Would it be the Philadelphia Flyers if there wasn’t some sort of heartbreaking defeat close to playoff time? Of course not.
It is time to vent about this organization, including the general manager, the coach, and finally, the players.
It is a fact that Holmgren set this team back about 5 years or so, and the proof is trying to remember the last time we won a playoff series. Since 2012, this organization has not been able to move past the first round of playoffs.
Hextall deserves praise for what he has done with the mess he inherited. He has released contracts, and his drafting has been nothing short of phenomenal. It has been hard to place any blame of this current teams mediocrity on Hextall, but my question is, when can the fans become critical of his decision-making?
This isn’t an article suggesting a new GM because that would be asinine. His vision is what the Flyers have needed for decades. His NHL talent evaluation does raise some question marks.
Last year, the Flyers were just as mediocre as they are now, but with the help of rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere, and stellar goal-tending from Steve Mason, this team was able to make the playoffs. To deny that, you might as well stop reading this article.
Schenn was great in the second half of last season. Maybe he was mad about his brother getting traded and that added some grit to his game, or maybe he had a solid line-mate with Sam Gagner. The two had obvious chemistry when Hakstol decided to insert Gagner into the lineup. Pucks were getting to the net, and an offensive zone attack would be established.
My point… Hextall did not want to re-sign players that had obvious impact on the game. Ryan White played with heart, more-so than anyone else on the roster, besides Wayne Simmonds. Instead of re-signing these guys, Hextall opted to over-pay an obviously declining Dale Weise, and a 33 year old center Boyd Gordon, who is currently on the Phantoms because he made no impact on the NHL level.
Yes, these are smaller moves, but it all adds up to the bigger picture.
This team has been consistently inconsistent since the 10 game winning streak. This team needed a shot in the arm, and for a long period of time, all that was done was shuffling of the lines. Chemistry cannot be produced when players such as Matt Read are getting minutes on the top line. It is just simply not going to happen. Forcing chemistry and a system that is not meant for the current roster is another huge problem.
One of the biggest problems with this team is Dave Hakstol. At first, I loved the signing. A lot of people did. A college coach that could help develop the great young talent coming up through the ranks, what could be better?
Now we are almost through his second season as head coach and his biggest problem seems to be not developing young talent and not putting them in position to succeed.
Problems with Dave Hakstol:
Of course this hasn’t been Gostisbehere’s best season, but to scratch a difference-maker while continuing to play a 7th defenseman 20+ minutes a game is ignorance. That is NOT developing young players, that is killing their confidence and making them question their own game.
Pairing Gostisbehere and Provorov with MacDonald is another problem. MacDonald does not make anyone better on the ice. If anything, he puts his teammates in more vulnerable positions to fail.
Accountability is for all players, not just players that are older and have longer and more expensive contracts.
Early in the season, Konecny was scratched after having a strong game where he tallied an assist and was a +2. How is that positively developing younger players?
Konecny missed a few games with an injury and was brought back, only to play with the 4th line, while Cousins and Read were ahead of him in the lineup.
Lets think back to that amazing 10 game winning streak that this mediocre team was able to put together. Mason was playing great, but after many back-to-back situations, he was quickly burnt out and the Flyers were forced to play Neuvirth. Quickly after that 10 game win streak, the Flyers found themselves on a 5 game losing streak. No in-game adjustments were made except for juggling the lines every other shift.
Even after his carelessness with overusing Mason, Hakstol elected to start Neuvirth 5 straight games, and in that stretch, Neuvirth might of had one good game.
Handling of the goalies has been horrid. After realizing his mistakes, Hakstol started caring about resting the goalies at the wrong time. In the most important game of the season against Toronto, Hakstol elected to start the worst 5 on 5 goalie in the league, and this was after Mason was on a 4 game winning streak while giving up less than 1 goal a game during that same stretch.
There were even stretches when Couturier, the offensive-lacking two-way player, was out on the first unit for the powerplay.
Next is his over-usage of players such as VandeVelde and Bellemare. These are 4th line players, nothing less and nothing more. Bellemare is a second unit PKer, but pairing him with VandeVelde on the first unit is complete incompetence.
After the loss to Toronto, the Flyers playoffs hopes were dwindling, so a win against the Bruins was a must. The Flyers outplayed the Bruins for most of the game, especially in the second period, but could not capitalize and put the puck in the net. The Bruins were clinging on to life, and the Flyers let that happen.
Simmonds was entered into the penalty killing unit a few weeks back, and was easily the best penalty killer this team has had, hell, even Matt Read has looked better on the penalty more so than VandeVelde and Bellemare.
Where was Wayne Simmonds on the penalty kill during the Bruins game?
More ignorance on part of Hakstol and his supporting cast of coaches.
With less than a minute left in the most important game of the season and playoffs on the line, Dave Hakstol manages to put out the Flyers two worst defensemen. We all know what happened next. Brandon Manning deflected the puck past Mason and the rest is history.
The evidence is clear and concrete. Dave Hakstol is not the coach of the future. He should not even be the coach of right now.
Firing Hakstol will not solve this teams long list of problems, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Hextall not acknowledging this is somewhat worrisome.
I trust Hextall, but this Summer is when the fan-base can be critical of him. It is either time to rebuild and dismantle the core, or go all-in and compete for a cup. Little additions every year are simply not going to get us anywhere. We are waiting for the younger talent, correct, but we need to surround these young players with solid veterans and a strong supporting cast.
With expiring contracts and Vegas taking a player from the roster, things could look a bit different next year. All we can do is speculate and have hope.
Stay Strong Flyers fans!