The Dave Hakstol era ended Monday when the Flyers fired the head coach 31 games into the 2018-19 season (see story).
General manager Chuck Fletcher discussed the decision and much more during a press conference at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
Here are the top five takeaways from the 17-minute session:
1. Not so fast on Quenneville
Joel Quenneville has been the sexy name to become the Flyers' new head coach ever since he was fired by the Blackhawks on Nov. 6.
Yes, nearly six weeks before Hakstol's firing, Quenneville was on everyone's radar and understandably so — the Flyers were off to yet another slow start in Year 4 under Hakstol and a three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach was put on the market.
According to a report Sunday by Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post, Quenneville was offered the Flyers' position and had accepted.
Fletcher refuted that report.
First of all, he remains under contract to the Chicago Blackhawks. I can confirm I have not asked for permission from Chicago to speak with Joel for the reasons I just mentioned. I have not spoken with Joel, I haven't spoken with Joel in probably over two years. I shot him a text a few months ago after he was let go, just wishing him well.
I'm not trying to be coy, I'm being as honest as I can — 100 percent, I've never spoken with Chicago to ask for permission.
This doesn't mean Quenneville isn't in the Flyers' picture — he should be and it would be shocking if he wasn't.
But naming a new head coach is not in the works for this season, because …
2. 'Until I know what I'm looking for, I can't find it'
The Flyers are moving forward with Scott Gordon on an interim basis for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
"My expectation is that Scott will be the coach for the rest of the year," Fletcher said.
Why is that? Well, Fletcher is only two weeks on the job and is still learning about the players on the current roster and how they'll best respond to a certain type of coach. Fletcher likes Gordon because he has been in the organization as the head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and also brings NHL coaching experience.
"People I respect rave about his character, his preparation, his intellect," Fletcher said.
"I'm trying to identify what characteristics we need in a head coach to make this team successful and, in all honesty, I'm not sure how long that will take. Until I know what I'm looking for, I can't find it. At this point, everybody's a candidate going forward."
This is a good idea. At this point, the 2018-19 season might even be a wash (although Fletcher and the players won't agree with that belief because, ultimately, the playoffs are the goal).
But why rush the decision? Allow Fletcher to perform an extensive search and process in finding the right fit. Also, at the end of the season, the landscape of available coaches will be much broader and clearer, so patience is wise in this situation.
3. Why Hakstol is out
The player-coach relationship is an important one for Fletcher.
There was obviously a breakdown in that regard with Hakstol and the roster — or at least the head coach's message and methods were no longer resonating with the players.
"I came away tremendously impressed with Dave as a human being, but to my eyes, there was a disconnect between what he was preaching and how the players were playing," Fletcher said. "As the leader of the team, that responsibility falls on him and I felt at this point, we needed a new voice.
"There's obviously an onus on the players to buy into what the coach is saying and I addressed that with the players today before practice."
All of which is why Fletcher has to be as precise as possible in his search and new hire.
While some would debate if Hakstol lost his players, Fletcher said he wasn't concerned about effort and heart.
"Dave tried, Dave was prepared, Dave's smart, Dave's a good coach," Fletcher said.
"When the message wasn't received, you just get to a point where this is what happens — you make a change.
"I recognize our inconsistencies, but I recognize our talent. They believe in each other, they compete hard. Our compete isn't the issue. … We have to find a way not to make the game so hard some nights. And that's our challenge."
On a separate note, Fletcher said the team has no intention right now to replace assistant coaches Rick Wilson (defensemen), Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies).
4. Hart here to stay?
About two hours before the Flyers fired Hakstol, they recalled 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart, which created a social media storm of mixed reactions (see video). But reading between the lines, it doesn't necessarily sound as if Fletcher plans on keeping Hart with the Flyers long term.
We have some injuries in goal. Honestly, we've tried every goalie in our organization. It's probably not the ideal time to give Carter a game, but Carter's playing really well and he's a professional hockey player. He's a strong kid mentally. He'll go in and give his best. He'll go in and give his best. I have no worries about Carter Hart long term. He's going to be a very good goalie for this franchise.
The Flyers' goaltending situation is, in a word, wacky. Between injuries and strictly abysmal netminding, they've already used five goalies. If Hart plays a game, it will be a franchise-record six.
Fletcher provided an injury update on Brian Elliott, who's been out since Nov. 16 with a lower-body injury, and it certainly doesn't sound promising.
"It's more than week to week," Fletcher said. "I don't want to characterize it as month to month, so how about we say I don't expect him prior to Jan. 1, and we'll see after that."
When asked if Hart would be here for the meantime or for a game or two, Fletcher said, "That will remain to be seen."
The door remains open that Fletcher adds a veteran goalie before the roster freeze goes into effect Wednesday at midnight. Until then, Hart is here, but that very well could change too.
5. Let's make a deal?
It's no secret that Fletcher has had a busy two weeks on the job and it's certainly not slowing down any time soon. No one would be surprised if the Flyers made a trade before midnight Wednesday.
But Fletcher didn't sound like a GM who's going to make a move before Dec. 19 for the sake of making a move. He said he's identified areas the Flyers need to improve but the "timing is difficult."
"You have to be careful sometimes with sample size," Fletcher said. "You watch five, six games and you know, you see guys get six goals in six games and then the next six they get zero, so I want to be a little bit careful about what I've seen is really how the players are."
The Flyers are expected to be major players in the trade market this season, but while Fletcher reportedly would like to make a move before the roster freeze, it didn't sound like something was imminent.
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