Flyers

Flyers fire Dave Hakstol, name Scott Gordon head coach on interim basis

Flyers fire Dave Hakstol, name Scott Gordon head coach on interim basis

VOORHEES, N.J. — The confusion has settled and it's official.

General manager Chuck Fletcher fired Dave Hakstol Monday afternoon and named Scott Gordon the head coach on an interim basis. Gordon has been head coach of the Flyers' AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms since the 2015-16 season. From 2008 through 2010, Gordon was head coach of the New York Islanders.

"After meeting this morning with Dave Hakstol and thoughtful consideration, I have decided to relieve him of his duties as head coach," Fletcher said in a statement released by the team. "As I continue to assess the team, I feel that this is the best course of action for our group moving forward. I'd like to thank Dave for his service to the team and the organization. Scott Gordon will serve as head coach on an interim basis."

The news, which was reported Sunday but not made official, comes three weeks after the Flyers relieved Ron Hextall of his duties and replaced him with Fletcher.

With Hakstol, the Flyers gave it the good old college try.

Hiring the first coach straight from the collegiate ranks since 1982 came with mixed reviews, but for a deeply entrenched fan base that had attached its fervor to Ed Snider’s “win now” philosophy, the Hakstol era will be viewed as a failure.

As well it should.

And it’s every bit of an indictment against Hextall as it is Hakstol.

No Flyers coach in the history of the franchise was given this amount of tenure to achieve sustained success more than Hakstol. His 277 games coached ranks third all-time, yet his .560 points percentage wouldn’t land him in the organization’s top 10. 

In three-plus seasons on the job, Hakstol accumulated 134 victories, a win total that would rank the Flyers no better than sixth in the Metropolitan Division behind the Capitals (180), Penguins (160), Blue Jackets (146), Rangers (142) and even the Islanders (136). Each of those teams has turned over their head coach at least once in the time Hakstol was hired, and twice in the case of the Islanders. 

Surprisingly, at the time of his firing, Hakstol had the fourth-longest tenure in the league behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper, Nashville’s Peter Laviolette and Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice — all of whom had guided their respective teams to a Conference Final, and in the case of Cooper and Laviolette, a Stanley Cup Final.

But qualifying for the playoffs alone should never be the measuring stick of success and Hextall, who hired Hakstol, admitted as much last season. 

“An achievement making the playoffs? I don’t know,” Hextall said this past April. “We kind of expect to make the playoffs. I don’t know if I’d look at that as an achievement, more as, the first step in the process.”

Hextall’s comments emphasized the underlying failures of the Hakstol era — an inability to make the jump from that first step to the next step. Hakstol never coached past Game 6 of the opening round, losing to the Capitals in 2016 and again to the Penguins in 2018.

Of the eight-longest tenured coaches in Flyers franchise history, only Hakstol failed to win a playoff series.

Hakstol also proved incapable of taking any momentum of a previous playoff appearance and carrying that into the following season. After sneaking in as a wild-card team in Year 1, the Flyers regressed to a sixth-place finish in Year 2. This season, Hakstol and the Flyers set lofty expectations coming off a 98-point season in 2017-18 coupled with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, Hextall’s most significant free-agent signing as general manager.

And yet one step forward was typically met with another step backward. Slow starts had become a Hakstol signature as the Flyers were repeatedly forced to overcome a two-month slump to begin each new season, and the Flyers found themselves in that unenviable position yet again with a 12-15-4 record in their first 31 games.

Still, regardless of the ire of a fan base growing impatient, it became clear over time that Hextall treated his first-ever coaching hire with the same methodical approach to that of his draft picks that required a gradational development, and the two seemingly went hand in hand. Hextall's firing was followed by the hiring of Fletcher as new general manager, which put Hakstol's future in serious jeopardy.

When Hakstol was hired, he was viewed as a coach who could mold the organization’s prospects and ultimately develop them into NHL regulars. Whether he did that successfully or not is debatable, but he couldn’t quite mesh individual production with organizational prosperity.

Even during Hakstol’s tenure at the University of North Dakota, advancing to the Frozen Four six times in his 11 years at the helm, the program finally won that elusive national championship in the year after he came to Philadelphia.

While Hakstol doesn’t leave the Flyers in that same stratosphere of challenging for a championship, there are still very reasonable expectations of returning to the postseason and winning a Stanley Cup playoff series, which the Flyers somehow haven’t been able to do since 2012. 

It can be said that Dave Hakstol coached the Flyers to his potential.

He just wasn’t capable of coaching this Flyers team to its potential.

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Injuries to Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick, a lopsided fight for Joel Farabee and Flyers lose to Wild

Injuries to Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick, a lopsided fight for Joel Farabee and Flyers lose to Wild

BOX SCORE

With a 4-1 defeat to the Wild, the Flyers have two straight losses and they lost two more players in the process.

Alain Vigneault's team stomached a discouraging night Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, suffering consecutive losses in regulation for the first time since Oct. 27-29.

The Flyers (17-10-5) have scored just one goal in three of their last four games, resulting in three regulation losses. In their previous 17 games, the Flyers lost in regulation only twice.

The Wild (16-12-5) improved to 9-1-3 at home and 12-3-4 overall since Nov. 5.

• The Flyers entered the game without forwards Oskar Lindblom (Ewing's sarcoma diagnosis), Travis Konecny (concussion), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder).

Their only extra healthy player was defenseman Robert Hagg.

News on the health front got worse during the action as forwards Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick left the game with undisclosed injuries and did not return.

Some more roster maneuvering could be on the way as early as Sunday morning. The Flyers have no time to rest up.

• Flyers defensemen were not sharp.

Philippe Myers had a bad turnover on Zach Parise's first-period goal. Ivan Provorov had the same in the second period, which led to Eric Staal's second goal of the night to give the Wild a 3-1 lead.

Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun were also a step behind and not in good position on Staal's first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner during the opening stanza.

Just one of those games in which the Flyers were off from top to bottom.

• As a result, Carter Hart was sprawling all over the place, trying to save the Flyers. He finished with 24 stops on 27 shots.

• Joel Farabee dropped the gloves with Marcus Foligno and it was a rough matchup for the 19-year-old.

• James van Riemsdyk got the Flyers on the board 1:34 into the game. However, the lead didn't last long and the Flyers finished with just 18 shots.

• The Flyers' power play went 0 for 3 and is 6 for its last 55 (10.9 percent).

• Lindblom's jersey hung symbolically in the team's dressing room. The Flyers are rallying behind their 23-year-old brother and teammate as he starts his fight against cancer (see story).

• The Flyers are right back at it Sunday when they visit the Jets (5 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

 

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Flyers rallying behind Oskar Lindblom after his Ewing's sarcoma diagnosis

Flyers rallying behind Oskar Lindblom after his Ewing's sarcoma diagnosis

The No. 23 jersey of Oskar Lindblom hung proudly and powerfully in the Flyers' dressing room of Xcel Energy Center.

It was a sign of unity.

The Flyers are rallying behind Lindblom, their 23-year-old brother and teammate who has been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones (see story).

Teammates were emotional but strong Saturday night.

“I just went in the room and I saw it, it’s kind of tough not to be emotional," Claude Giroux told reporters before the Flyers' game against the Wild after seeing Lindblom's jersey. "But it’s good for everybody to see his jersey there.”

The team announced Lindblom's diagnosis on Friday afternoon. The Flyers then had to open a back-to-back set on the road against the Wild on Saturday and the Jets on Sunday. 

“He’s a fighter, he’ll get through this," Ivan Provorov said to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher before the game. "We love him, we’ll support him all the way and he knows we’re here for him. He’s not fighting this fight alone and we’ll do everything that we can to make sure he feels that there’s all people supporting him.”

The Flyers' captain knows that is most important.

"When one of your teammates is going to go through a fight like this, we’ll all behind him," Giroux said. "We’re there to support him. … We love Oskar a lot, he’s a strong kid."

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Images)

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