Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's message, Wayne Simmonds' professionalism, more

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's message, Wayne Simmonds' professionalism, more

The Flyers' win streak came to an end this past week.

However, the point streak is still alive, the team made a trade, a few prospects have arrived and the Flyers are lurking in the playoff chase.

Let's get into some observations:

• Would Philippe Myers be here right now if Ron Hextall was still in the general manager seat for the Flyers? 

It's a fair question to ask.

Hextall wasn't exactly the type of GM to call up a 22-year-old prospect with no NHL experience during a postseason race that has just 27 games remaining. Hextall was well-known for his staunch approach with prospects and their development. Former head coach Dave Hakstol's decisions often jived with Hextall's patience.

Current general manager Chuck Fletcher changed the Flyers' course in a few ways with the promotion of Myers from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. 

For one, Fletcher has no problems if the defenseman gets his number called, despite the magnitude of a playoff push and the team playing its best hockey.

"That's how you have to learn," Fletcher said. "He's earned the right. … I believe he can help us up here."

He also doesn't mind if Myers sits a few games and soaks everything in.

"If we can get him some experience, practice seems great, being around the team is great," Fletcher said. "If he can get some games, that'll only help him as he prepares for next year."

Hextall did recall then-21-year-old defenseman Travis Sanheim in March of last season, but that was under emergency conditions. Sanheim, who had already played earlier in the year, ended up being so good that he had to stay, helping the Flyers sneak into the postseason.

Fletcher was not brought in to practice patience. He's ready to see what Myers can do now.

• There's probably nobody out there envious of Fletcher's spot with Wayne Simmonds.

The decision gets tougher by the day.

Now wouldn't be an ideal time to move on from a player who is considered the heart and soul of the Flyers, beloved for truly embodying the city's spirit. The Flyers are the hottest team in hockey and showing life in the postseason hunt, exactly what upper management envisioned and desired when it summoned Fletcher.

What kind of message does it send to all parties — team, management, fans — if Simmonds is traded when there's actual hope?

Still, Fletcher understands the importance of not only this season, but also the next — a difficult and delicate balance to make, especially right now. Ironically, the Flyers going on a tear has made his job harder.

One thing is certain: Simmonds has been a true pro. Remember, he has seen a number of teammates rewarded with contract extensions.

As his situation has lingered, he hasn't changed.

That isn't lost on Fletcher ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

Wayne has played hard, he's been very good of late and I can't commend him enough on his professionalism, his attitude. You watch him in celebrations after we win a game, he’s pretty much the first guy out there to congratulate Carter [Hart] or Anthony [Stolarz], as the case may be. He's just a great teammate and has done a lot for this franchise.

• Goalies really can be the backbone of a team's confidence.

You have to marvel at how Hart, a 20-year-old kid, has been that for a team with a veteran core. It just shows you how vital the position is in this sport.

The Flyers are no longer fighting for confidence. Sean Couturier's quote on Saturday encapsulated Hart's impact.

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Can (and should) Flyers fans trust Alain Vigneault's process?

Can (and should) Flyers fans trust Alain Vigneault's process?

At his introductory press conference on April 18 following a year away from hockey, Alain Vigneault made a joke about why he was ready to get back into the coaching business.

“After a year off and figuring out that I’ll never be the golfer that I thought I would be,” Vigneault said, “it’s time for me to get back to work.”

Perhaps Vigneault had a difficult time sinking putts.

Following the Flyers’ 4-1 loss Saturday night to the Stars, he put out his hands, smiled and made an analogy in relation to his team.

The Flyers had just outshot Dallas 39-16. Over their past two games, the Flyers outshot the opposition 91-38.

A 53-shot advantage.

However, they had just four goals and two losses to show for it.

“It’s like a golfer that’s in regulation but can’t putt,” Vigneault said with a chuckle.

“The process is good. If you look at our overall game tonight, take a look at the scoring chances for and against, we had a pretty dominating performance. Right now, we’re having a tough time finishing.

“At the end of the day right now, we’re having a challenging time as a group finding the back of the net. We’re doing a lot of the right things — traffic, jamming pucks, going hard to the net. But we’re having a tough time making the other team pay for their mistakes. As far as our process and how we’re playing offensively and how we’re playing defensively, you’ve got to like our game.”

Many fans haven’t loved it. The Flyers heard boos Saturday night after the Stars’ empty-net goal in the third period. The Flyers dropped their fourth straight game, which marks the franchise’s first four-game losing streak in October since the 2014-15 season, when it opened the year 0-2-2.

While the Flyers, who are 2-3-1, have dictated games, the bottom line is they have to score goals. The really good teams create the chances but also finish them. It’s hard to sell to your fans that everything is fine, the process is good, when you’re outscored 10-4 in consecutive regulation losses. These same fans have seen too many slow Octobers. The Flyers are now 28-36-7 during this month in the last seven seasons.

Then again, this is not Vigneault’s first rodeo. It is his first chance at guiding the Flyers, who have taken on his system and looked much better in doing so.

And Vigneault certainly understands the process.

If Flyers fans want to trust him and take solace in something, consider some of Vigneault’s best teams and how they started.

The 2013-14 Rangers opened the season 2-6-0 and were 16-18-2 at Dec. 20 but went to the Stanley Cup Final. It was Vigneault’s first year in New York.

The 2006-07 Canucks — another first year on the job for Vigneault — started 8-10-1 but finished with 49 wins, 105 points and a playoff series victory.

The 2014-15 Rangers began 7-7-4 but ended up with 53 wins and the Presidents' Trophy (113 points).

The 2010-11 Canucks started 2-3-2 and were 10-7-3 after 20 games but won the Presidents' Trophy (117 points) and came one win away from a Stanley Cup title.

“I know our guys are disappointed but our work ethic, you know, we’ve got our work boots on here and we’re trying real hard,” Vigneault said of the Flyers. “As a coach, when your team is giving you 100 percent of what they have — and I believe that’s what we did again tonight — you’ve got to support your players, you’ve got to be behind them and trust them, and I’m very confident things are going to work out.”

Just how confident are Flyers fans? They’ve been patient long enough.

Vigneault will have to make sure, this time, their patience finally pays off.

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Most frustrating loss yet gives Flyers their first 4-game skid in October since 2014-15

Most frustrating loss yet gives Flyers their first 4-game skid in October since 2014-15

BOX SCORE

The Flyers have a slogan this season that reads "all or nothing."

The Flyers did nothing with prime opportunities in a prime chance to quell an early three-game skid.

That losing streak ballooned to four Saturday night as the Flyers lost to the Stars, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Following some lengthy travel over a 20-day span (the team was in four different countries), the Flyers (2-3-1) scored 43 seconds into Saturday's home game and could have taken the life out of struggling Dallas, which entered 1-7-1. Instead, the Flyers fizzled despite holding the Stars to five shots over the final two periods.

The Flyers hadn't lost four straight games in October since the 2014-15 season, when they opened the year 0-2-2 (see story).

• The Flyers' first period was really disappointing for a few reasons and it changed the entire complexion of the game.

After the team jumped out to its lead in the opening minute, the Flyers went on the power play two seconds later but didn't capitalize.

Seven seconds after the Stars tied the game at the 13-minute mark, Dallas committed a silly tripping penalty behind the Flyers' net. It gave the Flyers another chance to regain momentum but the man advantage came up empty.

The Flyers ended up trailing, 2-1, at first intermission. They have three first-period goals through six games — that won't get it done.

• Last season, Carter Hart was pulled in his fifth career start. He went 11-3-1 with an NHL-high 488 saves, a 2.46 goals-against average and .930 save percentage over his next 15 starts before he was pulled again.

Hart was yanked Wednesday in Edmonton after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

On Saturday, he could have been much better. He allowed three goals on 15 shots and failed to deliver timely stops like we've seen him do in the past.

Dallas' first goal came on a nice play by Roope Hintz, who beat Matt Niskanen and then scored on his own rebound. The second goal, Esa Lindell snuck in front of Niskanen on the Stars' power play and redirected a pass by Hart.

Niskanen, who has been pretty darn good so far, was not on his game Saturday.

Hart allowed a killer goal 1:24 into the third period.

Ben Bishop made 38 saves to beat the Flyers.

• The Flyers' power play finished 0 for 4.

Ivan Provorov replaced Shayne Gostisbehere on the first unit. Gostisbehere is scoreless through the first six games and will have to earn back his role.

Dallas, which was 1 for 25 on the man advantage coming into the game, went 1 for 2.

• Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier gave the Flyers the loud start that ultimately led to nothing.

• If you recall, Wayne Simmonds fought Jamie Oleksiak last season in Pittsburgh.

Oleksiak is a big dude, standing at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds.

Chris Stewart challenged Oleksiak during the opening period as the Flyers had lost momentum and an early 1-0 lead.

It was a heavyweight bout.

• A note on prospect Joel Farabee, who is off to a fast start yet again. How long will he be in Lehigh Valley if he keeps scoring?

• The Flyers are off from practice Sunday before welcoming the Golden Knights Monday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Four of their next five games then come on the road.

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