Flyers

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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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

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