5 takeaways from Fletcher's press conference amid Flyers' frustrating start


VOORHEES, N.J. — Alain Vigneault has had to face the music recently with his team amid its longest losing streak under his watch.

On Tuesday, Chuck Fletcher gave his head coach a breather and took the mic.

The general manager held a press conference with his club at the quarter mark of its 2021-22 season. Fletcher will hope his midseason remarks are much jollier than the topics of conversation Tuesday at Flyers Training Center.

Fletcher and Vigneault are in their third year together leading the Flyers. After missing the playoffs last season, the Flyers are 8-8-4 through 20 games this season following an active summer of revamping their roster. They've lost six straight games and injuries have mounted.

As a result, impatience has grown for a fan base that has had its patience tested over the last decade.

With the Flyers set to open a pivotal month, let's get into five takeaways from Fletcher's media availability.

1. Some patience is OK

Fletcher isn't ready to rush to decisions.

Hockey folks often evaluate in 10- or 15-game chunks. Right now, Fletcher finds himself balancing a pair of contrasting 10-game segments.

The Flyers started 6-2-2, a stretch in which they scored 3.20 goals per game and allowed 2.40. But in their next 10 games, the Flyers went 2-6-2, scoring 1.70 goals per game and surrendering 3.50.

"I'd really like to see what we have before we start making changes," Fletcher said. "I don't feel I've been able to see that to this point in time. We're always looking, I'm talking to teams every day. If there are ways to make us better, we'll look at it. But right now, if you just look at how we played the first 10 games versus the last 10 games, clearly one segment was way better than the other.


"So we've shown the ability to play better than how we are right now. That's the most important thing, we've got to get back, we've got to get playing better. Then from there, we'll get a sense of what we really are and then we can make those decisions."

After Fletcher added 10 new players to his roster and given the 82-game runway, it was unlikely that the Flyers would push the panic button on their team only 20 games into the regular season. Their offseason was a lot of work and they want to give it a larger sample size.

Injuries have played a factor, but the Flyers must find a way to settle the storm. A team that wants to erase last season's misery can't fall into a 2-6-2 funk this early and not hear concerns about it.

"The last 10, we slipped back, there's no question," Fletcher said. "So now the onus is on our group to get it back. When injured players come back, it makes it easier. But yet, we can't kid ourselves, we have to get better here."

2. Power struggle

The Flyers' power play ranks 27th in the NHL at 13.1 percent, a significant reason why the club is scoring only 2.45 goals per game.

Two weeks ago, Vigneault defended assistant coach Michel Therrien, who is in his third season overseeing the man advantage. Vigneault directed the blame toward "the big guy," referring to himself.

Fletcher was quick to claim that the Flyers' power play struggles preceded the current staff.

"It's interesting, we haven't had a good power play since '14-'15. That’s the last time," Fletcher, who was hired in December 2018, said. "I think it's six years, seven years — we've had a couple of 14th-place finishes, 17th, 18th, 24th.  

"Power play since I've been here has been an everyday question and clearly going back to '14-'15 it's been an everyday question here. ... Personally, I think that way too much blame or even credit gets attached to the power play coach."

The Flyers had the league's third-best power play in 2014-15 at 23.4 percent but they were also tied for 11th in 2015-16 at 18.9 percent. In 2019-20, the current staff's first season, the Flyers were 14th at 20.8 percent. Last season, they were tied for 17th at 19.2 percent.

Fletcher noted entries as the biggest culprit for the faulty power play this season and personnel being the primary issue over the years.

"I think in-zone, we need to shoot the puck more, there are certain things we need to do, but when you can't enter and successfully set up, you can't shoot the puck because you're not in there," Fletcher said. "We're spending a lot of our power play going back, retrieving pucks and coming down. The biggest thing to me that we have to fix right now — coaching is a part of it — a lot of it is execution and mindset. We have to find a way to enter the zone more successfully.


"We've got to get it going. It's been an issue since I've been here every day, the power play. We talk about it internally. You guys ask about it. It's been seven years, so it's something that probably goes above and beyond the coaching."

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

3. Defending Vigneault, missing Ellis

It's not surprising that Fletcher wouldn't entertain the thought of Vigneault not being the guy for the Flyers. Fletcher and Vigneault are a team. They're 20 games into their third season. They've gone 1 for 2 and feel strongly about the process in at-bat No. 3.

Fletcher believes the Flyers have the in-house answers.

Ryan Ellis is an integral piece to his retooled roster. The club's most glaring issue last season was not filling the top-pair void left by Matt Niskanen's retirement. Ellis was Fletcher's first move of the summer for a reason. The all-situation defenseman has been available for only four games because of a lower-body injury. He could be back around late December or the beginning of January.

"One player shouldn't be enough to sink our team, but Ryan Ellis is an elite puck mover, he’s elite in transition, he would allow us to put everybody in the right chair," Fletcher said.

"I saw enough from the first 10 games to know that we can be a good team — a good team in a tough division that has a lot of work to do."

The Flyers are hopeful Kevin Hayes, another key reinforcement, will return to the lineup Wednesday when they begin December with a matchup against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+). The second-line center has missed 18 of the Flyers' 20 games because of an abdominal injury.

After Wednesday's game, the Flyers don't play again until Sunday, when they start a stretch of five games in seven days. They could see the return of Derick Brassard (lower body) at some point during that span.

"We have to improve internally," Fletcher said. "There's a lot of areas we have to get better in and we're working hard at it. This is a week that is a critical, critical week for our team in that we have a very tough game tomorrow, but we get a couple of days off and we get three practice days, we get all kinds of time for video, all kinds of time for guys to rest. We get a chance to integrate Hayes and possibly Brassard during this time. To me, this is a massive week to get our house in order and to push back because it's five in seven next week.


"There's no question if Kevin Hayes can play tomorrow, he makes our team better. When Brassard gets back, Ellis gets back, they make our team better. But having said that, we need to play better with what we have, too. Everybody deals with injuries and illness, so we need to get better."

4. 'We are who we are right now'

Maybe Fletcher didn't feel right using a glowing sales pitch with his team mired in a six-game slide.

While the GM was realistic about the Flyers' play of late, he emphasized the work ethic and spirit of his club.

Fletcher was asked what his message would be to frustrated fans and why they should stick with this team.

"We are who we are right now," Fletcher said. "We've got to get better — we recognize that, nobody recognizes it more than we do. The coaches were here all day yesterday looking at the power play, looking at how we can have the puck more often, our entries, our forecheck. We're looking at everything every day — our line combinations, practice, load management, everything. We're looking at everything every day.

"But I saw the energy in the group today and that's what still gives me hope. Doing this 30 years, you can see when players are frustrated and lack confidence and you can see when players don't believe. There's a big difference. We still believe, we've got a lot of work to do and that's where our mindset is at."

5. Double-edged schedule

Should fans take solace in the Flyers' strength of schedule?

It's fair to recognize that the Flyers have played a good number of games against top teams.

Eleven of their 20 games have come against top-10 clubs. They have wins over the Oilers, Hurricanes, Capitals and Flames, all top-10 teams.

But it's difficult to sugarcoat a six-game skid and a 2-6-2 stretch, especially if you want to contend with the top teams you're playing against.

"I think the last 10 games, we played seven top-10 teams," Fletcher said. "This is the toughest part of our schedule. So on the one hand, clearly we have some work to do if we want to compete with the top teams in the league. On the other hand, this is the toughest stretch we're going through — when you go through the end of next week in terms of compression of the schedule and the quality of the teams we're playing, it's tough. We're not playing well right now, so it makes it a double-edged sword. I'd like to get some guys back here, let's get through the next little stretch, let's try to win a game and let's see what we have."

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