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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