Just five words might sum up where the Flyers are at the moment when it comes to wondering which direction the franchise is taking.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Comcast Spectacor CEO/Flyers governor Dave Scott was put on the spot when asked about his faith in general manager Chuck Fletcher moving forward.
“Right now, Chuck’s my guy,’’ Scott said.
That sounds like a lukewarm vote of confidence if ever there were one.
Scott has been patient through three-plus years of the Fletcher regime. There have been coaching changes, significant personnel moves and drafts which really can’t be judged for a couple more years.
Unlike three previous GMs — Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall — Fletcher has no background with the Flyers. Maybe that meant something when Ed Snider still ran the team but not now under the Comcast Spectacor umbrella.
If, as expected, Fletcher hires another coach after this season, ownership might have to wonder how much faith it has in his judgment.
Scott sounds like he’s invested in Fletcher’s plan. The team has “doubled’’ its development staff and its analytics department. There’s been a greater emphasis placed on scouting. All the resources appear to be in place to help the process toward success.
Of course, there are a ton of mitigating circumstances – from injuries to COVID to an unstable coaching situation. Perhaps that gives the organization enough leeway to stay the course with Fletcher.
Maybe if Scott had more time to think about it, he would have used a different choice of words instead of “right now.’’ But because he left the door open a crack, there are some in the media who couldn’t help themselves push it wider.
There’s drama everywhere: Will Claude Giroux still be a Flyer after the March 21 NHL trade deadline (if the captain waives his no-movement clause)? Will the next coach be another “outsider,’’ or someone like Rick Tocchet, who has a past history with the Flyers? And how creative can Fletcher get with free agency when his salary cap situation settles?
If Giroux leaves, if the Flyers buy out James van Riemsdyk and if the Flyers don’t re-sign Rasmus Ristolainen, they could end up somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million with which to work.
That could get you Calgary hotshot pending free agent Johnny “Hockey’’ Gaudreau (a South Jersey native who would be an instant fan favorite) of Calgary Flames fame, and maybe one other frontline player.
Would that, along with a possible trade acquisition or two, be enough to get the Flyers back into contention?
Possibly. This much we do know: Fletcher is still calling the shots “right now’’ and that’s really all that matters. . .for the moment.
>Carter a possible Hall of Famer
A fairly big news item out of Pittsburgh this week involved the signing of ex-Flyer Jeff Carter to a two-year extension which will pay him an annual $3.25 million.
Carter, 37, is in the final year of an 11-year, $58-million contract he signed with the Flyers back in November, 2010.
Having Hextall as the Pens’ GM obviously played a part in this new deal. Hextall and Carter were together in Philadelphia and later, when Hextall was assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings, won the first of two Stanley Cups.
Which got us to wondering again: Could Carter end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday?
He did win those two championships in LA, he has 411 goals, 788 points in 1,130 games. He’s had 10 seasons of at least 20 goals. In 18 seasons, he’s only been a minus player five times.
If he stays healthy, Carter is on pace for about 480 goals. While 500 goals is no longer a guarantee of getting into the Hall, Carter does have a lot of qualities which work in his favor: He’s lethal on the power play, competes through injuries and has 43 goals/79 points in 126 playoff games.
Let’s check back in a couple years and see if Carter’s chances have gotten him closer to the ultimate honor.
>The King gets his due
The greatest goaltender in New York Rangers history, Henrik Lundqvist, was scheduled to have his number retired and raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters on Friday night and Flyers fans have to admit they’re not all that sad to see him call it a career.
Aside from the famous 2010 final game of the season shootout to decide whether the Flyers or Rangers would make the playoffs – a thrilling tiebreaker at the Wells Fargo Center in which the Flyers’ Brian Boucher prevailed – Lundqvist dominated Philadelphia.
The numbers tell the story: 35-19-5 with four shutouts, a 2.58 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Lundqvist basically was forced into retirement perhaps a year or two early due to health issues but his career body of work should make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. The only other Ranger goalie with close to Lundqvist’s credentials is Mike Richter, the Flourtown, Pa. native, who led the Blueshirts to a Stanley Cup in 1994.
But the King deserves his place on the throne and it’s hard to imagine anyone taking away that distinction in the near future.