The way the Philadelphia Flyers are headed doesn’t look great, and Chuck Fletcher has done most of the damage over his near four-year tenure as general manager. From bad trades to lack of trades and signings, the team has gotten nowhere closer to competing for a Stanley Cup. They are actually headed the other way.
Fletcher was hired in Dec 2018, and the Flyers have finished higher than sixth in their division just once in four seasons. You can’t fault him for his first half-season, but the team has now missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94. Fletcher failed to address the offense due to the cap constraints he put on the team, and made bad trades. But a turnaround by the players and team can erase a lot of the damage he’s done. Let’s dive in.
Flyers Failed to Upgrade Offense this Offseason
There is tons of criticism towards Fletcher after what little was done this offseason with the Flyers, and rightfully so. How often does one of the biggest free agents in NHL history grow up close to where your team is located and wants to play close to home? Not only that, but Johnny Gaudreau is in his prime and a game-breaker who recorded 115 points last season, good for second in the NHL.
Making necessary moves to bring in what the team most needed should have been top of the list. But instead, Fletcher wasn’t willing to give up assets to move James van Riemsdyk before the last year of his deal and secure a top scorer for seven more years. The Flyers lost Claude Giroux, their captain and leading scorer for many of the past seasons while doing nothing to replace that up front.
The Flyers signed Nic Deslauriers, but his skill set involves playing a tough game and not adding offense. To that point, the Flyers also re-signed Zack MacEwen to play on the fourth line, as well, instead of looking at or leaving room for a point producer.
The Flyers lost a guaranteed 60-plus point scorer in Giroux, and Joel Farabee is expected to miss the start of the season. He has the tools and ability to lead the team in scoring, so the team will need to get a lot out of their defense next season and hope that their offense can contribute (from ‘Flyers’ Joel Farabee’s upside still enticing, but down year, injury raise concerns,’ The Athletic, Aug. 4, 2022). There is the chance that rookies or some of the Flyers’ young players play a part in adding to the offense, but that’s a lot to put on them with the pressure in Philadelphia. Expect the Flyers to be in the bottom-10 of the league in goals for next season.
Bad Trades & an Overload of Defensemen
The Flyers have had almost a complete overhaul defensively over the past two seasons. Only Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim remain from their 2020-21 team. The moves certainly haven’t worked out in the Flyers’ favor thus far. Acquiring Ryan Ellis cost a fair bit, and he played four games for the team last season. Ristolainen cost a first-round pick and more only to have a bad season and be signed for big money long-term.
The third right-shot defender is the player most recently acquired, Tony DeAngelo. He cost three draft picks over the next three years (fourth, third, and a second). A very similar player, Shayne Gostisbehere, just happened to be traded by Fletcher last offseason, and it cost a second-round pick and a seventh. Though DeAngelo has produced a little more offensively and is a couple of years younger, it was very costly to move out one and bring in the other.
After all of the moves, the Flyers have allocated way too much money to their defense, only for them to finish 27th in goals against last season. The Flyers are paying their top five defensemen a combined $27.78 million and hardly have room for Cam York in their lineup. Fletcher overcompensated on defense after Ellis’ injury last season, and it hurt the team overall.
Flyers Players Could Extend Fletcher’s Tenure as General Manager
After all that should be criticized about Fletcher through his tenure, a good season can erase a lot of that. Players like Cam Atkinson, van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Hayes can produce either the same as they did last season or better. Sean Couturier and Ellis can stay healthy and play key roles in a successful campaign. Carter Hart can continue to build back his confidence and get better.
One thing Fletcher did that was big was hire John Tortorella as the head coach. It should be able to cover up some of what Fletcher failed to do in the offseason, which is add offense or make the team better. He is relying on Tortorella’s coaching strategy to focus on defense and improve the goals against while getting by offensively in the hopes the young talent can provide a boost.
After providing all the evidence that Fletcher is just steering the Flyers towards a rebuild, he should be on a very short leash next season, and whoever makes the decisions should separate him and Tortorella in terms of success.