That’s all the Flyers have at this moment to get their team, locker room, and hockey-playing style fixed.
Things are pretty stressful in the Flyers organization right now. They were before the game Saturday and it’s no different now that they got their doors blown off on home ice by the New York Islanders by a score of 6-1.
This is the same New York Islanders team whose leading goal scorer coming into the game against the Flyers was Val Filppula.
Yeah, that’s how bad it’s gotten for the Flyers.
Ron Hextall doesn’t usually have very many visitors to his general manager’s box.
On Monday night it was former GM Bob Clarke, who made a visit. He watched the game with Hextall, and then had a serious chat with him afterwards, before saying goodbye and telling Hextall he’d see him in a couple weeks.
Then today, before the games against the Isles, Hextall was visited by Dave Scott, CEO of Comcast Spectacor, the parent company of the Flyers.
He’s been pretty quiet for a long time, giving Hextall a lot of latitude in running the hockey organization.
But by dropping into the GM’s box, and being certain to be seen by the media, it could be a hint that the slack he’s been cutting is suddenly going to shorten up.
Maybe it’s the slow drip of dwindling patrons that bothers Scott. Although most Flyers tickets are sold, there are an inordinate number of empty seats on game days. That means either people have tickets and are opting not to use them, or they were purchased by brokers and the inventory can’t be moved.
Either way, it’s an indication that the public is starting to become a bit apathetic about the hockey team.
And why not? They are 4-7-0. They have have yet to win consecutive games this season. A lot of the same problems that have plagued them in the previous three seasons of the Hextall/Dave Hakstol tenure continue to rear their ugly heads.
But perhaps most damning is the fact that they are not good in their own building. They have been outscored 26-15 in six games so far at Wells Fargo Center and are 2-4-0 at home. And they tried to give away one of their two wins, but were able to pull out a shootout win over Florida after coughing up a three-goal lead.
Not even Gritty can provide enough equity for the organization to quell the mix of apathy and anger that exists within the Flyers fan base.
The “Fire Hakstol” chants at the Wells Fargo Center are now as frequent as the E-A-G-L-E-S ones emanating from the mezzanine level.
Fans, who used to bring signs to the game to put on the glass for warmups telling the players how much they love them have resorted to this:
Spotted 👀 pic.twitter.com/YIXyv7v0EX
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 27, 2018
Scott had to take notice. Had to.
Something has to be done. Has to.
Because if this goes on much further without course correcting, this season will be over before Midterm Election results come in.
“I don’t think anybody is happy,” said Ivan Provorov, who actually looked like his old self against the Islanders, which is one of only a couple small positives to take from this game. “We have to play better and we have to figure out soon what the hell is going on.”
What the hell is going on is a team is playing hockey without much confidence in themselves individually, in each other and in the structure of their system.
Every player is basically admitting it at this point.
“I’m not sure what to say, but we can’t give up, said Scott Laughton. “On the bench you gotta stay positive, keep encouraging guys and it’s only these guys in here that’s gonna get us out of it. No one’s gonna feel sorry for us and we’re under 500 whatever, but it’s the group in here that’s gonna get us out of us, everyone’s gotta take a deep breath, look in the mirror and see what you got to do better and go to work and that’s what we’re going to have to do here to get out of this.”
The captain was pretty candid too. Here’s my exchange with him after the game:
Me: I know it’s frustrating that the same things kind of hurt you guys game after game after game, how do you stop the snowball from rolling downhill?
G: Start doing the little things right, start playing as a team, instead of one guy doing everything or trying to make an extra play. We need 5 guys to be on the same page here.
Me: What do you think is the reason why you guys don’t start out on the same page? You say that so obviously that’s happening, but why?
G: I think when you want too much sometimes, you press a little harder, get away from what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re just pressing. I really feel like we’re pressing right now we’re just tired of losing so we’re trying to do everything we can to make something happen, but sometimes it’s not always the right thing.
Me: Does going away on this trip, kind of come at the right time considering that? You think back last year you guys went through a tough time and then you went on that trip out west you were able to right the ship because you were able to get away from home. Do you think that that’s…..?
G: I think when you go on the road for a long time with your teammates you get a little closer and that’s what we need right now. We need to get closer as a team, we need to go out there and play for each other and this road trip is going to be very important for our season.
I rambled forever on that last question, as those of you who actually watched the post game show could probably see because NBCSports Philly had a camera in our faces during that exchange, but Giroux said a lot. Lots unpack it:
1. “… start playing as a team, instead of one guy doing everything or trying to make an extra play. We need five guys to be on the same page here.”
That means there is a lock of cohesiveness on this team. Everyone is out there playing as individuals in a team game. That’ll never work in hockey. I doubt that’s they system, so that mentality is not on the coaches, but the players themselves. They need to keep their eyes on the big picture and not try to play the part of superhero. Sometimes the simple play is the easiest play. I’ll show you a couple examples:
The Philadelphia Flyers in their own zone are a high school JV team. It's just disgusting to watch. Shit play by Sanheim. Shit awareness by Gudas. Puck ends up in the back of the net just a few seconds later. pic.twitter.com/vKvJsNsQ7n
— Jordie 🔵 (@BarstoolJordie) October 27, 2018
The first video does show Christian Folin doing nothing. That’s not as egregious as what he did later (hang tight, that’s coming). But the second video shows a real awful play by Travis Sanheim. He has an easy out up the wall and chooses to inexplicably reverse the puck to Radko Gudas, who isn’t expecting it. The Islanders then get control of the puck and…
And once again, the Flyers find themselves down 1-0. pic.twitter.com/5HF0F0nMWi
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) October 27, 2018
That would make 10 times in 11 games they got behind 1-0. That’s unconscionable. But, it’s Sanheim’s mistake – and it’s something that still haunts him, no matter what his analytics say.
I know, I’m too hard on the kid, right?
Let’s see what a former NHL defenseman has to say about it:
1-0 Isles. Poor clear by @NHLFlyers d. The play to make was forward not a reverse to partner! Turnovers KILL in any sport
— Chris Therien (@ctherien6) October 27, 2018
And that’s a team employee folks.
Then of course, there’s this:
Get Christian Folin off the ice. Fire Hakstol. Enough is enough. https://t.co/pSjLHaMwBL
— Marc Procopio (@Brocopio26) October 27, 2018
That’s Folin darting across the ice, abandoning his position to make a lame check, allowing the Islanders to come out on a 2-on-1 and ultimately score the goal.
When Provorov says “what the hell is going on,” I’m betting he’s talking about this play.
5-1. So how is everyone's Saturday? pic.twitter.com/DSxpKiroMY
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) October 27, 2018
There are times to slide and times not to slide. This was definitely not the right choice – and not just because it resulted in a goal. Sanheim isn’t alone on defense. He’s not sliding to take away the pass on an odd man rush. He’s… sliding for no reason.
Andrew MacDonald has done this at times too (At times he’s criticized, even if it was the right play). You can’t take yourself out of a play and leave the opponent with the puck a clear path toward the shooter.
These kinds of mistakes are examples of what Giroux is saying about not everyone being on the same page.
2. “I really feel like we’re pressing right now we’re just tired of losing so we’re trying to do everything we can to make something happen, but sometimes it’s not always the right thing.”
The three videos above could qualify for here too, but I want to use this to talk about the special teams, because that’s really where they’re pressing.
The Flyers power play has fallen to 24th in the NHL and is clicking at just 15%. That’s been buoyed by a recent stretch in which they have gone 1-for-20.
And that one was scored by Travis Konecny on the second power play unit.
To find the last one scored by the top unit, you have to go back to Claude Giroux scoring in Ottawa. That means the Flyers’ top power play unit, long the lifeblood of their offense, has now gone seven straight games without a goal.
They seem a little stale too… trying the same plays over and over again. They need a new look. Something else. Change it up.
As for the penalty kill, well…
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) October 27, 2018
Jori Lehtera is on the ice somewhere supposedly killing this penalty too. But my goodness are they all out of position. Provorov got caught on the wall. Laughton and Lehtera (wherever he is) are way too high, and Gudas goes down to block a potential shot way too soon.
The PK is now at 67.5%, 30th in the NHL.
It’s embarrassing. It really is.
3. “This road trip is going to be very important for our season.”
Yes G, yes it is.
Because if it’s not fixed, something is going to happen.
There are some grumblings within the organization that these four games are all the Flyers have left in the patience tank.
If these issues aren’t corrected, Dave Hakstol’s job could be on the line. (His odds of being the first coach fired in the NHL this season according to Bovada are 15/2 and falling – that’s the sixth-most likely at this point).
And don’t think the coach doesn’t notice this. He’s been more forthcoming with issues on the team of late.
He even targeted Mikhail Vorobyev, who got back into the lineup Saturday and didn’t show he belonged:
“Well, we’re down in a game and looking for guys who are gonna go out and try help us get back into it and I wasn’t confident that he was going to be able to do that. That’s nothing against, he’s a young guy, he’s been out of the lineup, it can be hard to come in and be really sharp and make some of the plays that we need to have made. You can always bring energy, you can always bring intensity, and you can always bring effort and that’s what’s expected.”
I expect Vorobyev to be returned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms post haste. Even with Corban Knight having an upper body injury that’s going to keep him out a while, I expect Hextall to call on not one, but two forward reinforcements from the minors. (Nick Aube-Kubel anyone? Maybe Taylor Leier?)
If these issues aren’t corrected, a major trade could happen – and you want to know who’s the prime choice there? Jake Voracek. It would send a message, the Flyers would get some return and also be able to remove a big salary from their Cap. Not that they are in danger with the cap, but more flexibility is never a bad thing.
And could Hextall himself be in trouble? Yes, yes he could.
After all, the visitors to your GM’s box weren’t coming in to bring you flowers.