The Chuck Fletcher era has ended in Philly. His tenure effectively killed the meticulous Hextall five year rebuild. In its place Fletcher provided 4 years of what seemed like desperation, Hail Mary, roster management. It is safe to say that Fletcher has left the Flyers in ruin for barely a sniff of winning hockey.
The team is now laden with bad long term contracts and is readying for a needed multi-year rebuild. The Gostisbehere and Ristolainen trades were the Fletcher equivalent of Cortez burning his ships when he came to the new world. The Flyers went all in, do or die, and came up short. In fact they were not even close. Worse still, they were not even compelling, unless you are into self-inflicted social justice controversies.
Fletcher was a bad hire, but it was management’s insistence that the Flyers were ready to be contenders that destroyed the team. Dave Scott made this happen, Fletcher was merely the blunt instrument of self destruction. Dave Scott’s lack of vision, understanding and patience is what doomed the team. Fletcher was asked to make a roster that was not ready, and not yet deep or talented enough to contend, into a cup threat.
I guess Fletcher figured it was better to agree with Scott’s outlook, collect a check, and make some really bad gambles rather than pass on the job. Fletcher would get paid no matter the outcome, and if it broke bad, it would be someone else’s problem. It sounds like standard bad management practice of large corporations or government.
Danny Briere, who will serve as General Manager, finds himself cash strapped and with little help coming from the prospect pipeline. I remain skeptical of Briere’s ability as a general manager. In truth I am being unfair, letting the bias I held against him as a player leak into an entirely different position. Briere may turn out to be a fine GM, but he is not the man for this job at this moment.
This is not some curb appeal, slap some paint on, renovation, this is not even tearing down to the studs. The Flyers need to be bull-dozed and rebuilt from the ground up. This can’t be a band aid half hearted turn around. The Flyers need a complete shift in ethos, which will require pushing back against the Comcastic management team in order to build for long term success. The roster management alone is a big ask from a first time NHL GM, but to push back hard against the management who hired him is too much.
The one piece of stable foundation left is coach John Tortorella, who has done an admiral job coaching a team that has had 20 million in player salary injured for most of the season, and another 7 million dollars in cap space consumed by JVR. That is a third of the team’s cap space, that is not productive. Tortorella is getting good milage from the players he has, kept the team focused, even with corporate creating needless controversy.
If I am being honest, this may not be what Torts signed up for, and I would not blame him if he asked for his release, but Torts is not that kind of guy. The more likely scenario is that the roster changes brought on by a rebuild will make him implode as the losses mount. Coach Tortorella would be a fine choice to bring a team out of a rebuild, but is just not wired for the early portion of this kind of process. For him to accept losing is against all of his being as a coach. While I appreciate what the coach has shown this season, I just don’t think his nature and the situation will mix well. I look for the coach to be jettisoned once the roster is fully depleted.