers have projected for decades, one that has been unconditionally accepted by the only clientele in Philadelphia sports history satisfied with the front office effort, regardless of the results.

The Flyers are an organization with a history of executive box makers and on-ice leaders. With Fletcher fittingly trading Claude Giroux at Deadline, the franchise is without a captain, and possibly without a captain in the pipeline. OK, Scott Laughton would work. Tailor maybe. Kevin Hayes?

Still, Fletcher apparently has 19 and a half more important things to worry about than fulfilling the need for a uniformed chef with a C on his shirt.

“It’s about No. 20 on our list right now,” he said. “We’re going to get into that. My guess is we’re going to get through this summer, get closer to training camp, sit down and do that assessment.

The Flyers have plenty of time before their next game, their treat after missing the playoffs for a second straight year. As for that next coach?

“The first thing we’re going to do,” Fletcher said, “is create an ideal candidate profile.”

An ideal candidate profile.

Nothing like one of these to keep a fan base enthralled.

Contact Jack McCaffery at [email protected]


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