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Career assists for Flyers captain Claude Giroux

After Allen Iverson didn’t show up for Sunday’s BIG3 event in Dallas, which comes two weeks after he didn’t play at the league’s event in Philadelphia, Eric Fisher expresses concern that Iverson is having difficulty handling the fact that, even in a 3-on-3 league for retired players, his days as a star player are over.

Darren Daulton, who spent 14 seasons with the Phillies, dies Sunday at age 55 after a four-year battle with brain cancer. Daulton, a tremendous leader and extremely popular player, won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997.

The whispers have already started after Nick Foles threw two interceptions in the Eagles’ preseason opener. Gordon Glantz says everyone should relax. Foles will be fine.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

Flyers fire Hakstol

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 17 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The writing wasn’t simply on the wall for Dave Hakstol. It was in big letters written across the sky — or, if you prefer, across the ice.

In a move that came as a surprise to nobody, the Flyers fired Hakstol as head coach on Monday. He has been replaced by Scott  Gordon, who was the Phantoms’ head coach.

When general manager Ron Hextall, the man who went out on a limb to hire Hakstol from the University of North Dakota, was fired several weeks ago, Hakstol was living on borrowed time. The Flyers gave Hakstol an opportunity to turn the Flyers’ fortunes around, but the same problems continued on a regular basis.

“Going on the road last week and having all that time to spend with them and watch the team, I came away tremendously impressed with Dave as a human being,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “But to my eyes, there was a disconnect to what he was preaching and how the players were playing. As the leader of the team, that responsibility falls on him. I felt at this point we needed a new voice.”

The road trip the Flyers returned from Sunday contained many of the problems they’ve experienced all season. The Flyers blew a late lead in an overtime loss to the Flames, then looked listless in losses to the Oilers and Canucks. If last Sunday’s loss to the Jets is included, the Flyers have played with little spirit three times during their current four-game losing streak.

The Flyers also continue to commit turnovers at an alarming rate. They are frequently out of position defensively and commit unnecessary penalties in the offensive zone.

If the young players were developing, Hakstol might have survived with a less-than-stellar record. But it seems as if young players such as Ivan Provorov and Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, are regressing instead of progressing. The same is true of the no-longer-so-young Shayne Gostisbehere, who has reverted to being a near-liability in the defensive zone.

As a first-time head coach, Hakstol didn’t seem to have any solutions for lifting the Flyers out of their downward spiral. He tried, but he failed. With so many things going wrong and the team headed in the wrong direction, there was no reason for the Flyers to keep Hakstol around.

Fletcher said Gordon will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

Flyers Notebook: Tough decisions for Fletcher

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 12 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

General manager Chuck Fletcher certainly has his work cut out for him. The Flyers may have prospects in the pipeline, but it’s clear from the comments of team president Paul Holmgren and CEO Dave Scott that there is some sense of urgency to improving the team on the ice.

One area badly in need of an upgrade is goaltending. It’s clear that former general manager Ron Hextall made a mistake by counting on the veteran tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both of whom were coming off surgeries. Neither has stayed healthy, forcing the team to cycle through Alex Lyon, Calvin Pickard and Anthony Stolarz in addition to Elliott and Neuvirth. It’s ridiculous that the Flyers used five starting goalies before one-third of the season was completed.

For now, Stolarz, who hadn’t appeared in an NHL game since the 2016-17 season, is the default choice as the starter. Neuvirth squandered an opportunity Sunday by allowing three goals on 10 shots in his second game of the season.

A tandem of Elliott and Stolarz could get the Flyers through the rest of the season, but Fletcher should certainly have his eye out for a veteran upgrade. The Flyers don’t need a long-term solution in goal. They have Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom waiting in the wings. But they need a reliable bridge to Hart, who is adjusting to the professional game with the Phantoms.

Goaltending isn’t Fletcher’s only concern. The defense has been shoddy this season. However, you’re not going to replace Shayne Gostisbehere or Ivan Provorov in the lineup. Hextall signed Christian Folin last summer, but he’s been replaced in the lineup lately by Andrew MacDonald.

Speaking of defense, Fletcher needs to re-sign defenseman Ivan Provorov, whose contract expires after this season. Provorov and fellow defenseman Travis Sanheim, as well as forwards Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton can become restricted free agents after this season. The Flyers probably want to keep all of those players.

The same isn’t true of their unrestricted free agents. Neuvirth will be allowed to leave, as will Elliott unless he signs a very team-friendly new contract. The Flyers will probably allow veteran center Jori Lehtera to leave. Forward Jordan Weal may also be allowed to walk away if he doesn’t show the Flyers more than they’ve seen from him thus far. Center Philip Varone is being given an opportunity now to demonstrate that he belongs. Folin isn’t expensive, but he needs to give the Flyers a reason to keep him around.

Fletcher’s more difficult contract decisions concern forwards Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl. The versatile Raffl can play up and down the lineup, from the first line to the fourth line. At age 30, Raffle isn’t particularly expensive ($2.35 million per season). If they’re not going to re-sign him the Flyers might consider moving Raffl before the trade deadline.

The biggest fish, though, is Simmonds. He is a heart-and-soul player. Fans saw that recently when, after a poor start by the Flyers, Simmonds challenged huge Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to a fight, providing a spark for the Flyers’ comeback victory. Although he only has two power play goals this season, Simmonds is tied for second on the team with 10 goals (entering Wednesday’s game with the Flames). The question is how much the Flyers want to pay Simmonds, and for how long.

Simmonds, 30, is making $3.975 million this season. With the Flyers’ lack of scoring depth, it’s difficult to let a guy who can score 30 goals leave. Simmonds’ production, as well as his toughness, will be difficult to replace. On the other hand, Simmonds is an average player at even-strength, especially when the puck isn’t in the offensive zone. His plus-minus rating is minus-7 this season.

The problem is if the Flyers aren’t going to be able to re-sign Simmonds, they should trade him to get something in return rather than let him walk away during the summer for nothing. Trading a popular player, both with fans and his teammates, would be a difficult move for Fletcher, but, if that’s what he thinks he needs to do to improve the team, he should do it.

*****

HEXTALL HURTING: Watching Ron Hextall speak to the media a few days after being fired, it was clear how much it hurt to be fired by the franchise that he cares so much about. Hextall is one of those individuals who will always identify as a Flyer.

Although it’s understandable to feel badly for Hextall, who said he was blindsided by the firing, perhaps one reason that Hextall was caught by surprise by the firing was because he was out of touch with the rest of the organization. Some of the comments after Hextall was fired, both from team president Paul Holmgren, who described Hextall as “unyielding,” to anonymous quotes about Hextall’s relations with the rest of the organization, strongly suggest that how Hextall was doing his job was also a factor in his dismissal.

You can shut out other members of the organization and do your own thing when you’re winning. When you’re not winning, though, you’re not insulated from all the other things that people are willing to look the other way about when you’re winning.

The bottom line is that the Flyers weren’t winning enough for Hextall to be on less-than-good terms with other members of the organization.

*****

MURPHY’S LAW: One of the first casualties after Ron Hextall was fired was assistant coach Gord Murphy. The swiftness with which Murphy was dismissed, and with Paul Holmgren’s comments making it clear that this move was made at the behest of head coach Dave Hakstol, indicates that perhaps Hakstol and Murphy weren’t on the same page.

Murphy was in charge of the defense, which has struggled this season. Before we blame Murphy for defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov regressing this season, however, we must remember that Murphy was also an assistant coach when they were playing well. But if Hakstol, with his job on the line, wanted a different assistant coach running the defense, he deserves that consideration.

*****

SANHEIM BREAKS THE ICE: Travis Sanheim has displayed flashes of being a contributor on offense, but he was scoreless until scoring twice in a span of 2 minutes, 5 seconds during the third period last Thursday against the Blue Jackets to force overtime.

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SOPHOMORE BLUES: Second-year center Nolan Patrick, the second overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, hasn’t progressed as well as hoped. Patrick has one assists in his last 11 games (entering Wednesday’s game against the Flames). Patrick’s lack of production is one reason that head coach Dave Hakstol is putting Claude Giroux back at center, which move Sean Couturier to the second line, dropping Patrick to the third line.

Patrick is only 20 years old, but five goals and five assists through 25 games isn’t going to cut it for the second overall pick in the draft.

*****

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: James van Riemsdyk was supposed to boost the power play and add to the Flyers’ scoring depth when he was signed to a five-year, $35 million contract as a free agent. To be fair to JVR, he’s been hindered by injuries, but the Flyers expected more than two goals and four assists in 12 games when they signed him last summer.

*****

TRIPPING: The Flyers started their five-game road trip with an impressive 6-2 victory over the Sabres before getting blown out, 7-1, by the Jets one day later. They’ll wrap up the trip with a Western Canadian swing that takes them to Calgary on Wednesday (8:30 p.m.), Edmonton on Friday (9 p.m.) and Vancouver on Saturday (10 p.m.). The Flyers will begin a three-game homestand next Tuesday (7 p.m.) against the Red Wings.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal