Flyers

Chuck Fletcher's boldness with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter should have Flyers' attention

Chuck Fletcher's boldness with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter should have Flyers' attention

Chuck Fletcher admitted he was a bit of a gunslinger back in the day.

He remembered his first season as general manager of the Wild in 2009-10, when he traded the team's first-round draft pick from the summer prior and a defenseman to the Blackhawks for blueliner Cam Barker.

That first-round draft pick was Nick Leddy.

Fletcher looks back on the moment as a growing experience. He even poked fun at himself Wednesday during his introductory press conference as Flyers general manager.

"We were able to off-load another player and save some money, so it was a genius idea," Fletcher said with sarcasm when asked if he could recall learning from a mistake. "I got under budget, I added a veteran D and I traded away a young defenseman that may never play. How's Nick Leddy doing?

"So, but what I learned about that was there wasn't a process. And by that, we've evolved a lot more. I think there are certain inputs you have to look at when you make a decision."

It's now 2018 and Fletcher is a different GM (see story). Yes, he can still pull the trigger, pouncing with the aggressive and progressive mentality that endeared him to Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott.

But he understands the grand scheme. He can play the short game while still seeing the long view. And he gets the risk and reward to his decision-making.

In July 2012, Fletcher made two of the most polarizing deals of his career when he landed coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, signing both to 13-year, $98 million contracts.

The Wild made the playoffs six consecutive seasons but never went past the second round. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks got in the way a bit.

However, Fletcher saw a window of opportunity and wanted to make the most of it. He certainly grasped the entire picture.

Fletcher on Wednesday explained the thought process behind those deals and how they changed the organization:

At that point, we had been a team that had been struggling to make the playoffs. We were a team, much like Philadelphia, with a very passionate, hockey knowledgeable marketplace and fan base. And frankly, it just wasn't good enough that we weren't competitive enough at that time. 

But we felt we had very strong drafts in 2010, '11 and '12, and had a lot of good, young players coming; it just seemed at that point, you basically had the chance to sign two 27-year-old players in the prime of their career. We had the cap space, we had cleaned up our cap and we had the young guys coming; because once you sign guys to big cap deals, you need young talent matriculating up or else … you just don't have the big dollars to spend any more. 

We just felt it was the right time and we became a competitive team right away. Since Minnesota signed them, made the playoffs all six years, revenue shot up dramatically, fan interest shot up dramatically, the building sold out, waiting lists. It did a lot of great things and unfortunately we weren't able to push through the way we wanted but those guys did an amazing job for that franchise.

Fletcher went for it and a proud hockey market could respect the attempt — the benefits were evident.

That buzz has been missing in Philadelphia (see story). Clearly, Holmgren and the Flyers' way could only wait so long for it to come back (see story).

While far from perfect, Fletcher's past showed the Flyers he can at least get things humming again.

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Nolan Patrick still believes he will play this season but time on return remains unclear

Nolan Patrick still believes he will play this season but time on return remains unclear

The trade deadline is quickly approaching for the NHL and around this time, it’s important to have a general understanding of what the roster would look like heading into the final stretch of the season. When the Flyers are in the tightest division in the league, that need is amplified. While things for the most part seem stable, the clear level of uncertainty with Nolan Patrick still resides and remains unknown.

Not much has changed since the news of Patrick’s migraine disorder in late September — but the 21-year-old remains hopeful moving forward.

What’s different now, is the fact Patrick is back on the ice with his teammates and it appears to be happening consistently. Even though he is not cleared for contact just yet, the simple element of him skating with the team has had quite an effect on the center.

“For the mental side of things, it’s way nicer to be around your teammates,” Patrick told reporters following Monday’s practice. “Obviously, it’s been a lot of fun to come back. It’s fun for me to just be around the guys.”

Patrick has also had discussions with other players who have dealt with similar things, which has also seemed to help him.

“It’s tough being alone,” Patrick said. “Being by yourself throughout the process and not being around the team.”

This is something that clearly differs from a physical body injury — such as a broken bone, or a muscle strain. With those injuries comes an indication of when a player could possibly return. With Patrick’s case, it’s an ongoing process. And though it seems like progress is being made, there’s still no light and the end of the tunnel.

“It hasn’t been a fast process,” said Patrick. “It’s not like one day I just wake up and it’s a crazy difference, this whole process. I don’t have a timetable, and when I do, you guys will know.”

There’s clear frustration from Patrick, who just wants to be able to help his team. And even once he receives the go-ahead to be cleared for contact, there are multiple steps that need to be taken before he’s game ready. Patrick, his doctors and the team have made sure to take their time with things — there’s no reason to rush it now when there’s steady progress and the team currently holds a playoff spot.

After he’s cleared for contact, a conditioning stint with the AHL affiliate team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, would be the next step.

“If I were you, I would only get excited about Nolan being around us once he gets sent to Lehigh Valley,” head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. “Because that means that he’s getting close. Lehigh Valley means that he’s going down there for conditioning, to get some games in.”  

Does Vigneault believe Patrick is close to heading to Allentown for said stint?

“I have no idea.”

Luckily for the Flyers, the combination of youth and veteran players have solidified quite the lineup and were able to fill what in previous years, would have been quite a significant gap, if any top player were out.

While having Patrick back would add even more depth down the middle for the Flyers, they’ve found a way to make it work until that discussion becomes tangible. Take that as a win-win on both ends of things, as this relieves the pressure off of Patrick, so he can focus on what needs to be done in order to get back to game-ready.

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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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