Fletcher looking to stay positive despite NHL’s uncertainty

Any questions about the Flyers moving forward have to be filtered through one word: Uncertainty.

That notion was made clear during Monday’s media conference call with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher.

With the National Hockey League on indefinite hold, team operations have pretty much geared down into a waiting game during the COVID-19 crisis.

For the most part, Fletcher sounded somewhat upbeat about the situation as it currently stands.

Fletcher said the players have, for the most part, returned to their offseason residences. He added there is no scheduled plan in place to stay in a semblance of game shape, partly because no skating is taking place at this time.

That said, Fletcher is hopeful the NHL’s current season will resume at some point and that a champion for the 2020 Stanley Cup will be crowned.

“We haven’t given them (the players) any specific direction,’’ Fletcher said. “Most of them have returned to their offseason homes, a lot of them have the ability to work out there.

“I don’t think anybody is skating at this point. I think guys are doing the best they can to stay in shape. They’re all hopeful that at some point in time we’ll get to a better place in this world and come back and play hockey.’’

As for eventually resuming play, how crucial is it to complete some sort of season and award a Cup?

“We’re fine with anything they (the NHL) put forth,’’ Fletcher said. “To me, the more hockey the better. Whatever it ends up being, it ends up being. I’m not particularly wed to anything. There are lots of different ideas out there, a lot of creative solutions. It’s a good way to pass the time right now.

“Until things change and we have more information, it’s going to be hard to know what will happen.’’

The NHL already lost one championship in 2005 due to a labor-related stoppage. It would be somewhat heartbreaking if such a scenario took place again.

“Well, when you have time (in the summer), use it,’’ Fletcher said. “I just don’t think there’s any sense in making any decisions until you have to make them. If we’re able to come back and play, that means the world is in a much better spot than what it is right now.

“I think that (playoffs) would be a tremendous sign. I hope we have the ability to finish up this year. A lot of work was put in and we got through the majority of the regular season. I think we’re all competitors, we all want to play. If we are playing, it means things have changed dramatically and we’re in a much better spot.’’

As for the Flyers, they were the hottest team in hockey (9-1 in last 10 games) when the stoppage hit

Any frustration over having to put on the brakes so close to a possible playoff run? Fletcher pointed out the Flyers have been building toward a good place all season, perhaps implying the team can pick up where it left off.

“I think we’ve shown all season a high level of resiliency,’’ Fletcher said. “I think it took time to get everyone on the same page. I think as the season progressed and we all got on the same page, we’ve become a pretty good hockey team.

“I just like the buy-in, the acceptance of roles. Whether it’s Claude Giroux or Joel Farabee, it runs the whole gamut. From our most experienced guys to our rookies, everyone is accepting of their role and doing it with a smile on their face. I think that’s why this group is so close and the success we were having at the end of the year.’’

Fletcher prefaced all his remarks on the call by commenting on the state of where things stand with everyone at the moment.

“I kind of want to acknowledge the obvious now that we’re in different times and want to mention that our entire organization and certainly my family and I thank the people working on the front lines for this pandemic. . .doctors, nurses, hospital workers, first responders,’’ Fletcher said.

“I wanted to mention that before we talk about the small piece of the world I work in that is ice hockey.’’

Fletcher did not express too much concern over whether anyone in the organization has been exposed to the coronavirus.

“I think all us are concerned about everyone’s health,’’ he said. “And trying to take all the precautions we can. I’m not aware of anyone we had to take any particular precautions with.

“Once we got back from Tampa Bay (a game scratched there on March 12 signaled the start of the stoppage), everyone’s tried to heed the advice of the NHL and self-isolate and do what we can to keep our families safe and be smart members of the community.’’

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 917 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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