Flyers needed change to regain their pride, relevance

Carter Hart

PHILADELPHIA – It’s a team that’s won two championships, been to the Stanley Cup Final eight times and has the second-highest winning percentage in NHL history.

That said, when the Flyers go through a six-year stretch without a playoff series win, it results in a lot of wounded pride.

And a lot of disgruntled season ticketholders.

Dave Scott, the CEO of Comcast Spectacor, has been overseeing the team for a relatively short time but he knows the heritage of this franchise.

He’s also aware that the Sixers have taken over the winter sports scene in Philly and both the Eagles and Phillies have won championships in the past decade or so.

So there is a perceived sense of urgency to make the Flyers relevant, i.e. a serious contender, once again.

That was an issue Scott addressed in a private session with several reporters after Tuesday’s press conference at the Wells Fargo Center.

“We’re confident we will get there,’’ Scott said. “I think that’s why the timing of this (Ron Hextall firing) is so important. It’s early enough, there’s lots of hockey to play.

“It’s amazing, the Metro (Division) is so tight – you hate to be at the bottom of the pack but there’s not much disparity right now.’’

For Scott, the conversation always seems to come around to the word “progress.’’

The Flyers just didn’t see enough progress the past couple years, which has always been their style. They hate being out of contention.

“I’ve talked a lot about progress,’’ he said. “But it’s been 2012 since we got into the second round. That’s a long time.

“So we’re going to go for it.’’

Does Scott get a sense that Flyers fans are starting to tune this team out? Were they totally on board with Hextall’s patient approach?

“Actually our sales are pretty good,’’ he said. “It would be better if we were winning every night and were a little more consistent.

“This is a town that likes to win. Our fans, especially, are geared that way. I’m sure they would like to see things happening faster.

“But we have to be careful. During the era of Paul (Holmgren, GM from 2006 to 2013), we traded a lot of the future away. That was one side of the pendulum, we’re probably at the other side now. So I think there’s some middle ground here that we can work with and make some hay.’’

Added Holmgren: “Flyers fans are the best in the world. They’ve been through thick and thin. They’re good when things are good. They express their displeasure when things are bad. I have no worries that are our Flyers fan will be there when it counts. None.”

If the Flyers aren’t functioning properly, why spare the coach, Dave Hakstol?

Holmgren answered that question.

“The way I look at it is we had 98 points last year,’’ Holmgren said. “We were a playoff team. We got beat in a good series against Pittsburgh in six games. The next step was to get better. We’re a quarter of the way through the season. Where are we at? This quarter compared to the last were kind of that same. I don’t know. I think right now, that’s a question for the next general manager, to evaluate where we’re at.”


No debate on Carter Hart


Holmgren and Hextall seemed to be on the same page regarding the possibility of bringing up goaltending prospect Carter Hart, who has struggled a bit in his first year of pro with the Phantoms.

“I’m in line with Ron’s thinking on Carter Hart, because is there a time during this year that you can bring him up and look at?’’ Hextall said. “I don’t know, maybe. I think Ron was probably along those same lines maybe. To put him in, we’re 20 games in to the season, I don’t know if we’re at that point yet.


Was another veteran goalie needed?


Holmgren was asked if perhaps Hextall should have brought in another veteran goalie because Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth were coming off significant injuries.

“That’s a hard one to answer because when you’re not in that chair you don’t really know what’s available,’’ Holmgren said. “I think Ron did his due diligence and looked at everything that was available and either didn’t like his options or didn’t want to pay for what it was going to cost. But, I don’t know that. That’s a general assumption.’’


Lombardi ruled out


Former L.A. GM Dean Lombardi, a senior advisor for the Flyers, apparently has no interest in the Flyers’ GM post. “I’ve talked to Dean,’’ Holmgren said. “I don’t think Dean has interest. I think he’s not at a point in his life where he wants to do that again right now.’’


A tough call to make


Holmgren said telling Hextall he was done ranks among the toughest things he’s had to do.

“It was a tough…it was a tough…it was tough,’’ Holmgren said. “Tough thing to go through yesterday,  Was he warned? No, not warned. If you’re going to do that you might as well- what’s the sense? So, no. I don’t know how Ron felt in conversations we’ve had. Was he ever told to fire the coach? No. Was he ever told to make a trade? No. why even bother having a GM if you’re going to have those conversations?’’


Interest in Quenneville?


If the Flyers suddenly have an opening for a coach, ex-Blackhawk coach Joel Quenneville is available. Hextall was once asked about possibly bringing Quenneville aboard and the ex-GM allegedly said: “No, let’s stay the course (with Hakstol).’’

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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