Chuck Fletcher acknowledges Hextall’s foundation, backs Hakstol as he lays out his plan

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher had his first conference call on Monday evening, just hours after officially being hired. Fletcher hasn’t had much time to dig deep into the current roster and situation, but he did offer quite a few thoughts on his new team.

Fletcher acknowledged the great foundation laid out by Ron Hextall, supported Dave Hakstol as head coach, and gave some insight into his current and future plans.

“I want to start right off by acknowledging the job that Ron Hextall did,” Fletcher said. “The Flyers have as many prospects as any team in the league, if not more. There’s a very strong foundation in place. The team is in a good cap position, and there are a lot of good players on the team.”
Hextall left a great foundation for Fletcher to build upon, but he knows he has work to do.
“Right now we’re, I believe, in 15th place in the Eastern Conference; we have some work to do, no doubt. But there are some very strong players here. There are some young players that are finding their way in the NHL and getting better. In a few more weeks I’ll probably have a much better answer for you.”
“Our goal is to try to make the playoffs this year, it’s that simple. We have work to do, and it’ll be a challenge. But there’s no reason why we can’t get better, and we can’t push to make the playoffs and find a way to get in.”
“I think the first thing I would say, in all candidness — Philadelphia right now, we have a very strong group of young players, prospects … we have nine draft picks this year, an extra third, an extra seventh, we do have cap space. Those are all resources that you can use to make your team better.”
Fletcher thinks that the Flyers can be a playoff team, and he has plenty of reason to think that. He has a good roster, and the assets to make a move. He said he’ll aggressively pursue an improvement, but it may be an in-house option.
“But our goal is to make the playoffs this year, and we’d like to find solutions to get there. I can tell you I’ll be aggressive in that sense, but the first thing I think you have to do is see if you have in-house solutions.”
“For me, I think right now looking at this club from outside, and again I’ll dig into it more in the coming weeks, there’s no reason why we can’t be a playoff team now and going forward I think we’ll continue to get better. You want to compete in the present, and you’ve got to be respectful of making sure you have a strong team for the future. But there are great resources in place here, and it’s a very fortunate position to be in.”
He won’t make any rash decisions as he plans to observe then act as GM.
“I’m looking forward to sitting down with the coaches very shortly and getting to meet the players. I plan on meeting with the players and staff tomorrow and talking generally about expectations. It’s a good group coming in from the outside, but certainly, I’m going to take some time here to get to know them much better.”
Some fans hoped that a new GM would mean a new coach as well, but that won’t be the case — at least not yet.
“I’ve known Dave for a while. I met Dave a few times while he was at North Dakota. He did a tremendous job at North Dakota. His teams always got better as the season went on. When you had a player that was drafted by your organization that attended North Dakota, they always got better, they always developed.  So I have a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished in his career.”
Once again, Fletcher reiterated his observe-then-act approach as he comes into a new situation.
“I’m just coming in. I’m a big believer in trying to get to know a situation before making a reaction. I’d like to think we can solve a lot of the issues that have plagued the team this year and find a way to get better. I certainly have no intention of making a coaching change tomorrow, if that’s your question. I’m going to meet with Dave and we’re going to try to work together and push.”
He could look internally for solutions, however.
“The term “ease in”… we’re 25 games in, there’s still a lot of runway left in the season, but the season also gets old pretty quickly. I would like to see what solutions we have to some of our problems and see if we have some of those solutions in-house, see if we have some solutions internally.”
That’s something that fans will like to see. The Flyers have a few young players in the AHL that undoubtedly have a higher ceiling than some of the veterans playing on the fourth line. Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Mikhail Vorobyev could get another look, or perhaps Carter Hart in goal once he proves he is ready.
Whether or not Hart is the answer, Fletcher wants to see an improvement in the crease.
“We’re 29th in goals-against; that’s too high. We have some young defensemen, and a lot of them are going to be very good players in this league, but it’s a tough league. We just need to look at how do we give up fewer goals. It takes everybody on the ice to prevent a goal. But getting some stability in goal would be great, getting healthy in goal would be great. Sometimes you can’t control that, and that’s why we’ll first look to see what we have here in-house, and if need be, I’m certainly going to make a lot of calls and see what’s out there, and if we have to make a move we’ll be ready to do so.”
One area that Fletcher will address is his right-hand man, the assistant GM.
“Certainly I will address that. I’m pretty familiar with a lot of the staff that’s already in place here. I’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the years and I think it’s a really strong staff, and a lot of good people here. Clearly, we will look to replace that role and hire somebody,” Fletcher said. “But there’s nothing imminent right now.”
“If we can do it during the season, great; if it takes until the end of the season, that’s great too.  That’s something I’m going to put a lot of time and thought into. First I want to come in and see the people that are here and the roles that they’re doing, and maybe where we need to fill. I think that would be the important thing to do prior to making a hire.”
One of the things that led to Hextall’s demise was his refusal to include the rest of the front office in certain discussions. Fletcher will do the opposite of that.
“I was in on Thursday and Friday and we had some great conversations, and I can tell you from my standpoint I feel very comfortable working for Paul and Dave.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Again, Paul and Dave were great. We didn’t get into the specifics of the team necessarily. We did discuss the team a bit, but they made it very clear they will trust my judgment and they will allow me to do the things I think we need to do to get better.”
Although Fletcher was never a Flyer or worked for the Flyers previously, he does have some Flyers ties.
“25 years ago, Bob hired me and brought me to Florida in April of 1993. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia when my dad ran the Atlanta Flames, and Philadelphia was the nemesis. That was the team that always beat the Flames, and Bob Clarke was usually the one doing the damage. I grew up with a tremendous amount of respect for Bob. He was a great guy to work for. The first NHL team I worked for, I think I learned more that year than any other year of my career. I consider him both a mentor and a friend. He gave me a lot of autonomy, a lot of authority early on, let me do some contracts when I was 24, 25 years old, and really got me started in this business.”
Fletcher is officially a part of the Philadelphia Flyers family. Let’s see what he can do.

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