Dave Scott

Paul Holmgren no longer Flyers president, taking on new role with team as senior advisor

Paul Holmgren no longer Flyers president, taking on new role with team as senior advisor

Paul Holmgren is taking on a new role with the Flyers.

He will no longer serve as team president and instead be a senior advisor to Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott.

General manager Chuck Fletcher will now take on a new title as president of hockey operations, as well, and will report directly to Scott. Fletcher, working in hockey since 1993, has been in the Flyers' GM chair since early December and has done plenty in his first offseason (see story).

For Holmgren, the role change was his idea and one he consulted with Scott, going back to June 2018. Holmgren, who has eight grandchildren, said the timing felt right to focus on family and the next phase of his life. He also made it clear he's not going away and will be available to Scott and Fletcher in his new role.

"I love the Flyers and I want the Flyers to do well," Holmgren said via a conference call Thursday.

Holmgren has served the organization for 40-plus years in a variety of roles. The 63-year-old has played for the club, been the president, general manager, assistant general manager, head coach and director of pro scouting (see story).

"It's been an honor to serve this franchise in many different roles throughout my life and I look forward to this next chapter," Holmgren said in a release by the team. "I approached Dave about my idea to step aside to spend more time with my family. I have complete confidence in Chuck in his new role, leading the Flyers to great things. The Flyers have given so much to me and my family over the years, and I have forged life-long friendships with the many players, coaches, employees and fans who have helped me make Philadelphia home for over 40 years. I would like to thank Dave and Chuck for their efforts to lead this franchise into a bright future and for their continued confidence in me as I take on this new role."

Scott commended Holmgren for what he's meant to the organization and how he'll be in a role similar to franchise icons Bob Clarke and Bill Barber as a highly valued sounding board and consultant.

Paul has been an invaluable leader within the Flyers family for more than 40 years, and instrumental in placing the organization in a strong position for future success. Paul has earned a place among the organization's all-time greats and certainly fits the role exemplified by our late chairman, Ed Snider: 'A Flyer Forever.'

- Scott

Scott said his relationship with Holmgren grew during the difficult time of Snider's illness and death in April 2016.

"Paul and I have been around six years plus now, we've watched a lot of hockey games together. I think the one thing Paul has really taught me is patience," Scott said via the conference call. "The game, it's line by line, period by period, game by game — it's a long season and you've really got to have that perspective because things can shift on a dime.

"We're colleagues and now we're good friends. We really had to navigate through a difficult time there and got through it. We have all new leadership in place now on the hockey side, so I think we're really poised for success."

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

Scott will work more closely with Fletcher.

"Paul and I recruited Chuck together," Scott said. "I've gotten to know Chuck and I will spend more time with him directly."

Both Scott and Holmgren raved about Fletcher's performance thus far, especially in his first offseason with the ability to collaborate (see story).

"Chuck's got a really good grasp of things," Holmgren said. "He loves the Flyers, he knows the iconic brand, he knows how important the Flyers are to the city of Philadelphia and he wants to get us back to where we should be."

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If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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Chuck Fletcher facing a crossroad with Flyers and their 'bias for action'

Chuck Fletcher facing a crossroad with Flyers and their 'bias for action'

As Paul Holmgren and Dave Scott sat side by side, their message was clear.

Ron Hextall's picture had become too broad, too long term for the Flyers' liking, to the point in which Holmgren and Scott wanted a new general manager to fix the now more than anything else.

"It's my job to challenge Paul, and Paul to Ron," Scott, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said Nov. 27 when discussing Hextall's firing. "But that was a big question: What can we do now, today, to make the team better now? Not two years or three years from now. I think we debated that a lot.

"Do I think we can do better as a team now — not in two years or three years, but now? I think that answer is yes."

The problem is the now has turned so ugly, you wonder if it's even salvageable.

The Flyers entered Wednesday with more points (35) than just two NHL teams — the Blues (34) and Senators (34). They are 6-12-4 since Nov. 13, a stretch in which they've been outscored 80-53. In two more games, they will be at the halfway point of the season; that's no small sample size.

All of the above creates a brewing awkwardness and dilemma for Chuck Fletcher, brought in to quickly strap on his cape and save the Flyers from their mess.

Holmgren and Scott summoned Fletcher for the purpose of expediting the Flyers' process and to supplement the current team so it can realize its potential.

"We're looking for bright, energetic, strategic thinkers," Scott said when the Flyers were starting their GM search. "But also, balancing that with a bias for action and really making some things happen.

"We're very focused on the trade deadline coming up Feb. 25. We think there's going to be some opportunities out there and frankly, we don't want to miss out."

What in the world does Fletcher do now? Try to somehow buy on this team and give it a shot at the playoffs, a goal that is waning by the game? 

Fletcher will be strongly debating his course, with the difficult win-now reminder in the back of his mind. He has been on the job for barely a month and a hopefulness at the outset is starting to spiral into hopelessness.

Arguably the biggest decision on his growing plate: Wayne Simmonds. The 30-year-old has 17 points (11 goals, six assists) over 39 games and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

If Fletcher sees no other route than to sell ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline, then Simmonds becomes a prime trade chip the Flyers should cash in on as they look forward, instead of possibly losing the winger for nothing during the summer.

And that's just the beginning.

The next challenge would come at goalie. At this point, Fletcher very well may be best off learning more about Carter Hart at the NHL level while riding Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott (when healthy) the most he can before addressing the goalie predicament in the offseason. Both Elliott and Neuvirth will be unrestricted free agents then, opening everything up for Fletcher, who also has pending UFAs in forwards Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal at his disposal.

The situation, as a whole, oozes with irony because the Flyers moved on from Hextall for the sake of the all-important present. One way or the other, the new GM will give the Flyers their desired action.

Fletcher, though, may have no other choice but to take a page out of Hextall's book and look at what's next.

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