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Someone has to say it.
It’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness to be honest, and now someone needs to just come out in public and put the words on the table and flip the sand timer over.
The Flyers need a change.
And I’m not just talking about a nominal change like calling up the speedy Danick Martel to add a little juice to the offense, I mean something big. Something impactful. Something that would grab headlines.
It could be a big trade, but with the roster already one of the youngest in the NHL, that wouldn’t make much sense.
So, maybe the organization needs to look elsewhere. Maybe it needs to look at the coach.
And I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
Even the players are starting to subtly suggest that they are in a stagnant pattern of systemic hell that is stunting growth of such a young team rather than fostering it.
Brian Elliott has been around the sport for a long time, so when he, as one of the team’s elder statesmen says something that can be interpreted as a warning shot across the coach’s bow, then maybe someone higher up needs to take notice.
So here, Ron Hextall, I will serve up his comment for you on a platter to do with it as you will:
“It’s the definition of insanity when you keep doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve got to change some things and we’ve got to talk about it, because these are big points and they can come back and hurt us.”
Now, he said that in response to a question about poor play in overtime – which bit the Flyers in the back side again yesterday for their seventh straight loss, but Elliott’s feelings – which are shared by others in the room by the way – aren’t just specific to overtime.
You don’t lose seven straight games because of one repeated problem in overtime. The problem runs far deeper than that.
Although there is the coach trying to put a happy spin on the same recurring problems after every loss.
“I think it’s seven out of our last 10 that we’ve gotten at least a point,” Dave Hakstol said. “Five of those are OT or shootout losses. So again today it was a close hockey game all the way through.”
Did this guy seriously just try to spin a seven game losing streak into the positive of garnering points in seven of the last 10 games?
I jokingly said this BEFORE THE FLYERS EVEN LOST YESTERDAY:
So, if the Flyers lose this one, and make it seven straight, I wonder if Hakstol will remind us they have earned points in four-of-five?
— Anthony SanFilippo (@AntSanPhilly) November 24, 2017
And then he did. I couldn’t believe it.
I can’t believe he did it… but he did. Hakstol said they have points in 7 of 10. He’s Nero. He really is.
— Anthony SanFilippo (@AntSanPhilly) November 25, 2017
And why, even though it’s factually correct, can you not go to this well coach? I’ll give you a list after the jump:
OK coach. Here’s why that “points in 7 of 10” doesn’t fly with anyone:
- Your team is in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
- You have played 23 games and have only won consecutive games once.
- You have blown a two-goal lead four times this season.
- You’ve been shutout five times this season.
- You’ve only won eight games. Only two teams have less – Buffalo and Arizona. and the Coyotes beat you head-to-head, for what it’s worth.
- The Power Play is mediocre – ranking in the bottom half of the league at 18.9% (17th)
- The Penalty Kill is dreadful – it’s still 28th in the league, but the percentage went down again yesterday to 74.7%.
- Your top line excluded, the other skaters on your team have combined to only score 35 goals in 23 games.
Maybe Hakstol recognizes it himself and is trying to go into spin control mode as an effort to save his own hide – which is why he says ridiculous things like they have seven points in the last 10 games.
But even if that’s the case, it’s only window dressing because he hasn’t been able to solve the real problem.
So what’s the real problem?
The problem is this team is not well-coached for the NHL game. There are far too many odd-man rushes – Wayne Simmonds lamented that following the loss to Vancouver on Tuesday. And he wasn’t just talking about 2-on-1s… he went so far as to say there are too many 4-on-3s.
That means that it’s the system that is allowing forwards to get caught deep. It’s a system where defensemen don’t know the right time to pinch. It’s a system where forwards don’t have the time necessary to get back and help.
It’s a system that is broken.
All the flash and speed the Flyers showed with a hot start is now missing. Hakstol was a one-trick pony this season. He had a great idea to start the season, it worked for awhile, but then the league caught on to what the Flyers were doing and adjusted… and the Flyers haven’t adjusted back.
Yeah, they’re still getting their shots, so their advanced stats don’t look terrible, but the problem is, the Flyers are too small and trying to play a possession-oriented game.
This is a two-fold issue. This one falls on the coach for not instituting a system that befits his roster but it also falls on the General Manager for putting together a team that is too small (they are the third-smallest team in the NHL).
This isn’t asking for a return to the old days when they were big, plodding, bruising players – that doesn’t work in today’s NHL at all.
But, another of Simmonds’ laments has been that guys aren’t getting in front of the net. They aren’t going into the greasy areas to get loose pucks and score goals. Heck, most goals are scored in and around the net. Aside from Simmonds and Sean Couturier, who’s going there? Nobody.
Some of that might be on the players for an unwillingness to go there, but the rest of it is on the coach. He has to motivate and instruct his players to get there.
And if he is, and they aren’t listening, then it might be time for a different voice.
Ask yourself, have young players progressed at all under Hakstol’s guidance?
Shayne Gostisbehere has taken a step backward. Travis Konecny can’t seem to break through. Nolan Patrick looks a little lost (although his sample size is small). Travis Sanheim shows flashes, but also looks uncertain at times. Jordan Weal has been a disappointment. I can go on and on.
It’s likely that whatever message he’s touting is not getting through.
Look, the Flyers are competitive. They may have lost 15 of 23 games this season, but with the exception of a couple, they could have just as easily won about a dozen of their losses.
So, they aren’t the worst team in the NHL.
But they are a team that looks the same year-after-year under Hakstol. And while GMs are usually given a longer window than three years to shape a team, coaches are not.
NHL coaches have been fired for a lot less than the product we are seeing on the ice from the Flyers right now, who haven’t lost this many games in a row since 2007-08.
And yes, there is an argument to be made that these Flyers are rebuilding and patience should be had much like it was for the 76ers.
But there was no talk of rebuild here. Hextall has said that he has thought he had a playoff team before each of the past three seasons.
If he had come out and said, “Hey, we’re rebuilding and this is going to take time,” we’d be having a different conversation right now.
But his expectation was for better. And it’s just not happening.
A change is needed. Soon.