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Is Chuck Fletcher’s job actually in danger?

Or as The Lovin’ Spoonful wrote, do you believe in magic?

Los Angeles Kings v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Claude Giroux was traded to the Florida Panthers on March 19, 2022. It was a difficult day for fans, but the trade would have been much more gut-wrenching if no one had expected it. In reality, we were prepared for the move long before it happened. When was the first time you heard a rumor about G’s impending departure? February? January? As early as December when Alain Vigneault was fired and the downward trajectory of the season was preordained?

In hindsight, the trade wasn’t a necessity. One could validly ask whether it served any purpose. Of course, it mercifully allowed Giroux to move to a team with an actual chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but did the Flyers derive any benefit? Did the trade open up cap space? Did it boost the current lineup? Are we truly enthusiastic about next summer’s third round pick? The trade was arguably pointless, yet at the time, it seemed inevitable. Recall Giroux’s 1,000th game: a game that was incredibly emotional (I cried), not because it was his 1,000th game, but because it was his last game. Technically, no one outside the organization knew that Giroux would be traded, yet somehow, everyone outside the organization “knew” that he would be traded.

The rumor mill has a unique way of speaking things into existence. It’s an odd phenomenon not rooted in leaks or insiders, but instead generated by speculation and loud voices. There’s a strange correlation between the attention a situation receives and the inevitability of its outcome. I’ll be the first to admit that the Kevin Hayes “buyout” rumors have me on the edge of my seat.

A month ago, it seemed like Chuck Fletcher would man his throne ad infinitum, despite his complete ineptitude and inability to do the job—granted, it’s a job that can sometimes be “too difficult.” Now, however, there are rumblings that the Buzz Lightyear of General Managers might not survive the next two weeks. Who started these rumors? Are they substantiated? No one knows. But you’ve heard them, haven’t you?

Obviously, it’s absurd that Fletcher made it this far. By the numbers, Fletcher has led the Flyers to a 102-107-33 record since his first full season, and he created the current $86.4 million daily cap hit with some of the most disliked and/or useless players in the league. For comparison, Fletcher’s record with the Flyers is worse (MUCH WORSE) than his 399-298-89 record with the Minnesota Wild, and the current cap hit is the second-highest in the Metropolitan Division (behind only the Washington Capitals at $92.1 million).

No one thinks that Fletcher is actually doing a good job, and no one thinks that Fletcher will turn this ship around to produce a Cup-winning team anytime in the near future. He’s also not the most popular individual on Twitter.

The most optimistic perspective of Fletcher’s tenure sounds something like this: “Everything is bad. In fact, it’s the worst era of Flyers hockey in recent history. But the team might be more competitive if it wasn’t plagued by injuries.” This perspective is shared by Dave Scott who once defended Fletcher, saying things like, “I like the way he’s built this organization,” “Injuries happen,” and “I think he deserves a shot to really right this thing. I’m going to give him a blank check. We’re going to get this right, whatever we need to do.”

Scott makes a fair, yet totally irrelevant, point. In what other multimillion dollar industry can someone remain employed because they’re “not that bad” or because they “might be better one day?” For Fletcher, it must be nice to have an employer that shifts his goalposts every time he shanks a kick. That is, instead of providing a sensible argument for why Fletcher is good at his job, the front office wants the fan base to believe that Fletcher is not bad at his job. Instead of purporting that Fletcher can create a championship-caliber hockey team, the front office asks for your patience because the team could be better under different circumstances. There’s simply no good reason for Fletcher to stay.

Thus, we once again arrive at Public Opinion and the infamous Rumor Mill. As a general rule, when there is little support for one theory, little opposition is needed to dethrone it with another. The Flyers could have (and probably should have) kept Claude Giroux, but the emotional dumpster fire of the 2021-22 season produced unassailable rumors of his trade. Point-per-game player Kevin Hayes has proved to be one of the only stable pieces of this roster, but John Tortorella’s seemingly irrational decision to scratch him almost immediately gave rise to compelling rumors of a buyout. And here, Chuck Fletcher’s long line of irredeemable contract decisions created one of the worst Flyers’ teams in history and incited whispers** of his potential termination.

There’s no way to truly know Fletcher’s fate, but if you read the tea leaves, hold a finger to the wind, and/or eat a fortune cookie, he might not be around much longer.

** By “whispers” I am referring to 10,000 fans harmoniously screaming “Fire Fletcher” during home games in the Wells Fargo Center.

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