Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher preached aggression at his end-of-season press conference
For Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, “aggressive retooling” means “being aggressive in all areas.”
That was his plan for the 2022 offseason when he last spoke to the state of the franchise on Jan. 26. Even though the Flyers have gone 11-23-2 since, Fletcher’s plans haven’t changed. In fact, he said they had already started as he tried to help the team bounce back from a season he called “beyond unacceptable”.
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Fletcher pointed out how the team moved three veterans in Claude Giroux, Justin Braun and Derick Brassard at the trade deadline. In return, they got a handful of picks, including a future first-round pick and two third-round picks in 2023, as well as 23-year-old winger Owen Tippett. They also signed three of their college draft picks, Ronnie Attard, Bobby Brink and Noah Cates. The off-season will be approached in the continuity of this strategy.
“He’s aggressive in all phases,” Fletcher said. “We definitely need to rejuvenate. We have to become more talented. We have to go faster. And then we have to look aggressively at trades, free agency: Can we add some players to complement what we have here and make this team better?
When asked if the goal of this reorganization was to focus on winning now or building for the future, Fletcher replied, “A bit of both.” He compared it to the 2019 offseason, when the team hired Alain Vigneault as coach, signed center Kevin Hayes to a seven-year contract and acquired defensemen Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen, although he has recognized that the situations are different.
The main goals, Fletcher said, will be getting guys healthy, developing young players, fixing the power play and figuring out how to score more goals.
“Where are we going to spend the money?” Fletcher said. “Right now you can watch all areas of our team. But we have things coming that can fill in some of the gaps, and we’re going to have to make some smart decisions. »
Unlike the 2021 offseason where he wanted to bring in experienced leadership, Fletcher will focus on youngsters this year. He said the team’s age balance has changed since he joined. The Flyers had players on opposite ends of the spectrum, with many players approaching or over 30 and many players 23 and under.
Now they have fewer aging veterans and more players between the ages of 23 and 26. Fletcher specifically mentioned how 26-year-old Travis Sanheim and 25-year-old Travis Konecny made great strides and said they were “probably where they should be from a timing standpoint.”
Right behind them, Fletcher mentioned Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski, 24, as well as Morgan Frost, 22, and Cam York, 21. Despite the multiple injuries suffered by Allison and Laczynski as well as the injury that slowed Frost’s development, Fletcher expressed his confidence in each of them.
“The good thing is we should have a lot more depth in terms of young assets,” Fletcher said. “And that’s going to be a big difference next year where we hope to have more internal options.”
Goaltender Carter Hart isn’t often mentioned when the team’s young players are listed, but Fletcher pointed out that Hart is particularly young for a goaltender.
“He’s 23 and there aren’t a lot of 23-year-old goaltenders who are the No. 1 goaltenders in the National Hockey League right now, and yet he’s entering his fourth full professional season,” Fletcher said. . “Typically for goalkeepers, it’s at 25 or 26 that they really hit their peak.”
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Fletcher saw this season as a positive step in Hart’s development given he was coming off a tough 2020 season. Hart’s stats have been negatively affected by penalty struggles, Fletcher said, but he was good at five-for-five and is on the “right path”.
While Martin Jones “has done his job”, the Flyers will now have another goaltender competing for the backup position. Ivan Fedotov, who played in Russia, “took his time”. Fletcher said they hope to bring in Fedotov, although the current political situation in Ukraine complicates matters, and they expect him to be ready to compete immediately. Fedotov, 25, who backed the Russian Olympic Committee to a silver medal in Beijing, recently led CSKA Moscow to the KHL Gagarin Cup, posting a .937 save percentage and a goals-against average of 1.85 in 22 playoff games.
Questions have already been asked about the medical staff, Fletcher said, and he still has a lot to ask.
Fletcher said he “absolutely” plans to sit down with doctors, strength and conditioning coaches and medical staff to look at the whole structure of that part of the organization to see what they’re into. can invest and improve. He said they will bring analysis like they did for scouting.
“We’re going to get together and try to dig in and see what’s preventable and what’s been unlucky,” Fletcher said.
Several players have mentioned throughout the season and in Saturday’s exit interviews that they tried to come back too soon from injuries and ended up aggravating existing injuries.
One of those players was Ryan Ellis (78 games missed), who said Saturday his pelvic injury was “multi-layered” and the Flyers finally had a plan to get him back on the ice. Fletcher said he currently feels the best he has about Ellis’ return and that the process should allow the team to determine before the bulk of off-season activity begins whether Ellis will be back for the start of next season.
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Ellis’ return, along with Sean Couturier’s (53 games missed), will be huge because they’re not players you can replace easily in the offseason, Fletcher said, and their absences have a ripple effect. throughout the training. On the other hand, improving the health of young players like Laczynski, Allison and Tyson Foerster will help provide depth.
With regret, Fletcher announced that Samuel Morin’s playing days were over. His last knee injury left too much damage for Morin to return to. However, Fletcher plans to speak to Morin to see if he would like to stay with the organization in some capacity. … Fletcher said figuring out who the next captain will be is way down on his to-do list. … He said he couldn’t talk about Claude Giroux’s future since Giroux is a member of a Florida Panthers team that is still playing right now. … While revenue is a concern with declining ticket sales, Fletcher said winning is more important to focus on because success brings money.