It has finally happened. After four+ seasons as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Chuck Fletcher has been fired. Less than a week after a disastrous trade deadline, the Flyers will be moving in a new direction. Danny Briere will take over as the interim GM.
"“This morning, we released Chuck Fletcher from his President and General Manager responsibilities. We are grateful for his hard work and dedication to this organization, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” Dave Scott said in the team’s press release. “Chuck faced significant challenges during his time as President and General Manager, including some that were outside of his control, but we have reached a point at which we must move in a different direction and look to the future under new leadership.”"
The timing of this decision is where the real questions lie. In the span of the last few weeks, Fletcher admitted that the Flyers were going to be sellers followed up by doing basically nothing at the trade deadline. He was then put in front of season ticket holders as the Flyers annual Town Hall. The reaction was just as you could’ve expected.
Hired in 2018, the Flyers have missed the playoffs four times, this year being the third season in a row that there won’t be postseason play in Philadelphia. And in the seasons that they did make the playoffs, 2018 was a first round exit and the second came during the bubble playoffs. Impressive exhibition play gave the Flyers the top seed in the East, but they ended up losing to the Islanders in the second round.
Things haven’t been the same since. After their impressive play to end the season, 2020-21 was expected to be a strong year for the Flyers. They finished 25-23-8. It got even worse last year as they went 25-46-11. They lost a franchise record 13-straight games and suffered multiple injuries that included players coming back too soon and reinjuring themselves. Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, and Ryan Ellis were among the players who missed significant chunks of time.
Since Fletcher’s hiring, the team has had five different head coaches: Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon, Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and John Tortorella. Hakstol was fired two weeks after Fletcher was hired. Gordon and Yeo were named interim head coaches after Hakstol and Vigneault were fired.
Some of Fletcher’s “biggest moves” included:
- Trading Shayne Gostisbehere and two draft picks away for “future considerations”
- Trading Robert Hagg and two draft picks for Rasmus Ristolainen, later signing Ristolainen to a five-year extension.
- Trading four draft picks for the rights to Tony DeAngelo, later signing him to a two year deal.
Not all of what Fletcher did was bad, though. Acquiring Matt Niskanen turned out to be a great move for Ivan Provorov. The two worked well together, until Niskanen decided to retire after the bubble playoffs.
In theory, the Ellis trade should’ve done wonders for the Flyers defense. Provorov, again, looked like he was going to have someone he could work with. And it did work out, for just five games before Ellis suffered what is likely to be a career ending injury.
The trade of Claude Giroux did net the Flyers Owen Tippett, who looks to be solidifying himself as an NHL player. Bringing in Cam Atkinson for Jakub Voracek worked out in its first season as well.
But it’s the numerous missteps and failures that have led the Flyers to this point. Fletcher’s tenure will not be remembered by anything good that he brought to the Flyers.
For now, Danny Briere will take over for the rest of the season. Moving forward, the Flyers will be making the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations two separate positions.
"“As Interim General Manager, Danny Brière will oversee Hockey Operations. He is ideally suited for this role, having served as Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Flyers for the past year in addition to his more than 25 years in professional hockey as a player and in management. He will ensure a smooth transition following Chuck’s departure and support the team and Head Coach John Tortorella through the remainder of the season and into the offseason.”"
This was a move that the Flyers desperately needed to make, but it cannot be their only one. Bigger moves are likely to come at the end of the season and closer to the NHL draft. In order for this team to go anywhere, there will need to be major changes from top to bottom in the organization.