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Add Sanheim to the list of Fletcher’s failures

At what point is enough enough?

NHL: FEB 21 Flyers at Oilers Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I think I was 10 when I was the envy of my block because of Jeff Bagwell.

Really, it was because of the burly slugger’s baseball card. It was holographic and a part of some “Killer Bs” set. While I’m starting to feel like there wasn’t much going on in my prepubescent upbringing in Northeast Philly, it must have been pretty cool if I still remember this card. I fielded trade offers every day over the summer of 2000.

Eventually Shawn Curtis convinced me with a package of five cards. I don’t remember any of them. I regretted it by the time I went to sleep that night. I don’t know if I ever traded baseball cards again.

As far as I’m concerned, I had a zero-percent success rate. I didn’t trust myself to make another deal.

So this makes me wonder, why do the Flyers still trust Chuck Fletcher?

While it is fair to credit Fletcher for rounding out a competitive roster in 2019-20, his performance since the Covid shutdown isn’t much better than my zero-percent success rate. He’s basically personified the antithesis of King Midas.

From Erik Gustafsson, to Ryan Ellis, to Rasmus Ristolainen, to Cam Atkinson, to Tony DeAngelo, every addition to improve this team has busted.

Sean Couturier hasn’t played a game of his eight-year deal yet due to injury. Rasmus Ristolainen was a healthy scratch in the first season of a five-year deal. Monday in Calgary, Joel Farabee, in the first of a six-year pact, barely played and Travis Sanheim, who begins his eight-year extension next year, was a healthy scratch.

I’m not sure if it’s being positive or negative to say there is plenty of time for these players to turn it around over the lifespan of their deals. Sanheim shouldn’t be the face of Fletcher’s shortcomings. He’s proven to be a good player over the course of his career, even if he’s having a down season. But he is another long-term investment that looks regrettable, just four months into a deal that’ll end in almost a decade.

Really, the problem is that Sanheim isn’t alone. Fletcher has already signed or acquired more than $40 million against the 2025-26 roster. He’s continued to add to and invest in this team, which is currently toiling in seventh place in the Metro.

He thought he could push this group into contention. He was wrong. And now every move he makes could make a rebuild (retool, turnaround, whatever they want to brand it) more difficult. He’ll probably make another move or two next week before the deadline, but he hasn’t earned those decisions.

I can appreciate that, unlike his predecessor, Fletcher took some swings in his tenure, but he and his teams failed. Each subsequent move feels like it is another shovel full of dirt digging a bigger hole. This is the third straight year of spending to the cap, finishing well outside the playoffs, and watching future resources like cap space and draft picks vanish.

This is on ownership. This organization lacks urgency. When will this ownership group believe Fletcher and hockey ops have failed to the point of justifying a change? Is a bad and hopeless team not enough? Could the city become more apathetic toward this team? It feels like the only reason Fletcher even gets more opportunities to fix his mess is because ownership hung a “gone ice fishing” sign and decided to deal with this later. Allowing Fletcher to continue to make decisions is an admission that the organization believes he is capable of fixing this mess, which he clearly hasn’t proven, or allowing a lame-duck general manager that built this disappointment continue to impact the future. Regardless, it’s inexcusable.

I knew I should step back after dealing Bagwell. I wish the Flyers were as proactive after Fletcher’s last few years of moves.