5 takeaways from Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher's 2018-19 end-of-season press conference

5 takeaways from Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher's 2018-19 end-of-season press conference

VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke for 35 minutes Monday morning addressing the coaching search, his pursuit of free agents and the continuous problems plaguing the Flyers.

Here are five takeaways from his press conference: 

Coaching search starts today

Fletcher was asked if he was disappointed that Joel Quenneville chose the Florida Panthers, but only responded by saying, “I'm happy for Joel.” There’s been speculation surrounding Quenneville and the Panthers for several months, so I believe Fletcher knew the Flyers were never really on Quenneville’s radar.

“I’m not going to speculate on names or people who may be available or were available or available in past years. It’s a big decision for the Flyers,” Fletcher said. “Obviously, I’m going to take the time to get it right.”

Fletcher said the process of finding the team’s next head coach started Monday, a list that includes interim head coach Scott Gordon.

“I had a conversation with Scott this morning, who remains a strong candidate,” Fletcher said. “Talked to him about what I’m going to do. My plan is start my due diligence and reach out to some people and also spend some time with Scott. Hopefully at the right time, name the right person."

'OK, not elite free-agent market'

Fletcher will be looking to add a second-line center, a top-four defenseman and a backup goalie. Those will be the priorities heading into the offseason. How he acquires those players will be the interesting element to this offseason, whether it’s through trades or free-agent signings. The Flyers' general manager also labeled this year’s free-agent crop as “OK, not elite.”   

Right now, the biggest potential UFAs are defensemen Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers and Anton Stralman, and forwards Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner and Kevin Hayes.

“We’re going to be active in trying to improve our team,” Fletcher said. “How that translates this summer, we’ll find out. You can’t control the marketplace, you can’t control the trade market."

In nearly 10 years as an NHL GM, Fletcher has never extended an offer sheet to a restricted free agent and I don’t see him traveling that path this summer, even with some high-end RFAs (Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Brock Boeser, Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine) looking for that next contract.

Fletcher very critical of team's bad habits

I considered this a reflection against the previous regime, especially head coach Dave Hakstol and how the Flyers haven’t been ready at the start of games (falling behind 2-0 in 32 games) and even slow starts to each season.

“We have some bad habits right now, flying into the zone before we have possession of the puck, not getting in shooting lanes, not keeping the third guy high, turning pucks over in the neutral zone when there’s no time and space to make a play, and just recognizing things,” Fletcher said. “It’s mindset, but you need the mindset to embrace the habits.

“It’s about making sure going into camp next year, we have to change some details, change our mindset and have a good start. A lot of reasons we fall behind in games is because we give up easy goals. It’s not about effort. It’s about thinking, about working smart and playing better.” 

Don't have players in Lehigh Valley who can challenge for jobs now

When asked directly whether some of the current Phantoms can challenge for full-time positions with the Flyers next season, Fletcher redirected his answer toward the need for outside help. 

“Obviously, somebody can come in and make the team, but they’re going to have to earn it,” Fletcher said. “We’re not looking just to put players on the team. I hope we’re a little deeper up front and on the blue line and it will be a little tougher to make the team. That would be ideal.”

A lack of forward depth at the AHL level is one reason why Fletcher re-signed Michael Raffl as there really isn’t a player ready to step up and fill that role.

No surgeries and likely no buyouts

Outside of goaltending, the Flyers were relatively healthy this season with the majority of players dealing with minor issues throughout the course of the season. The Flyers don’t anticipate any offseason surgeries, but they should know definitively after some follow-up exams. 

Fletcher also added he’s "not a big fan of buyouts." In buying out contracts, teams stretch out the cap hit over future seasons and that’s not an ideal situation for the Flyers' GM. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald would appear to be the likely candidate with one season at a $5 million cap hit. 

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Stars look to eliminate Hurricanes, Predators

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Stars look to eliminate Hurricanes, Predators

The Capitals and Stars can deliver knockout punches Monday night in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 3-2 series lead, Washington visits the Hurricanes, while Dallas has a shot to clinch its series on home ice over the Predators.

Below is the full schedule for Day 13 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes (WSH 3-2)
Game 6, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (DAL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference first round
8:30 p.m. ET | TV: CNBC | Live stream here

What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

What's next for Scott Gordon? Watching Stanley Cup Playoffs

Chuck Fletcher wanted to give Scott Gordon some time to think about his future.

The general manager said Gordon was understandably disappointed Monday morning when he was told he didn't earn the Flyers' full-time head coaching position.

What might Gordon be doing in the meantime?

Good chance he's checking in on the NHL playoffs.

Two weeks ago, Gordon was in limbo with the Flyers — a part of meetings moving forward and considered a strong candidate for the head coaching job, but with nothing guaranteed.

He was asked if such a dynamic was awkward at all.

"At the end of every year, it doesn't matter where you are or what your contract is, there's always a chance you're not going to be back," Gordon said. "I go into the summer or the end of the season, I obviously reflect on the past season, what I'd like to do different [or keep] the same."

In doing so, Gordon likes to study the postseason. A big advocate of dissecting game film, Gordon does the same with the Stanley Cup Final.

"I generally try to watch the playoffs as a fan and then in the finals, I'll watch it as a fan but then I will get those on a computer and break down, in August, some of the things … when the playoffs go through, just identify some things that I like that teams did," Gordon said. "Pay particular attention to the finals in August, as far as what I might consider doing differently, pull footage and present to my team maybe a different way of going about business."

Which team Gordon is working for in 2019-20 is unknown. He impressed Fletcher as the Flyers' interim head coach. The club was in the basement of the 31-team NHL standings more than halfway through the regular season. By March 11, the Flyers were within three points of a playoff spot following an 18-4-2 spree under Gordon.

Fletcher said he would likely touch base with Gordon again after Easter weekend. He will welcome him back to the organization with open arms. Fletcher said Gordon's previous job as head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley was his if the 56-year-old wanted it.

However, Gordon said after the Flyers' regular-season finale that his time with the 2018-19 club changed his perspective on coaching in the NHL again, a much-needed spark following a not-so-memorable two-plus seasons as head coach of the Islanders from 2008-10.

"My experience in Long Island wasn't a great one," Gordon said April 6. "So much so that I didn't really think too much about coaching in the NHL. If it happened, great, but I wasn't losing any sleep over it. As I told the players after the game tonight, coming in here and dealing with the character of the players — not just as players but as people — reinvigorated that desire to coach in the NHL. With that being said, I'll do what job is asked of me and I won't think twice about it."

Gordon won't have any issues finding a job. He'll be watching the Stanley Cup Final, ready to coach.

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