The whirlwind continues.
The Philadelphia Flyers brought both clarity and confusion to their current situation on Monday.
After a crazy Sunday of reports and denials, head coach Dave Hakstol was officially relieved of his duties on Monday afternoon. However, the reports of Joel Quenneville accepting the job seem to have been premature.
Scott Gordon, the Phantoms’ head coach, was named the interim head coach of the Flyers. How long will he have that tag? No one really knows just yet.
Oh yeah, and Carter Hart was called up from the Phantoms.
Chuck Fletcher addressed the media after Hakstol was fired and gave some interesting quotes.
Fletcher spoke to a “disconnect between what (Hakstol) was preaching and how the players were playing.”
That doesn’t exactly surprise many. Hakstol’s message was able to turn the team around in years past, but the performance of this year’s team given their talent level and increased expectations is unacceptable. That was made even clearer on the most recent road trip.
“We need a new voice. We need a new message to the players and hopefully the players hear that message,” Fletcher said.
They are hoping that Scott Gordon can provide that voice. It is an in-house move, but Fletcher explained that Gordon was not directly involved with the Flyers every day, since he was in Lehigh Valley, so it was someone with ties but far enough removed to bring a fresh perspective and voice.
Despite reports that Quenneville had accepted the Flyers’ job and the fact that upper management has had their eye on Coach Q since he was fired, Fletcher shot down any idea of communication with the former Blackhawks coach.
“I have not asked permission from Chicago to speak with Joel” because he is still under contract, “and I haven’t spoken with Joel for probably over two years.” Fletcher said he texted Quenneville to wish him well after he was fired by the Blackhawks, but “he’s under contract with Chicago” and Fletcher “has not asked for permission.”
Prior to that, Fletcher acknowledged that the team would search for their next head coach.
“At this point, everyone is a candidate moving forward,” Fletcher said. “This will be a process.”
However, Fletcher gave the impression that Gordon could get the rest of the season as a tryout of sorts.
“It is my expectation that Scott will be the head coach for the remainder of the year,” he said.
This makes sense as we saw the team do the same thing with Hakstol just a few weeks ago. Fletcher said he would give Hakstol a chance, Hakstol failed to change anything, and he was fired on Monday.
Fletcher is most likely giving Gordon a vote of confidence of sorts and just saying what he has to say. He wouldn’t openly say that Gordon is only a placeholder for whoever may come next. That would be unfair to both the players and to Gordon.
With everyone being a candidate, you have to think that if the right man comes along for the job — Quenneville or otherwise — Fletcher will thank Gordon for his interim service and reassign him either back to coach the Phantoms or to a different role with the Flyers.
Hopefully Quenneville is still a consideration, but the Flyers aren’t dead in the water if he’s not. There are other options out there.
Looking on the bright side, Gordon has helped the Phantoms to back-to-back playoff appearances, including a Conference Final appearance last season, and knows some of the current players very well. Carter Hart, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton are four of the most noteworthy players to have played under Gordon in Lehigh Valley. Gordon also coached Andrew MacDonald 10 years ago with the Islanders.
Hart is familiar with Gordon, as he has coached him his entire professional career, and that could help him make the transition to the NHL. He will likely make his NHL debut this week, as soon as tonight, and Gordon will be behind the bench. He knows what makes Hart tick and how to work with him.
Fletcher knows that Hart has a good head on his shoulders and a great skill set.
“He’s a strong kid mentally. He’ll go in and give his best. I have no worries about Carter Hart long term. He’s going to be a very good goalie for this franchise,” Fletcher said of the netminder.
They have had their hand forced a bit with Hart, but the first-year pro has found his footing in the AHL and maybe that can transition to the NHL. At this point it might be their only hope.
Fletcher recognizes where the team is at, sitting at last place in the conference, but he also knows the talent of the team. He will not make any decisions out of haste, saying “my goal is not to make quick decisions. I want to make right decisions.”
It sounds like while Fletcher isn’t in a rush to make any rash decisions, he knows that this team needs a jolt.
Firing Hakstol and replacing him with Gordon as the interim head coach should give the team some life. A new voice and a team that knows it needs to play better, and can play better, will play better.
Tuesday night’s game is one of the more winnable ones for the Flyers: New coach, back home, beatable team, and players possibly playing for their Flyers lives. If Fletcher wants to make some moves to make this team better, you can bet that those will involve a roster player or two.
The roster freeze is now less than 48 hours away as it goes into effect after 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. Fletcher has shown signs of wanting to make a move, and there have been reports that he has been active, so the changes could keep coming for the Flyers.
A coaching change should get the Flyers going in the right direction — hell, they can’t get much worse — but bringing in reinforcements would help them even more. Among the items on the wish list are a legitimate top-nine forward, a veteran top-four defenseman and a goalie — unless Hart proves that he really is ready.
Keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground; there is chaos surrounding the Flyers once again.