Chuck Fletcher says he’s going to take his time evaluating the state of the Flyers, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be taking decisive action once that assessment is completed.
On Monday the Flyers announced Fletcher, 51, as their new general manager, succeeding Ron Hextall, who was let go on Nov. 26.
Fletcher, a Montreal native and Harvard University graduate, comes from a family with a rich hockey pedigree.
His father, Cliff, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, having served as general manager for Toronto, Atlanta/Calgary and Arizona.
The younger Fletcher was an easy choice for Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott, mainly because he’s been general manager of the Minnesota Wild for the past nine seasons, six of which resulted in playoff appearances.
This season he’s been working as an advisor to New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero.
In a media conference call on Monday night, Fletcher said he wants to look at every facet of the organization before making any decisions, including that of the future of head coach Dave Hakstol.
“I’m a big believer in trying to get to know a situation before you make a reaction,’’ Fletcher said. “I’d like to think that we can solve a lot of the issues that have plagued this team this year and find a way to get better.
“I certainly have no intention of making a coaching change tomorrow. I’m going to meet with Dave and we’re going to try to work together and push. Our goal is to make the playoffs this year and it will be a challenge.’’
The Flyers have made it clear they want to get back on the winning track but they don’t want to make knee-jerk moves.
“We’re 25 games into the season, there’s still a lot of runway left to the season,’’ he said. “But the season also gets old pretty quickly.
“I would like to see what solutions we have to some of our problems and see if have some of those solutions in-house, internally.’’
He pointed out the Flyers have had injuries, including a bevy to the goalies, which partially accounts for being 29th in goals against.
“We need to give up fewer goals,’’ he said. “How do we do that? I’d like to sit down with the coaches and let’s see what we can do. How can we improve?
“If we can’t find the solutions internally, I certainly will look externally to see what we can do to improve the team.’’
Fletcher believes he’s coming into a good situation.
“I want to acknowledge the job Ron Hextall did,’’ he said. “The Flyers have as many prospects as any team in the league, if not more. There’s a very strong foundation in place.
“The team is in a good (salary) cap position and there are a lot of good players on the team. So I look at it, I believe we’re in 15th place in the Eastern Conference. We have some work to do, no doubt. In a few more weeks, I’ll probably have a much better answer for you.’’
Fletcher said he will meet with the players and coaches on Tuesday. A day later, there will be a press conference to formally introduce him to the media and public as the new GM.
“It (coaches and players) is a good group,’’ he said, “but I’m going to take some time to know them much better.’’
As for Hakstol, Fletcher said he’s met the coach on several occasions when he was behind the bench at the University of North Dakota.
“He did a tremendous job there,’’ Fletcher said. “His teams always got better as the season went on. So I have a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished in his career.’’
Fletcher will have time to get a good look at this team on an upcoming five-game road trip, four of them out west.
“It’s been a whirlwind few days,’’ he said. “I’m thrilled. I’m extremely honored and humbled that Paul and Dave chose me to be the next GM of the Flyers.
“I’ve been in the game for many years and the Flyers have been one of the standardbearers of the NHL, one of the best franchises. To have this opportunity is a dream come true.’’
/> On hiring an assistant general manager: “Not imminent,’’ Fletcher said. “Certainly I will address that. I’m pretty familiar with the staff already in place. I think it’s a strong staff, a lot of good people.’’ Fletcher said he might wait until the end of the season to make this hire.
/> Will he do things any differently than in Minnesota?: “In Philadelphia, we have a very strong group of prospects – nine draft picks this year. We do have cap space,’’ he said. “Those are all resources you can use to make your team better. You want to compete in the present and make sure you have a strong team for the future.’’
/> How important was his experience in the hiring process?: “The one thing they (Holmgren, Scott) did say to me is that they were looking for someone who had been a GM before and maybe had dealt with some of the situations that had come up before. I was in Thursday and Friday and we had some great conversations.’’