Flyers fire Dave Hakstol: 5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's press conference

Flyers fire Dave Hakstol: 5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's press conference

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

5 takeaways from former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's press conference

5 takeaways from former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's press conference

Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall addressed the media Friday morning at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Here are five takeaways from Friday's press conference:

1. Hextall was blindsided by firing

"I didn't see this coming in any way. I certainly didn't feel any warnings, so I was shocked that I was done," Hextall said. "The only thing [Flyers president Paul Holmgren] said is that 'your vision, my vision aren't the same.'"

Holmgren said Tuesday that he didn't give Hextall any notice because, as Holmgren said, "If you're going to do that … what's the sense?"

Most of us were caught off-guard by Hextall's firing, and we heard it from the man himself. He was blindsided by it, and rightfully so. We didn't see it coming, and neither did he.

2. Hexy didn't believe the Flyers were at 'go time'

Hextall explained his vision as a three-stage plan. The first was cleaning up the salary cap, the second was the in-between of implementing young players and the third was "go time."

"I didn't feel right now that we were at 'go time,'" Hextall said. "I did feel like we were getting close. But I didn't feel like we were there yet. Some of the growing pains that we're going through this year with the younger kids, the defense — that's a young defense.

"It's hard to win a Stanley Cup with a defense that age. Again, I wasn't willing to trade a young player or prospect for a guy in his mid-30s that might help us this year, might clog us up down the road and his game is dropping. Philosophically, that's where I was at."

Some items to unpack: Hextall is right that the Flyers aren't ready to compete with the NHL's elite. He also mentioned there have been more growing pains than anticipated with the young players, specifically on the blue line, and he's right there.

We also received some insight into the philosophical differences between him and Holmgren and there was some minor shade thrown by Hexy — about trading for a declining player in his mid-30s (see story).

One other note, Hextall's comments about the defense is that he was in a position to fill it out with better veteran complements than what's here. He very well could have.

3. 'I don't run a country club'

Hextall basically laughed about the speculation that he controlled what players ate.

"I controlled the food and stuff?" Hextall said. "What?"

He said the team hired a dietician and between her and Flyers director of sports science Ben Peterson, healthy eating habits were constructed.

"The only thing I met up front, I said we want to be healthy," Hextall said. "After games, we want to eat anti-inflammatory food versus pizza, which is the opposite. So, yeah, we did change a few things like that.

"But I see some of the [rumors] coming out … ay-yai-yai."

Hextall also touched on his locker room principles.

"The locker room — I don't run a country club, I don't believe in it. I don't believe you win that way," Hextall said. "Watching out in L.A. how we did it, how [Bob Clarke] did it, I believe in having tight doors, I believe in the sanctity of the locker room, I believe when the players are in the locker room, it should be the players — that's when that team bonding [is built].

"After games and practice days, I did close the locker room to people — fathers and kids could come in, obviously, and brothers. But one day I walked in and a guy had four of his buddies in our lounge on a practice day. And I was like, 'This is a place of work.' Like, you guys go to work and don't bring your four buddies to work, right?

"So there were some things that went on that I didn't like and we changed some things as a result. But I like structure, I'm a structured guy, I believe in structure."

4. Proud of the groundwork

Hextall said he was "disappointed as hell" this season started the way it did but believes the Flyers as a whole are "poised to do something great."

"Quite honestly, I'm proud of my four and a quarter years here," Hextall said. "We worked hard — scouting staff, management team, minor-league coaches, all the players — we worked hard and I feel like we accomplished a lot.

"We created an analytics department, we created a sports science department, we had the gym built, we had the development area built. We accomplished a lot of things and a lot of those things don't show above the water.

"I feel like some of the results are starting to show themselves."

What Hextall did to sort of restart the Flyers, build a foundation and change their way of thinking was impressive (see story). But half the battle is finishing — knowing when to take it to the next level, which was the big dilemma within this whole situation (see story).

5. Why address the media?

Not many fired general managers hold media availability after being axed.

Hextall was classy enough to do it. It wasn't to vent or anything.

He said he wanted to do it because he felt he owed it to the media members, the fans and selfishly, for some closure.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: What is Ron Hextall's rock bottom?

Flyers weekly observations: What is Ron Hextall's rock bottom?

Update, 11:15 a.m. Monday: The Flyers have fired GM Ron Hextall.

The Flyers snapped a season-worst four-game losing streak this week but went 1-2-0 with a pair of lopsided losses.

Let's look at some observations:

• The way in which the Flyers lost to the Maple Leafs was bad, but that game felt like a loss before the puck was dropped.

Did anyone expect Calvin Pickard to quiet the NHL's fourth-highest scoring team?

It would have been nice to see more resistance, pushback and effort from the Flyers, but it's deflating when you're down 3-0 before you can blink. When you don't have a chance from the jump, coming back is impossible. The Maple Leafs scored three goals in the game's opening 7:44 and after that, the Flyers were done.

So that 6-0 loss is bothersome, but I wasn't expecting much from the Flyers. They're inadequate in net and that's what is most bothersome. And to act like this wasn't at all predictable is silly.

- Hall

• I want to know what Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's rock bottom is. I really do.

At what point does Hextall look at this team and say enough is enough, it isn't working?

For most, Saturday night's 6-0 embarrassment in Toronto would have been the final straw.

Dave Hakstol does not deserve all of the blame for what is going on here. Hextall deserves a huge portion of it. The Flyers' penalty kill is an eyesore, and Hextall has not held Ian Laperriere accountable or brought in proven NHL players who can kill penalties. The Flyers' goaltending situation is pathetic. While, in theory, Hextall did the right thing by using a stopgap until Carter Hart is ready, he didn't execute it in reality. The Flyers trusted a goaltender in Michal Neuvirth who has consistently been injured his entire career to be part of a tandem with 33-year-old Brian Elliott, who's been fine when healthy. Sure, injuries are part of the game, but it's not like we can say we couldn't see them coming. Hextall has to do something about the NHL goaltending situation as they've now used five goalies this season.

I've been thinking about this a lot since Saturday night's debacle ended, trying to process everything and form a measured opinion rather than one strictly made on emotion. I don't necessarily believe Hakstol is the answer here. This team just has no consistency, no structure and too often, just no fight. There are times it seems the players are not playing for their coach and considering there are actually viable options on the market, it's hard to justify staying on their current course.

But, and this is a huge but, are we pointing the blame toward the wrong person? Perhaps Hakstol isn't the big problem here. Hextall has done a great job digging the Flyers out of salary cap hell and restocking their farm system. There are a lot of underlying positives of the Hextall era, but he has ignored the NHL team for far too long and this season was supposed to be a "step forward." It's been anything but that. In many ways, it's been one enormous step back.

It feels like change is on the horizon. A coaching change will not solve the organization's negligence of the goaltending position and penalty kill, which both fall on the GM. A new voice behind the bench may help solve the consistency issue and inspire the players in the room. But perhaps we're pointing all our anger at the wrong person; perhaps it's time to start putting Hextall under the microscope.

Perhaps we'll see shuffling up the assistant coaching staff, perhaps we'll see a major trade, perhaps the head coach will go. Perhaps we'll be talking about this again next week. We just don't know what Hextall's breaking point is with mediocrity.

- Dougherty

• Hey, there are some positives for the Flyers … right?

Sean Couturier looking like himself again is a good one. 

Here's a look at his turnaround from a slow start:

First 11 games: 3 goals, 0 assists, 3 points, minus-3.

Last 12 games: 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points, plus-3.

Couturier clearly needed to shake off some rust and find his legs after missing a chunk of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He's so important to the Flyers and at least they have that going for them.

- Hall

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers