Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's telling trade, Jim Montgomery's candid comment, more

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's telling trade, Jim Montgomery's candid comment, more

In a way, things have picked up a little bit for the Flyers.

They made a deal and won a game last week, while the Feb. 25 trade deadline gets closer with each day.

So let's get into some observations:

• Obviously, the Jordan Weal trade was not an earth-shattering move, but it was telling. Chuck Fletcher had not made a trade as Flyers general manager and there was no sign of what his deadline motives would be with this underachieving team.

This gives us some idea. If the Flyers were contending at all, they wouldn't have shipped Weal away in January for just a sixth-round draft pick and an ECHL player. There would have been no real reason to for such an unappetizing return.

But it's something for a player that frankly had no more value because the season no longer does. Now it's clearer that Fletcher will start selling some parts, logical moves before the offseason.

Wayne Simmonds is the no-duh big decision (see story). However, keep an eye on Michael Raffl, a role forward set to become an unrestricted free agent like Weal.

Another small, under-the-radar deal would involve defenseman Christian Folin, a pending UFA as well. Receiving anything for Folin makes sense, as it would also open a roster spot for possible call-up Philippe Myers, who could see audition time in the second half.

• The Flyers brought the whole crew to Newark, New Jersey, for Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Devils. 

It's not often you see these many members of the front office at a road game. The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast showed president Paul Holmgren, general manager Fletcher, senior vice president Bob Clarke, senior advisor Dean Lombardi and assistant general managers Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan all together at the Prudential Center (see story).

Don't make too much of it. The New Jersey trip is one of the easier ones and very well could have been planned ahead of time for Clarke and others. However, Fletcher is a listener and values input. You can bet things are being discussed.

After all, these are critical months for the Flyers and their direction.

• Want some outside perspective on the Flyers?

First-year Stars head coach Jim Montgomery provided an interesting and honest comment following his club's 2-1 loss Thursday to the Flyers.

The Flyers typically at home come out strong and it's a team that can score goals, they feel good about themselves and if they don't score goals, they tend to not stick with the process sometimes.

Montgomery was talking about the importance of the game's first 10 minutes, which assuredly was highlighted on the Stars' scout — how vitally a start can dictate the Flyers.

If anything, Montgomery, who played 13 career games for the Flyers and 159 for the Phantoms, explained what many are seeing. The Flyers are who they are right now. They've battled confidence issues, especially at home, where they sport an 8-10-3 record.

• On Saturday, Carter Hart allowed just his third first-period goal through nine starts. He has kept the Flyers in games. He has a 2.28 goals-against average and .932 save percentage over his past four starts.

He has been the team's best goalie this season among the seven to play.

Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are both on injured reserve. When they are deemed healthy, the Flyers will have a decision to make on Hart.

Could you justify sending him back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley? Right now, you can't (see story).

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2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more

2020 NHL playoffs: Bill Daly discusses 24-team plan, hub cities, testing and more

As the NHL announced its 24-team return-to-play model this week, excitement built around the idea of hockey coming back and the Stanley Cup Playoffs being held.

Flyers fans were smack-dab in the middle of the excitement because their team is in a promising spot among the field and was climbing when the season was suspended March 12.

Inevitably and understandably, many were left with questions, as well, following the league's releasing of its plan.

Two big ones: When can everyone expect games to start and what will it take to be able to do so?

With the current uncertain nature of the coronavirus pandemic, those questions are still in the process of being answered.

The NHL is hoping to begin Phase 2 (players returning to team practice facilities for voluntary activities) in early June. Phase 3 (mandatory team training camps) won't happen before July 10, which means the implementation of Phase 4 (resuming play) can occur at the earliest late July, with the beginning of August more likely.

What might that look like for the players and permitted personnel?

“We haven’t fully developed either our Phase 3 or our Phase 4 protocol at this point in time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Michael Barkann. "We have some good models to work with, we have some good ideas, obviously we have our medical advisors and infectious disease specialists who will be helping us construct our Phase 4 protocol.

"But the ideal hub city is a place where there’s enough room for players to have a life, they’re not going to be sent back to their hotel rooms and stay there 24/7 when they’re not practicing and playing, but it’s going to be a contained environment and it’s going to be a secure environment. It’s going to give the players some opportunity for some entertainment and some freedom, but within a contained environment. We have some ideas on how that works, it will be interesting to see how it works, but that’s the concept."

Some of the biggest hurdles for the NHL will be finalizing the protocol for testing and the procedure for positive cases.

"In terms of what we’re hearing from our medical advisors on the possibility of a positive test, obviously everybody in this environment is going to be tested very, very frequently on a daily basis," Daly said. "The players will all be tested before they go back to their rooms at night, we’ll have those test results turned around before they leave their rooms in the morning. If we have a positive test, we’ll get the person involved the appropriate medical care, we’ll isolate them right away. We have been told by our advisors that depending on the circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean a whole team has to be quarantined, it won’t necessarily shut down the entire tournament, so we’re working on that assumption right now. Obviously if we start to get multiple positives or an outbreak type of situation, it’s an entirely different analysis. But at least now, we’re working on the assumption that one positive test doesn’t shut down the entire tournament.”

The tournament will be held in two hub cities — one for the Eastern Conference and the other for the Western Conference. Philadelphia is not an option. The cities being considered for both conferences are Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Alberta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Flyers practice in Voorhees, New Jersey, and were given the OK on Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy to return to training and even competition at the Skate Zone facility.

“At the time of when we came up with the hub city concept and started working with cities, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, they were hot spots for sure, and I think continue to be more than some of our other cities," Daly said. "That’s one of the things we evaluated and kept track of throughout this process. Before we went to opening training facilities in Phase 2, we wanted to make sure the clubs were on a relatively equal footing with respect to their ability to open their training facilities."

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Devils reportedly interested in former Flyers head coaches Peter Laviolette, John Stevens

Devils reportedly interested in former Flyers head coaches Peter Laviolette, John Stevens

With the NHL's 24-team return-to-play plan, naturally some hockey fans have enjoyed poking fun at the seven clubs left out of the field.

The Devils being one of them.

But not is all bad for the Flyers' Metropolitan Division foe. New Jersey has a 7.5 percent chance to earn the No. 1 overall draft slot after landing the top pick in 2019 (Jack Hughes) and 2017 (Nico Hischier). For the 2020 draft, the Devils could end up with three first-round selections.

Not an awful spot.

New Jersey is also in the market for a head coach after finishing the 2019-20 campaign with interim bench boss Alain Nasreddine. There are some big fish out there and the Devils could reel one in — possibly a former Flyers head coach. According to a report Thursday by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman in his latest 31 Thoughts column, New Jersey is eyeing at least four candidates for its vacancy.

Two of them spent time behind the Flyers' bench in 2009-10, when the club made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Per Friedman:

As for the coaching search, word is the Devils are eyeing at least four candidates. I believe that includes incumbent Alain Nasreddine, along with Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette and John Stevens. There may be one more. The wrinkle here is that [interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald] did the initial interviews, and will any of them want him as their boss should they be choice? It’s also possible ownership will want a conversation before any decision is made. It’s a unique time to try and hire someone.

Flyers fans had it difficult enough seeing Wayne Simmonds in Devils red for most of this season. Laviolette attempting to lead New Jersey back to playoff hockey for just the second time in nine seasons would be interesting to follow from afar. Nobody would doubt his ability to do it. Laviolette, who was fired by the Predators in January, has taken all four teams he has coached to the playoffs and three of them to the Stanley Cup Final, winning it all with the Hurricanes in 2006.

Stevens hasn't been an NHL head coach since 2018-19, when he was fired by the Kings 13 games into the season. He led the Flyers to back-to-back playoff appearances from 2007 to 2009 and was let go by the club 25 games into the 2009-10 campaign, opening the door for Laviolette's tenure in Philadelphia.

If Laviolette goes to the Devils, he'll have coached four teams now currently in the Metropolitan Division. Alain Vigneault (Rangers, Flyers), Barry Trotz (Capitals, Islanders) and John Tortorella (Rangers, Blue Jackets) have also coached multiple clubs in the division.

Laviolette would certainly give the division another heavy hitter behind the bench.

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