Like any successful business, ambition and leadership start at the top.
So when hockey enthusiasts in the Delaware Valley wonder just how aggressive the Flyers’ approach to the offseason will be, many are aware mothe impetus originates with team CEO Dave Scott.
While general manager Chuck Fletcher initiates all the actual personnel moves, it’s Scott and the folks at Comcast who hold the franchise accountable for success or failure.
We’ve already been over why the pandemic was not a completely valid excuse for the Flyers’ inability to make the playoffs.
And also why it shouldn’t figure that prominently into the Flyers’ thinking as they figure out next season’s roster – and beyond.
Each NHL team was dealing with the same health conditions, some to a greater degree than others. The fact the Flyers got hit harder than most certainly won’t draw tears in Boston, Pittsburgh or New York.
All that said, Scott indicates he’s looking forward to the 2021-22 season and a return to normalcy. In a recent interview he stated it’s not possible to fairly evaluate Fletcher or head coach Alain Vigneault until they at least have a full season to do their work.
Do the Flyers need to be hyperactive in the free-agent and trade markets to return to respectability? Is there enough tread left on the “leadership tires’’ to push the Flyers back into the conversation with the Bruins, Islanders, Caps and Penguins?
Scott made it sound as if the Flyers have enough pieces in place to get back into contention. A total rebuild does not appear to be in the cards. . .if for no other reason than salary cap conditions make it difficult to execute blockbuster moves.
“I still believe that we’re a much better team than our record shows,’’ Scott said. “And I think we’ve got some great talent to build around. We’ve got the veterans and we’ve got these young prospects coming up. I look at what Joel Farabee did, getting to 20 goals, it makes me feel optimistic about where we’re heading.”
Of course, there are plenty of questions to be answered.
>Can goaltender Carter Hart return to the promising form he showed in his first two seasons with the Flyers?
>Where will the Flyers go to find a defenseman skilled enough to play sidekick to No. 1 backliner Ivan Provorov?
>How do you turn around a team roster which allowed the most goals in the NHL this past season in just a few short months?
>And, as mentioned, will Fletcher be willing to take some risk to complete a few perceived needed moves?
“We talk every day and talk about the challenges and what we need to do about it,’’ Scott said. “I think we’re all looking to normalcy, kind of a full 82-game season. I think it’s going to make a big difference. I think we know what we need to do and I think you’ll see we’ll take the right action.’’
Scott was asked how he can show the team’s collapse in March and April (the Flyers had the No. 1 points percentage figure in the East Division as late as March 1) was not acceptable and that there has to be accountability.
Keep in mind, next season the Flyers will once again try to keep alive their streak of not missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1992-1993 and 1993-1994.
“I think you’ve got to go back again and look at the last two seasons,’’ Scott said. “They’ve been very different for the hockey world. Playing in the bubble last year, we were thrilled to get within a game of the Eastern Conference finals. We didn’t quite make it.
“This (past) season was a little different, a shortened season. Playing everybody eight times. It was just a different format. Some teams did better with it than others. I really believe that Chuck — he hasn’t even had a full 82-game season yet. He came in late in the 2018-19 season and then we hit the pandemic.’’
Scott said there was a lot of optimism in the Flyers’ camp heading into the 2019-20 season and things really seemed to be heading in the right direction with a nine-game winning streak in March until the pandemic stoppage.
“I still remember AV (Vigneault) coming in,’’ Scott said. “We all went to Prague to start the season and won. We came back and had a big celebration with ownership and really the front office, the players, the coaching staff and significant others. He talked about a new era with the Flyers. We’ve all bought into that. The pandemic hit and things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go. It’s a new day now. I think we’ll pick up our heads and lean in. Make some adjustments and look forward to the next season.’’
Don’t think for a moment Scott isn’t personally involved with this operation. He was instrumental in operations going back to the final days of Ed Snider and knows this franchise has a lot of pride.
So there will be some degree of urgency this summer.
“We have to get it right,’’ Scott said. “As you know, it wasn’t just one thing. It starts with goaltending, defense, scoring went down. It wasn’t just one thing. It is important to get this thing back on track.’’
In some respects, the process of upgrading this roster has already begun, if only laying the groundwork.
“I could tell you it wasn’t a lack of effort,’’ Scott said. “There were a lot of conversations with different teams, trying to get some things done. We weren’t able to get everything done that we would have liked to gotten done. Matt Niskanen left a big hole and we weren’t able to fill that hole. I can tell you it wasn’t a lack of effort on Chuck’s part.’’
The team is hoping all that effort pays off before the next puck drops in a Flyers game.