Chuck Fletcher a key to Paul Holmgren's decision on new role with Flyers

Chuck Fletcher a key to Paul Holmgren's decision on new role with Flyers

The timing felt right for Paul Holmgren.

A lot of it had to do with Chuck Fletcher and the general manager's aggressiveness, savvy and that "bias for action" the Flyers yearned for back in November.

Holmgren on Thursday moved into a senior advisory role with the Flyers and will no longer serve as team president (see story). The decision had been in the making for over a year now, going back to June 2018, when Holmgren approached Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott about the idea.

Then 2018-19 didn't exactly go as planned. With the club in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for a second straight season, Scott and Holmgren realized the Flyers needed a new philosophy gracing the GM chair.

Enter Fletcher, who has delivered on the Flyers' wishes and breathed confidence into upper management. This was not Fletcher's first rodeo, either; the Flyers were attracted by his track record — a front office guy since 1993, with a Harvard degree and experience in player representation.

Since Fletcher's arrival, the Flyers have gotten what they wanted.

It all made the timing right for Holmgren, a Flyers lifer who needed to see his beloved team back on the rails — or least feel like it was moving forward.

"When we were recruiting Chuck, the one specific question I had is what could we really do to make the team better now?" Scott said Thursday via a conference call. "We have a really good core of vets and a huge pipeline that I was really challenging Chuck — you were too, Paul — with what could we do now to make the team better and I think he has proven that he was able to do that."

Time will certainly tell.

But credit to Fletcher for taking action. He wasted no time reshaping the Flyers, well before NHL free agency commenced July 1. While the Flyers haven't actually moved forward yet (the offseason needs to give way to the season), they're in position to do so. 

They have three new coaches — Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo — with a combined 2,512 games of head coaching experience. Vigneault has taken two teams to the Stanley Cup Final, Therrien has taken one and Yeo won a ring as an assistant. 

Fletcher then added Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick to the roster, while parting ways with Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan Hartman and David Schlemko.

These are impressive support beams that could produce immediate results with a roster that never looked far away or short on talent, especially after Fletcher brought up Carter Hart.

"I thought this is a good time for me to let Chuck do his thing," Holmgren said. "He is a good guy. He's good at what he does. I love what he's done with the coaching staff. I love what he did prior to the draft and going out and making a trade to get the rights to a player that we ended up signing. The two trades for veteran defensemen will help our young kids get better more quickly. 

"I really love all the things he has done. There is no question in my mind that this is the right time and no question in my mind that the leadership Chuck has with Dave's help is going to be great for the Flyers moving forward."

Scott echoed Holmgren's sentiment.

I couldn't be more pleased with Chuck’s performance and what he has done coming on in December of last year to now. Probably one of the biggest pluses is he's a collaborative guy, he's smart and he has a very open style. 

I came over to spend a day with Paul and was so impressed with the group of people we had. You got Chuck's staff in there, the new coaching staff in there, the data analytics people together. It's something I hadn't seen in the six years I've been here — full collaboration. And everyone agreeing on what moves we were going to make.

Many, many moves have been made. It's what the Flyers wanted — some action to drive this team forward, back to where it used to be.

Remember, though, things are often rosy for every club in an NHL offseason — just look at last summer when the Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk, which raised expectations for a mix of veterans and youngsters to simultaneously take the next step.

The results still have to come, but the Flyers see Fletcher making it happen.

The true test will be when the puck drops and everyone is watching — including Holmgren, a little more off in the distance, trusting his Flyers are OK.

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Ready for Flyers' roster? Play the wing? Morgan Frost will have chance to answer

Ready for Flyers' roster? Play the wing? Morgan Frost will have chance to answer

The Flyers played eight preseason games last year.

Morgan Frost appeared in just one.

At best, the 2017 first-round pick held an outside chance to win a roster spot. With only one game to work with, in actuality, Frost never had a shot. From the outset, he appeared destined for his fourth and final junior hockey season instead of the Flyers' lineup.

"I mean, I got to play in the one exhibition game," Frost said last month at development camp. "I didn't really get to do as much as I could, but I think I was just getting my feet wet. It would have been nice to play another game or two and kind of really get to show [myself]. It's always tough when you kind of jump into a one-game situation like that. Hopefully this year I'll get some more games to prove myself and take it from there."

This fall, it'll be a whole new ballgame.

Frost should have a more realistic fight for the Flyers.

"I'd like to think so, yeah," Frost said.

"I think your chances when you're this young get better every year because you turn into a better player and you know what to expect when you're in camp."

At development camp, Frost hit on plenty of good points when discussing 2019-20.

He's a year older, which always helps. That fact also means he's now ready for pro hockey, whether it's the Flyers or AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Another important note: Frost will be playing in front of a new coaching staff and general manager this time around. Having to win over a new regime can be seen as a challenge, but it's also an opportunity.

I don't think it changes the way that I approach things or how I play or carry myself, but it's a new staff — they're going to have open eyes and a fresh look. Just continue to do me and I'm not going to try to change anything.

- Frost

In 2018-19, Frost experienced another dominant year. The dizzying playmaker torched the OHL again by scoring 109 points (37 goals, 72 assists) with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Over his final two OHL seasons, the 20-year-old center put up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games. On top of that, he dazzled through the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with four goals and four assists in five games for Team Canada, which lost in the quarterfinals.

"What they always said is that when you're playing in a medal round or a gold-medal game, it's almost like an AHL playoff game — that's the pace that it's in," Frost said. "It's definitely a lot quicker than the OHL and you're playing against all elite players that are around my age. That was probably the best experience I've ever had playing hockey. It was a lot of fun, it was too bad we didn't do better."

The experience should help Frost's transition to the pro level. Once again, he'll head into training camp with added weight; he's around 187 pounds and his goal is 190. 

"You can see the way he thinks the game and sees the ice — he can make plays," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. "Whether he's ready physically to handle the rigors of the NHL, training camp will dictate that."

He'll also head into camp with a third-line job up for grabs. That vacancy appears to be on the wing, not at Frost's natural position. However, Frost said he played winger in world juniors and at times during the OHL season alongside 2018 fifth overall pick Barrett Hayton.

"I've played wing before," Frost said. "It's definitely not my strong suit right now, but I can definitely adjust to that."

This year, the Flyers have seven preseason games. What will Frost try to prove?

"Just that I belong," he said. "You have to do stuff to stick out but at the same time, you want to blend in with the better players. Just try to do everything I can to make an impression."

Frost should expect more than one game — and he'll know to make them count.

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Scott Laughton, Flyers agree to 2-year, $4.6 million contract

Scott Laughton, Flyers agree to 2-year, $4.6 million contract

No arbitration for Scott Laughton and the Flyers. Not even close.

Laughton and the Flyers on Friday agreed to a two-year contract extension with an average annual value of $2.3 million.

The restricted free agent and the club had an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 30. It's not surpring they never got to it.

This is a good deal for Laughton — and deserved. It's an honest contract for a player that has paid his dues. The 25-year-old's previous contract was a two-year, $1.925 million deal with an average annual value of $962,500.

The 2012 first-round pick has found his niche in the NHL, becoming one of the Flyers' more vital depth pieces. During 2018-19, Laughton delivered career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51). Just as importantly, Laughton has turned into a valuable penalty-killer as he was second on the team last season in shorthanded ice time (183:52), behind only Sean Couturier (184:51).

The Flyers' 2018-19 campaign was ravaged by inconsistency, but Laughton always played hard and stood out with his effort on the PK. He is slotted to be the Flyers' fourth-line center in 2019-20, between Michael Raffl and possibly Tyler Pitlick.

"When you look at Laughts and Raf, they play some heavy minutes, they can grind it out in the offensive zone and make it hard for the opposition and change momentum," former Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said in March. "So the next line that comes out there can have an easier time because the previous line from the opponent couldn't get onto the ice.

"Those guys are invaluable and they are just as important as guys that are putting up the big points."

Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, both not arbitration eligible, are the Flyers' remaining RFAs. Provorov's new contract could take time as both sides appear to be at somewhat of a standstill, while Konecny could be in for a bridge deal (see story).

"I expect as the summer goes on, we'll continue to chip away at this," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Friday via a conference call. "The market will continue to flesh out as we go and we'll get there; we'll get there by the end."

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