Paul Holmgren

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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Back to the old ways? Flyers say look at us now

Back to the old ways? Flyers say look at us now

When Paul Holmgren made the call to relieve Ron Hextall of his duties as general manager, there was a common refrain among fans fearing of win-now, shortsighted decisions.

Here we go, the Flyers are headed back to their old ways.

Well, in reality, the Flyers weren't a whole lot different to begin with. Hextall deserves credit. He did many positive things. He changed the Flyers' way of thinking and operating. He fixed a troubling salary cap situation and built up the farm system.

But in the business of winning, the Flyers very much stayed the same. In Year 5 of Hextall's process, the Flyers were in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for a second straight season. Twice they had missed the playoffs and twice they had lost in the first round after squeaking into the tournament.

Less than five and a half months following Hextall's firing in late November, the Flyers, an organization often criticized for a reluctance to steer from the past, look awfully different, fueled by outside perspective and experience.

Did you ever think two coaches with a winning pedigree from days with the hated rival Penguins would be brought in with open arms as assistants?

Here we are.

How about hiring a head coach who was working in the division just over a year ago and beating the Flyers in a huge Game 7 during the 2014 playoffs?

Here we are.

The hiring of Chuck Fletcher as general manager created a trickle-down effect of change, with fresh faces and potentially new ways to drive a team into contention.

Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr come from a background with the Wild in Minnesota, where they rekindled a buzz in a passionate hockey market.

Alain Vigneault is now the head coach. He arrived to the Flyers with two Stanley Cup Final appearances, three Presidents' Trophy winners and a Jack Adams Award (top coach).

Fletcher and Vigneault hired two assistants Monday with notable track records. Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have a combined 1,296 games of NHL head coaching experience. Therrien led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, while Yeo won a ring with Pittsburgh in 2009 as an assistant.

Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott spearheaded this outside perspective. All along, it may have been a part of their vision when they hired Fletcher. No, the team hasn't made wholesale changes and Fletcher isn't looking to do so (or at least not yet), but the Flyers are different.

On April 18, the day of his introduction as head coach, Vigneault said he was aware of the frustration among Flyers fans with the state of the team.

"I understand people's disappointment, but I would say that's all behind us," he said. "Chuck is here, he's new. I'm here, I'm new. Nothing I can do about what happened in the past. I can focus on the present and hopefully make the future what we all want it to be. I'm going to be on high alert, I'm going to work my butt off to get this done and I'm very confident that it's going to work out."

Fletcher knows the Flyers' past.

"For me coming in from the outside," Fletcher said, "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.

"It has happened long before I got here, but the Flyers have always done things the right way and we'll continue to do that."

With new, outside point of views from Fletcher, Flahr, Vigneault, Therrien and Yeo.

Yes, the Flyers are hungry to win again, sooner rather than later. But you can't say they're back to their old ways.

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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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