With 20 games in the books and the Flyers underperforming to a pretty spectacular degree, Chuck Fletcher met with the media this afternoon to field questions and discuss the state of the team. It went, well, pretty much how you might expect any somewhat regularly scheduled presser from the GM to go, but there are some things worth digging into, so we’re here to do that.
First, some injury updates, odds and ends:
- Kevin Hayes has made “tremendous progress” and may be ready to return as soon as tomorrow
- Ryan Ellis was advised to take a week off but will resume rehabbing next week. He’s still week-to-week
- Derrick Brassard is dealing with a hip issue, but they’re hoping he’s more day-to-day than week-to-week
- Nate Thompson had shoulder surgery today. No timeline just yet but he’ll be out a while
- Patrick Brown will meet with a hand specialist tomorrow, will be able to resume skating, and they’re hopeful he can play again sometime next week
- Wade Allison is skating hard with the Phantoms and is a possibility to play this weekend
- Cam York is in COVID protocols with the Phantoms, but he should be able to start skating again this weekend
- Zayde Wisdom is only eligible to play with Kingston this season, but he should be back to skating/playing with them in the next week or so
- Tyson Foerster had shoulder surgery (now it should be stronger than ever though) and will be out for several months, but they’re hopeful he’ll be able to get in for a few games with the Phantoms at the end of the season
Whew, okay, that’s all we’ve got. Now let’s dig into the meat of this presser.
The immediately noticeable vibe from this presser was that of frustration. Fletcher voiced it and made clear that it’s being felt all throughout the organization, and he wasn’t going to sit there and pretend that everything was fine and they were just getting unlucky and a fix would be easy if they just waited for their luck to turn again. It’s not good enough, what they’re doing, and he acknowledges that. And that’s a decent start.
"We're working on some systemic things to change how we play a little bit, changing the lines around trying to find different chemistry. It's a process" - Chuck Fletcher— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 30, 2021
And more good news is that there are some changes that they’re working on, particularly to the systems, and that feels like good news. Because just shuffling the lines and waiting for the players to execute the game plan that isn’t working, well, hasn’t been working, and they players need to be met halfway. As Fletcher said, everyone needs to be better—himself, the coaches, the players—and it seems that they’re giving everyone the space to do that.
But for how aggressive he was in the off-season, something Chuck Fletcher is focusing on right now is patience. And it’s understandable to a degree—he said before looking at making any big moves, he’s like to see what they have here first, which has been a real struggle for them given how many injuries have piled up. He followed that up with a note that he’s always talking to other teams, so the door for an external move technically remains open, but the emphasis seems to be on improving from within, primarily.
"It's been 7 years, it's something that goes above and beyond coaching" - Chuck Fletcher about the power play, he continues to say he believes it is a personnel issue and he has tried to address it in the draft.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 30, 2021
One of the more interesting bits came when Fletcher was asked specifically about the power play, and in his faith in the coaching staff’s ability to get it back on track, given this historic failure to do so. And he was a bit defensive of his staff. More than a coaching issue, he pointed to it being a personnel issue—he sees it as them lacking a player who has a natural knack for scoring at the flank, and it’s something that he’s tried to address, but he sees that as an issue as to why the power play has failed this season, and has overall struggled to find real success since the 2015-26 season. It was telling of his mindset, and if we’re honest, a real dash to the hopes of the group who thought this press conference might be one to announce a coaching change. Sorry gang.
"We have good enough players and we have a good enough team" - Chuck Fletcher— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 30, 2021
But steering back to the big picture and main narrative arc, it’s back to improving from within. Because, while the personnel may not be perfect enough to really get it done on the power play, Fletcher notes that they are good enough to get this thing back on track. And he adds that with the dense upcoming schedule, “this is a massive week to get our house in order.” The big point is that there’s a lot of work to do and they have the pieces to do it, but we might ask, what happens if this losing streak extends to 10 games or more, and especially if it does so even with getting Hayes back in the lineup at some point. How much more wiggle room is the team given at that point? It’s not a question for us to answer, but it will be a difficult one for Fletcher to confront.
But let’s try to leave this on a more positive note. Fletcher also worked to assure everyone that no one’s checking out on this team and season already, noting that “doing this 30 years, you can see when players are frustrated and lack confidence. And you can see when players don’t believe. There’s a big difference. We still believe, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” Things are difficult right now, but no one’s packing it in. We’ll have to take him at his word here, but maybe we just want to on this one.