Flyers

Flyers

As Paul Holmgren and Dave Scott sat side by side, their message was clear.

Ron Hextall's picture had become too broad, too long term for the Flyers' liking, to the point in which Holmgren and Scott wanted a new general manager to fix the now more than anything else.

"It's my job to challenge Paul, and Paul to Ron," Scott, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said Nov. 27 when discussing Hextall's firing. "But that was a big question: What can we do now, today, to make the team better now? Not two years or three years from now. I think we debated that a lot.

"Do I think we can do better as a team now — not in two years or three years, but now? I think that answer is yes."

The problem is the now has turned so ugly, you wonder if it's even salvageable.

The Flyers entered Wednesday with more points (35) than just two NHL teams — the Blues (34) and Senators (34). They are 6-12-4 since Nov. 13, a stretch in which they've been outscored 80-53. In two more games, they will be at the halfway point of the season; that's no small sample size.

All of the above creates a brewing awkwardness and dilemma for Chuck Fletcher, brought in to quickly strap on his cape and save the Flyers from their mess.

Holmgren and Scott summoned Fletcher for the purpose of expediting the Flyers' process and to supplement the current team so it can realize its potential.

"We're looking for bright, energetic, strategic thinkers," Scott said when the Flyers were starting their GM search. "But also, balancing that with a bias for action and really making some things happen.

 

"We're very focused on the trade deadline coming up Feb. 25. We think there's going to be some opportunities out there and frankly, we don't want to miss out."

What in the world does Fletcher do now? Try to somehow buy on this team and give it a shot at the playoffs, a goal that is waning by the game? 

Fletcher will be strongly debating his course, with the difficult win-now reminder in the back of his mind. He has been on the job for barely a month and a hopefulness at the outset is starting to spiral into hopelessness.

Arguably the biggest decision on his growing plate: Wayne Simmonds. The 30-year-old has 17 points (11 goals, six assists) over 39 games and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

If Fletcher sees no other route than to sell ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline, then Simmonds becomes a prime trade chip the Flyers should cash in on as they look forward, instead of possibly losing the winger for nothing during the summer.

And that's just the beginning.

The next challenge would come at goalie. At this point, Fletcher very well may be best off learning more about Carter Hart at the NHL level while riding Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott (when healthy) the most he can before addressing the goalie predicament in the offseason. Both Elliott and Neuvirth will be unrestricted free agents then, opening everything up for Fletcher, who also has pending UFAs in forwards Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal at his disposal.

The situation, as a whole, oozes with irony because the Flyers moved on from Hextall for the sake of the all-important present. One way or the other, the new GM will give the Flyers their desired action.

Fletcher, though, may have no other choice but to take a page out of Hextall's book and look at what's next.

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