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?
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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