The Flyers have lost 9 straight games, and it isn’t pretty. Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss at home to the San Jose Sharks resulted in a heavy chant of “fire Hakstol” raining down from the stands. This has many fans asking the question; how bad will it need to get for GM Ron Hextall to pull the plug on head coach Dave Hakstol as the Flyers continue to make changes?
Ron Hextall stated after the game that he still believes the Flyers will be a playoff team. A bold statement made in the midst of one of the longest winless streaks in club history. It is still possible though, as the Flyers are only 6 points out of a playoff spot. Whether or not Hakstol will be here to lead the team is still the question.
Throughout his 2+ years as Flyers head coach, Hakstol has repeatedly made interesting lineup choices. Benching Shayne Gostisbehere and Michael Del Zotto in the past, or continuing to play Dale Weise and Brandon Manning in the present day have all been questionable decisions. Also, the seemingly stunted growth of guys like Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal can be attributed to some of the lineup decisions Hakstol has made. For a guy who was touted as being the college coach of Jonathan Toews and TJ Oshie, the growth of some of the Flyers youth has not been good.
Fans and media cannot blame everything on the head coach when things go bad, but firing a head coach in the NHL can light a flame under a team. There hasn’t been much dialogue about the players fighting for Hakstol to still be there, so there are questions about how committed the team is to the coach.With all of that said, there could be much deeper issues rooted in the organization.
The Flyers seem to struggle with obtaining necessary pieces to make a full quality team. When is the last time the Flyers had reliable secondary scoring? When was Jagr around? When an organization trades away someone like Brayden Schenn, a 25+ goal scorer, and replace him with a borderline healthy scratch in Jori Lehtera, it will not help you in the present day.
Hextall states that he believes the Flyers will make the playoffs this year, but when trades are made that acquire future draft picks and taking on bloated contracts (Lehtera, Valtteri Filppula), it seems to go against that philosophy. There is no guarantee that the 2 first round picks the Flyers got for Brayden Schenn will amount to anything. Hextall seems to be stuck in between mindsets of what he wants to do.
It is logical to attempt to make today’s team better while also thinking about the future, but the front office has to make moves that support that. Signing Dale Weise two years ago, and acquiring Filppula and Lehtera are curious decisions. The Flyers got lucky when they were able to draft Nolan Patrick, but he isn’t quite taking the league by storm.
All is not lost, and it is way too early in the season to say it is over. The immense maturation of Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov‘s game is a bright spot and may allow Dave Hakstol to keep his job. They will have to turn it around quick for him to have a chance. The future may be bright, but the present day isn’t in the same light. Time will tell if today’s dullness will catch up with the future’s sheen. There are more questions than answers in the 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers.
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Author: Alex Whitney (Twitter Handle: @awhitney23 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)