It has been a crazy 24 hours for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Their Canadian road trip ended late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and before their plane landed on Sunday evening, reports had been made that a coaching change was coming.
Dave Hakstol is on his way out and Joel Quenneville is on his way in. Or maybe not?
Chuck Fletcher joined the team for the road trip to evaluate the whole situation: coaching, players, areas of improvement, etc. What he saw was borderline unwatchable.
After scoring six unanswered against the Sabres, the Flyers got walloped in Winnipeg 7-1, collapsed in Calgary for a 6-5 overtime loss, were anemic in Edmonton for a 4-1 loss and vile in Vancouver for a 5-1 loss.
Sunday afternoon into the evening and night was as crazy for the Flyers as the past few weeks have been. As of early Monday morning, Dave Hakstol is the head coach of the Flyers and no move has been made yet. But has a decision been made? That’s the question.
Here is a timeline of the main events from Sunday.
12:32 a.m. – Flyers lose to Canucks
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 16, 2018
Another game, another loss to end the road trip. This was the Flyers’ fourth straight loss to end the trip, a trip in which Chuck Fletcher was going to use to evaluate the team and the options moving forward.
The Flyers showed very little life throughout the road trip, and even moreso toward the end of it. Dave Hakstol had a chance to potentially save his job with a strong showing after Ron Hextall got fired, particularly on this road trip, and the Flyers came up empty.
The writing was on the wall and it got more apparent as the road trip moved along. By Sunday morning, most fans expected the Flyers to make a move — or at least Sunday evening after the team plane landed.
The morning came and went, and nothing happened.
Then in the afternoon, Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post broke some news.
3:55 p.m. – Isaac reports Flyers to fire Hakstol, hire Quenneville
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) December 16, 2018
Multiple sources tell the Courier Post that the Flyers will announce the firing of Hakstol Sunday night or Monday morning.
Sources also indicated that Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, has been offered the position and will accept it. It’s unknown if he will take the job quickly enough to make his debut Tuesday night when the Flyers play against the Detroit Red Wings at home or after the holiday break. If he waits, look for assistant coach Rick Wilson or Lehigh Valley Phantoms coach Scott Gordon to be an interim head coach until Quenneville joins the club.
At this point, we took this as canon and there had been no reports to refute any of that — and technically speaking, there still haven’t.
Then other reports came out.
4:35 p.m. – Andy Strickland reports that Quenneville has not been hired
Joel Quenneville tells me report of him taking Flyers job is not true #NHL
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) December 16, 2018
This caused a bit of a stir as Quenneville was directly denying the report. However, he has not taken the Flyers’ job yet, as Hakstol is still the coach, so this could simply be a technicality.
If Quenneville has, in fact, agreed to become the next head coach, as Isaac reported, he wouldn’t break the news himself before any other announcements have been made. The hockey world is a relatively small place, and Quenneville wouldn’t want to disrespect Hakstol or the Flyers by saying he has the job. Simply saying that he doesn’t have the job — because it is currently Hakstol’s — makes sense.
Then a nationally recognized reporter got in on it.
4:38 p.m. – Darren Dreger tweets on Hakstol decision
Status quo in Philadelphia. No decision has been made on Dave Hakstol.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 16, 2018
Dreger’s tweet, on top of Strickland’s, caused a lot of pause throughout Philadelphia.
Had the reports been wrong? Do the reports come from different or unreliable sources? Is it a technicality?
5:10 p.m. – Carchidi says Flyers deny report
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) December 16, 2018
Carchidi reported that a Flyers spokesman had “nothing new to report” in his story, and even got a quote from the CEO of Comcast.
Dave Scott, the CEO of the Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor, said it was “not true” that Quenneville, who led Chicago to three Stanley Cups, had been hired.
This goes back to Quenneville denying that he took the job. If the Flyers haven’t announced anything yet regarding Dave Hakstol, it’s true that Quenneville hasn’t been hired. Is he in their plans? Quite possibly.
7:33 p.m. – Carchidi tweets no coaching change Sunday night
There will be no #Flyers coaching change tonight, sources say. Nothing official, but I get the feeling tomorrow is going to be a busy day in Flyerdom. Stay tuned.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) December 17, 2018
This goes in line with Isaac’s original report that the decision had been made, but the change would occur later Sunday night or on Monday morning. We’ll see today if that is the case, or if it’ll be another day of purgatory for Hakstol.
So, here we are about 16 hours (as of publishing) after Isaac’s initial report, and we’re no closer to an answer.
What does it all mean?
First of all, it’s almost fitting that the Flyers’ possible coaching change caused such a commotion and looks to be rather sloppy, matching the play of the team for the large majority of this season.
Secondly, either all of the reports about Hakstol being on the way out were wrong — which seems unlikely — or it’s going to be an awkward few months for the Flyers.
Logically, it would be safe to say that the Flyers are trying to cover their bases before making an official announcement. They want to treat Hakstol and everyone involved with respect and dignity. A press release will likely make the move official in the coming days.
Here is what we know.
Upper management has seemed to have their eye on Quenneville since he was fired last month. Firing Hextall and hiring Fletcher was the first move of many. Firing the head coach seems to be the second move as most general managers want to have a say in who is coaching their team. Fletcher did the right thing in respecting Hakstol and giving him a chance, but these two weeks have done nothing but hurt his chances.
Quenneville may not be hired immediately, as reported by Isaac, which means an in-house interim head coach (Scott Gordon?) is possible. That could be holding things back as well.
The Flyers roster has a lot more talent than a The Flyers roster has enough talent that they should not be in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-15-4 record. That is unacceptable. A coaching change can’t solve everything, but it can help.
Hextall was fired in part because of his stubbornness and patience. Fletcher, while patient, isn’t going to be nearly as willing to wait as Hextall was. He gave the team a chance to show him what they can do and they responded with a few horrible efforts, including a last-minute collapse in Calgary.
Fletcher has been active on the phones in the trade market and wants to get a deal done before the holiday roster freeze on Wednesday at midnight. Getting a coaching change to coincide with that seems likely.
The Flyers are back home and need to turn things around immediately. Not only for the sake of the team but for the sake of the fans and business. A coaching change and a trade or two will inject life into the roster and fanbase. We’ve seen Flyers teams with much less talent dig out of holes like this one, and that is exactly what Fletcher wants to do. Quenneville can help do that.
Fletcher, Holmgren and Scott want to turn this team around right now. Hiring Fletcher was step one, a trade and coaching change are likely soon to follow.
The Flyers host the Red Wings on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. It should be an interesting one.