Flyers

Chuck Fletcher backs Dave Hakstol, outlines his plans as Flyers general manager

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Chuck Fletcher backs Dave Hakstol, outlines his plans as Flyers general manager

The Flyers on Monday evening officially named Chuck Fletcher their executive vice president and general manager (see story).

Paul Holmgren and Dave Scott told Fletcher they were looking for someone with previous general managerial experience, and no candidate had as much on their resumé as he did.

So what did the Flyers' new GM answer in his first brief 10-minute Q&A with the media, and what did we learn?

First order of business

If executive management is expecting to be better this season, then the easiest route to accomplishing that would be to make a coaching change. With Dave Hakstol having coached at North Dakota and Fletcher having previously served as Minnesota’s GM, there’s some familiarity there. However, Fletcher will be closely monitoring Hakstol’s job and whether that needs to be addressed.

“I’m a big believer in trying to get to know a situation before making a reaction here,” Fletcher said Monday on a conference call. “I certainly have no intention of making a coaching change tomorrow. I’m going to meet with Dave and we’re going to try and work together and push.”

Another area that Fletcher admitted to addressing is the Flyers' goaltending as well as the overall team defense, which is a big reason why the Flyers are currently 29th in goals allowed. During Fletcher’s nine-year tenure in Minnesota, the Wild were a respectable 13th. Fletcher said he will start by looking for those answers internally.

Would Fletcher hire Joel Quenneville?

I was surprised he stuck with Mike Yeo in Minnesota for as long as he did. Yeo coached 349 games over four-plus seasons, never making it past the second round. That tenure would rank him second on the Flyers' all-time list of games coach, so Fletcher has exercised patience with his head coach.

I don’t think Fletcher would hesitate to jump at the chance to hire Quenneville, especially with the support of Holmgren and Scott. After firing Yeo following the 2015-16 season, he brought in Bruce Boudreau, a high profile coach with one of the most successful regular season records in the NHL.  

The question isn’t necessarily whether Fletcher would hire Quenneville, but rather does Quenneville want to rush back into coaching? If so, does he see Philadelphia as a place where he can have immediate success? 

In-season trades

It sure sounds like Fletcher is open to in-season trades. In reading between the lines, Fletcher has identified some future assets he can use and utilize to make the Flyers a better team now. 

“We have a very strong group of prospects," Fletcher said. "We have nine draft picks this year, an extra seventh. We do have cap space. So those are all resources you can use to make your team better, and the goal is always for me looking at this team from the outside, there’s no reason why we can’t be a playoff team now. There’s great resources in place.”

With Ron Hextall preciously holding onto the prospects and draft picks, possibly to a fault, I would expect other general managers to gauge Fletcher’s temperature on some of those coveted players or prospects within the organization. Don’t be alarmed if Fletcher makes two or possibly even three moves prior to the trade deadline.

Who's the AGM?

When Paul Fenton was brought in to replace Fletcher, he brought aboard Tom Kurvers from the Lightning as an assistant GM. That left Fletcher’s assistant Shep Harder, director of player personnel Andrew Brunette and senior vice president of hockey operations Brent Flahr wondering about their long-term future with the organization under a new regime.

I would think one of those three would likely serve as Fletcher’s right-hand man. Fletcher promoted Flair to SVP during the summer of 2017, and Fenton has in turn, stripped him of some of those duties. While Brunette may not have the experience on the executive level, having covered him as a player during his time with the Predators, he’s a tireless worker with tremendous leadership abilities.

“Clearly, we will look to replace that role and hire somebody, but there’s nothing imminent right now," Fletcher said. "If we can do it during the season, great. That’s something I’m going to put a lot of time and thought in, but first, I want to come in here and see the people that are here and the roles they are doing and maybe where we need to fill."

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Flyers vs. Penguins Stadium Series game still on as scheduled ... for now

Flyers vs. Penguins Stadium Series game still on as scheduled ... for now

The game goes on … for now.

Concerns have grown throughout the week about the expected rainfall for Saturday night's Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field on NBC.

However, the game will continue as scheduled, according to the NHL, which released the following statement Friday afternoon:

Despite there being some level of precipitation in the forecast, the National Hockey League continues preparations for tomorrow's 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. The League is monitoring the conditions and, as of now, the game is still on as originally scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Lincoln Financial Field. The NHL will issue a further update by 12 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The forecast has not looked pretty during the week. A consistent rainfall was expected Saturday evening into early Sunday morning. Obviously, rain can be one of the most problematic types of Mother Nature with outdoor hockey.

According to weather reports, the chance of rain increases late Saturday night, early Sunday morning and doesn't appear as likely and heavily for the 8 p.m. puck drop.

For the latest updates on the forecast, visit NBC Philadelphia right here.

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Young Flyers can lean on James van Riemsdyk The Outdoorsman

Young Flyers can lean on James van Riemsdyk The Outdoorsman

For James van Riemsdyk, the novelty has completely worn off.

Well, almost.

Saturday’s Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field will be his sixth outdoor game in the past nine years. Only the core members of the Chicago Blackhawks have played in as many. 

“Seriously, it’s been every year it feels like, but they’re always fun to play in,” van Riemsdyk said. “It definitely takes away from the usual routine, so it’s something you definitely look forward to.”

Here’s van Riemsdyk’s resume of playing in the elements — a list that includes three Winter Classics while also playing in front of a record 105,491 people at “The Big House” at the University of Michigan with a 2-2-1 record in those five games.

• 2010 Winter Classic (Flyers) at Fenway Park

• 2012 Winter Classic (Flyers) at Citizens Bank Park

• 2014 Winter Classic (Maple Leafs) at Michigan Stadium 

• 2017 Centennial Classic (Maple Leafs) at BMO Field

• 2018 Stadium Series (Maple Leafs) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial

As you might expect, there’s a couple of games that stood out.

“For me, the two coolest ones were at the The Big House in Ann Arbor,” said van Riemsdyk. “I think for me I spent a couple of years there with the U.S. program and to go back there to play a game in that stadium, I think we set an attendance record when we had it. We had a nice setting of snow and stuff like that. That was really cool.”

“Last year playing at the Naval Academy against the Caps is pretty cool. What the place means to the United States was special to have a hockey game.”

One variable of an outdoor game players are forced to experiment with is deciding how to adjust to the temperature and the conditions. The warmest game van Riemsdyk experienced was 40 degrees in Philadelphia, while he dealt with a near zero wind chill for the game at Michigan.

The game at Annapolis, Maryland between the Leafs and Capitals, the two teams were rattled with 50 mph winds that forced both teams to cancel practice the day before. There’s a balance between adding layers, but not too many that constrict movement and puck handling.

“I’ve kinda gone thicker with some of the underwear stuff, but you’re just hoping it’s not too windy,” van Riemsdyk said. “That makes it tough to play. That can affect the game more than the temperature.”

A handful of van Riemsdyk’s teammates will be experiencing an NHL outdoor game for the first time. Growing up in Middletown, New Jersey, JVR didn’t have the luxury of grabbing his gear and hopping on a nearby frozen pond where many Canadians spent days and weeks honing their craft. 

“I’m sure them being Canadian they got a chance to play a lot of outdoor hockey growing up,” van Riemsdyk said. “Occasionally, not every winter, we looked forward to having the chance to do that growing up on some of the ponds and stuff.”

“Knowing that we’ve got two points on the line and it’s an important part of the season right now just treat it like you’re preparing for any other game, and just enjoy because you don’t know how many of these outdoor games.” 

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