Chuck Fletcher has finally been fired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. Let the city celebrate.
A little over four years after Ron Hextall was fired as GM of the Flyers, we are right back here in the same spot. This time however, the franchise is as lifeless as it’s ever been. And Fletcher is public enemy number one because of it.
Let’s be honest: Fletcher never should have been hired in the first place. The 55-year-old had been in NHL front offices since 1993, and had failed with every franchise he had ever been with.
Florida. Anaheim. Pittsburgh. Minnesota. And now, Philadelphia. Fletcher was the grim reaper of NHL GM’s, knocking at his next victim’s door.
This obviously reflects poorly on the rest of the Flyers front office and ownership. They still chose to hire him despite all the nothingness Fletcher has accomplished in his career. And now, they’re paying the price.
In late 2018, Fletcher took the helm of a Flyers team with loads of depth and young talent. Veterans such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier made the Flyers a reliable team year in and year out.
Unfortunately, they were no more than that. The Flyers were never awful, but they were never good enough to make a real run for the Stanley Cup. Their young players were good, but didn’t have the potential to become elite. The lack of high-end talent was felt each year.
So instead of either going all-in or starting a rebuild, Fletcher decided to keep the Flyers on the same course: just floating around. No identity. No vision. No feel for what the team needed.
After the 2020 season, Fletcher hit the throttle on his ruthless assault against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Ryan Ellis trade. Former top prospect Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers were sent off for a guy who has only played in four games for the Flyers due to injuries. Ellis is 32, may never play hockey again, and is owed another four years and $24 million on his contract.
In the 2021 offseason, Fletcher traded Shayne Gostisbehere and a second round pick to Arizona in return for……. nothing. Literally nothing. Gostisbehere, who had once been a cornerstone defenseman, was salary dumped. Ironically, Gostisbehere is now having a career resurgence elsewhere, while the Flyers field one of the worst defenses in team history.
Soon after that trade, Fletcher gave up a king’s ransom for Rasmus Ristolainen, despite the metrics saying Ristolainen was one of the worst defenseman in hockey. Fletcher then double downed after the season, giving Ristolainen a massive five-year contract despite minimal production.
Travis Sanheim got an eight-year extension. Tony DeAngelo was acquired and signed to a two-year extension. Nicolas Deslauriers got a four-year contract. All these players were significantly overpaid. And meanwhile, top free agent Johnny Gaudreau, who wanted to sign with Philly, was ignored by Fletcher and the Flyers.
There are countless other disastrous moves and decisions to choose from.
But you know what’s craziest about all this?
In the midst of all these obscene aggressive moves, the Flyers are in their third straight season being one of the worst teams in the league. Their roster moves show signs of a team that is trying to win, and yet they can’t even sniff a playoff spot.
They have no idea how to win.
It has been so clear for years now that the Flyers need to rebuild. And yet, they refuse. Even when they trade away their captain, Giroux, they still refuse to bite the bullet and start over.
And so, that brings us to the present. Bottom of the division. No cap space. No draft capital. No high-end talent. A plethora of overpaid players on long-term contracts. An incompetent front office. Record low attendance. Fan revolts. The Wells Fargo Center is a lifeless chasm every time the Flyers hit the ice.
But now, Fletcher isn’t here.
That’s the one positive. With Fletcher gone, and ownership looking to make more front office changes, perhaps there’s hope for the Flyers. The Phillies are a perfect example of how a good GM can completely turn around an organization within a few years. If the Phillies can do it, so can the Flyers.
It just should’ve never gotten to this point.
The Flyers were once a proud organization. They once had championship potential. They once were relevant.
Today, it’s just a sad, miserable existence.
If only they had kept the door shut when the grim reaper came knocking.
“Philly Sports Rundown,” written by Jon Wenger, takes you through the ride of Philly sports each week. Wenger discusses the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, or Flyers, as they look to bring a championship home to Philadelphia.