Flyers

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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Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

BOX SCORE

Connor McDavid and company laced up the burners and blew past the Flyers on Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

The Flyers lost to the Oilers, 6-3, to finish their three-game road trip 0-2-1.

McDavid put on a five-point show to send the Flyers back home 2-2-1 overall. Alain Vigneault's team will look to find good vibes at home after traveling to Boston, New York, Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta, over a span of 24 days (including the final three preseason games).

The Flyers actually had 52 shots to Edmonton's 22. You would have never guessed it.

The Oilers are 6-1-0 and scoring ... a lot.

• If you blinked, you missed McDavid and the Oilers flipping the game upside down. Trailing, 2-1, to start the middle stanza, the Flyers were actually all over Edmonton, putting six of the period's first seven shots on goal. The Flyers had a number of chances to score an early equalizer — maybe the game takes a different turn if they do.

Alas, they did not and McDavid then decided to pounce. The 22-year-old superstar went off for a goal and two assists in fewer than four minutes. Just like that, the Flyers were in a 5-1 hole.

McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal entered with a combined 16 goals in their team's six games — more goals than six NHL teams had in the same number of games or more.

The trio did further damage against the Flyers as McDavid finished with a goal and four assists, Draisaitl two goals and an assist, and Neal an assist.

• Carter Hart had a homecoming to forget. The 21-year-old from right outside of Edmonton (Sherwood Park) allowed four goals on 14 shots. The first two were more than stoppable, the third was McDavid being the best player in the world and the fourth was a power play tally.

Hart was not good and yanked in the second period. Prior to the outing, he had stopped 75 of 80 shots faced in his first three games.

• The first 10 minutes of a game are imperative to any road team in the NHL. The Flyers fell behind early in all three games of the Western Canada swing.

Against the Canucks, they trailed 5:01 into the game. Against the Flames, 1:35 into game. And against the Oilers, 1:13 into game.

The Flyers were one of the NHL's worst first-period teams in 2018-19 with a minus-31 goal differential during the opening stanza. Through five games this season, the Flyers have been outscored 5-2 in the first period. Vigneault needs more early offense to kick his system into gear.

• After going scoreless in the Flyers' first four games, his longest drought to start a season, Jakub Voracek got on the board with a first-period power play goal. He added another man advantage goal and an assist when the game was out of reach late in the third.

The 30-year-old is a player who fuels on confidence as one goal or play can lead to points in bunches. Voracek had 12 multi-point games last season and the Flyers were 9-2-1 in those contests.

They need him to bring this mojo home.

Also, remember when it was a 1-1 game at this point?

• Travis Konecny went scoreless for the first time this season. James van Riemsdyk has 15 shots on net over the past two games but no points to show for it.

• The Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). A loud start in front of the home fans would do wonders for their confidence.

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Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

At this point, Alain Vigneault's group is probably itching to come home.

First, though, the Flyers (2-1-1) have a matchup Wednesday night with Connor McDavid and the Oilers (5-1-0).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 9:30 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Rogers Place
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers are wrapping up a rather brutal stretch of travel.

Including the final three preseason games, the Flyers have been in Boston, New York, Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta, over a span of 24 days.

The team returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, but following a Nov. 1 matchup in New Jersey, the Flyers will have played eight neutral site/road games compared to four true home games.

Not an easy stretch, especially for a team that has been prone to slow starts in recent years past.

• The Flyers have lost the first two contests of this three-game Western Canada swing. After putting up a total of eight goals in their first two games, they've produced just three over the previous two defeats — a 3-2 shootout decision to the Canucks and a 3-1 loss to the Flames.

It would be stunning if Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek don't get things going Wednesday night. The trio has a combined one point (a Giroux assist) through the Flyers' first four games. Last season, Voracek and Giroux had a combined 14 points in the team's first four games, while van Riemsdyk suffered an injury in Game 2.

If the Flyers can come home 3-1-1 with those three not yet producing at a high clip, they'll absolutely take it.

• Carter Hart, who is from right outside of Edmonton (Sherwood Park), will start at Rogers Place for the first time as an NHLer.

The 21-year-old has worked with Oilers goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz since he was 13 years old.

• A few notes on Oilers forwards McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal:


Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Kevin Hayes-James van Riemsdyk
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Jakub Voracek
Carsen Twarynski-Connor Bunnaman-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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