What a weekend! We are now 20 days since Ron Hextall was fired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, and 13 from Chuck Fletcher taking over that role. We have been waiting for the final shoe to drop and it appears we won’t have to wait much longer. I am, of course, talking about replacing Dave Hakstol behind the bench. Right now things are chaos and there are conflicting reports, so I want to break down what we know, what we think we know, and what will happen next.
What we know
The Flyers have not been good enough. Since Hextall left, they have gone 2-5-1, 12-15-4 on the season, and currently sit in the bottom of the Metropolitan division. Their penalty kill is ranked last in the league, power play is ranked bottom three — this is not good enough. A change has to be made. Fletcher joined the team for the majority of the trip with an eye on the team and the coaching staff.
I was told by a trusted source on Friday that Hakstol needed to win two of three games last week to save his job, but it was pretty clear that the writing was on the wall after the full team disintegration in Calgary. The belief at the time was that really management was looking for an excuse to bring in Joel Quenneville. Why Quenneville? Well, he is a future Hall of Famer with a track record of success. He also has a family connection to Fletcher, as Fletcher’s father, Cliff Fletcher, once hired Quenneville as an assistant coach at the AHL level.
What we think we know
Let me be clear, I trust my source. But things change very quickly in this industry and we are dealing with human beings.
I was told Saturday morning that Hakstol was not going to remain the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers after the road trip. I was also told that Fletcher was truly aiming to make trades before the roster freeze and move some veterans.
I have been told that since Quenneville was fired in early November that upper management was targeting him, and this was reiterated to me on Saturday. On Sunday, after other outlets began repeating what I had tweeted, my source told me that there was no change in the plan. Hakstol will not be the coach for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. Quenneville will be the next coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. Fletcher is active on the phones trying to make trades before the roster freeze.
Let me repeat, nothing has changed. This is still the plan. Quenneville will be the coach of the Flyers before 2019.
So, what now?
Well, we don’t think Hakstol has been officially fired at this point. Quite honestly, this is unfair to him. I have my issues with Dave Hakstol the hockey coach, but as a person I rather like him. He was at least given some type of warning that this was going to happen earlier this weekend, I believe this to be true. But there has been no official word from the team; in fact, they are denying it. This isn’t fair to him or his family.
I understand why it is happening this way. This organization went hard on the Ron Hextall Was Mean To Us angle, and they want to treat the next move with kid gloves. They want to leave Hakstol with as much dignity as possible, complete with an official press release.
The hold up is that the turnaround is too quick for Quenneville to arrive and coach by Tuesday, and the team doesn’t want to fire Hakstol without a plan in place. So who will it be in the interim? There are a lot of decent options — Rick Wilson, Scott Gordon, Kris Knoblauch — and a decision hasn’t been made yet. Personally, I believe it will be Wilson, but that is only my opinion.
So, about that practice Monday. I don’t know about you, but to me this statement from Flyers PR sounds highly suspicious:
The Flyers will have an off-ice work-out tomorrow at noon (Voorhees) and once they are done they will practice on-ice. We don’t know how long off-ice work-out will be.
I will be looking for an official announcement tomorrow around noon.
And that brings us to Quenneville. He has not signed a contract yet. Obviously this needs to happen after Hakstol has been relieved of his coaching duties. Right now, there is no coaching vacancy. So of course Quenneville is denying that he has agreed to anything — he hasn’t.
There is a lot of speculation and there are a lot of moving pieces, but I am confident that at least by this time next week we will at least be able to cross #FireHakstol off of our Christmas wish lists.