If Hakstol goes, the culprit will be the Flyers’ inconsistency

Dave Hakstol
      If the Great Dave Hakstol Experiment eventually fails, the guilty party will be identified by one word: Inconsistency.
      In his three-plus years at the Flyers’ helm, the head coach has been unable to get his teams to play full 60-minute games on a consistent basis, let alone string victories together.
      Yeah, there was that 10-game winning streak a few years back, but even that wasn’t enough to get the Flyers into the playoffs that season.
      Look at what’s happened this past two weeks or so, both inside games and from game to game.
      In the first game after Chuck Fletcher was formally announced as new general manager (Nov. 27), the Flyers blew a 3-1 lead to lowly Ottawa and wound up losing 4-3.
      Then they go to Pittsburgh and secure an unlikely win over the Penguins.
      This is followed by a late rally against Columbus (a 4-3 OT loss), a crazy 6-2 win at Buffalo, a disturbing 7-1 setback at Winnipeg and then blowing a two-goal lead in the final 68 seconds, leading to a 6-5 overtime defeat at Calgary.
      Talk about a rollercoaster ride with faulty brakes.
      Some of the problems, of course, have been beyond Hakstol’s control.
      Outgoing GM Ron Hextall left him with a goaltending mess. Particularly with backup netminder Michal Neuvirth, who is 30 years old operating in a 40-year-old body.
      Having to rely on untested rookies such as Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon might even turn Hakstol’s perfectly coiffed hair a bit gray. Don’t forget waiver wire pickup Calvin Pickard has come and gone.
      But there are things Hakstol’s crew should be doing a better job with, such as special teams.
      Until the Flyers scored a power-goal goal on Wednesday night against the Flames, the team had not scored with the man advantage since Nov. 17.
      How can a team with the likes of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere on its roster not score a power-play goal in a month?
      Penalty killing? Another joke. Couturier is regarded as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL (he finished second in the Frank Selke Trophy voting last season) and defensemen such as Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg can block shots and break up pass attempts with the best of them.
      So how is it that the PK can’t get out of its own way and remains entrenched in the bottom of the stat pile.
      When a team is giving up a goal nearly 30 percent of the time when it is shorthanded, it’s a recipe for failure.
      And speaking of penalties, the Flyers continue to commit bonehead, lazy infractions at inopportune times.
      Yet, there doesn’t seem to be an accountability. A pair of Flyers recently took a pair of somewhat costly penalties and yet there was no reduction of ice time, no “night off’’ moving forward.
      As for controlled aggression and effective forechecking, the Flyers just aren’t getting it done. They were one of the last teams to drop the gloves this year and when they did, Simmonds had to take on a guy about twice his size in Pittsburgh to get his bench lathered up.
      Forechecking is hit and miss. Some nights they start off like a house on fire, but most nights they don’t. That’s why they’re giving up the first goal of the game rather than scoring it by nearly a two-to-one ratio.
      One would think Fletcher is watching this team closely on the five-game road trip, which was 1-1-1 through the first three games.
      Maybe the Flyers are starting to tune out the coach.
      It’s happened before to the best of them, usually around the third or fourth year.
      That’s one reason why Mike Keenan, Ken Hitchcock, Terry Murray, Pat Quinn, John Stevens, Peter Laviolette never made it to, depending on each individual case, a fourth or fifth year.
      Players get tired of hearing the same message over and over again.
      Perhaps the Flyers would have fired Hakstol the same day they parted ways with Hextall (Nov. 26), but naming an interim off a staff with no obvious choice to fill in behind the bench made no sense.
      Besides, it’s a good bet Fletcher wants to take his time and hand-pick the next coach.
      Maybe the Flyers turn it around and maybe they don’t.
      After a recent game, Jake Voracek said his team “played scared’’ and lacked “confidence.’’
      Possibly the players know that without Hextall as his guardian angel, Hakstol is a casualty just waiting to happen — be it now, next month or next summer.
      This much we do know: The Flyers ran out of patience with Hextall, so why would they show Hakstol any great leniency?
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About Wayne Fish 2426 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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