Flyers

Flyers

NEWARK, N.J. -- Dave Hakstol has never hidden from responsibility.
 
He didn't on Monday after his team's third straight loss.
 
"Starting with me, we've got to do better," he said.
 
On Thursday, the Flyers were arguably their worst -- an unjustifiable 6-2 loss to the lowly Devils, who had dropped 10 consecutive games before having their way with Hakstol's bunch.
 
Such a performance begs for responsibility, right? It's getting to that point and time in the Flyers' season, as the playoffs look farther out of sight.
 
Ultimately, the players have to perform, but can the coach do more?
 
Can he push a few different buttons?
 
Can he send a message through the locker room?
 
Can he still motivate his players?
 
Hakstol, in just his second NHL season, is already facing trying times and questions.
 
"I'm going to work -- work to prepare and fight and battle every single night," Hakstol said Thursday when asked if he feels his seat getting warmer. "That part of it doesn't even enter my mind. I'm worried about wins and losses and the performance of our team."
 
After his team's third loss in as many games against New Jersey, which has outscored the orange and black, 14-3, Hakstol wouldn't address the Flyers' bewildering problems with the Devils, who they play twice more this season.
 
"I haven't given much thought to that," Hakstol said. "Tonight, we lost a hockey game. I'll get into that at another time after the season when I have some time to think about it. Right now, I'm worried about this one tonight and the next one coming up."
 
The Flyers still have fire in their bellies, according to captain Claude Giroux.
 
"Yeah, we're angry," he said (see story). "We know we're a better team, we know we can be in a better position. That's not the case and we need to keep working, keep working to be a better team."
 
Brayden Schenn, on the other hand, wasn't having it when asked about his coach's job security.
 
"It's not my job to start worrying about the coaches and stuff like that," Schenn said. "It's on us players to go out and play better. I'm not even going to start commenting on that. Us players have got to be better and we know it. We've been inconsistent all year and that's on the players."
 
The Flyers are 7-10-2 since the start of February and have scored the NHL's second-fewest goals since the start of December (102 in 46 games). Inconsistency has been general manager Ron Hextall's biggest gripe, oftentimes having him feel at a loss.
 
"It does sometimes because you're sitting there going, 'It's the same team every night, right?'" Hextall said pregame Thursday. "You're going to have peaks and valleys, that's reality. You're dealing with human beings, not robots. We understand that. But our valleys have been a little too low for me."
 
Hextall said he wants to see growth every season. In the points column, that will not be the case with 2015-16 to 2016-17. The Flyers would have to win their final 12 games to match last season's point total of 96.
 
"We want to get better every year, get younger every year," Hextall said. "That's the goal. If we can get better this year … we've got a few games to let that play out.
 
"You learn lessons as players and I think the lessons for us is, if you're not going to be consistent, it's hard to stay in a playoff spot. We're good enough. You look at a lot of nights, we're good enough."
 
Can the leadership group be better?
 
"I think there's responsibility for [the whole team]," Hextall said.
 
That goes for the coach and his staff, too.
 
Going the college route?
NCAA free-agent players often sign with NHL teams around this time of year as their collegiate seasons come to a close.
 
Last season, the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon in early April. Lyon is currently playing for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.
 
Will the Flyers make a signing this season?
 
"Yeah, it would be nice," Hextall said. "We'll see."
 
The decision is heavily dictated by the college player finding his best fit.
 
"You can never have enough depth," Hextall said. "Offensively, I think we do have some good players coming and I don't think they're that far away, but you can never have enough. You can never have enough young players. You can never have enough guys that can score or make plays. If we can add to our pool, that would be great. Unfortunately, when you have a lot in your pool, sometimes they're looking and going, 'Hmm, is this the right spot?'
 
"In the end, college free agents, they typically get the best fit for themselves and typically it's with an organization that's a little bit thin. Not always."