My good friend Frank Seravalli of TSN in Canada had three successive tweets during the Flyers embarrassing (again) 6-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night that were not only really accurate but also quite timely in my opinion:

Rather than dive into the terrible play and continued malaise of the fragile Flyers team after their latest blow out loss, I’d like to breakdown Frank’s tweets instead and try to piece together an assessment from them, because that’s far more interesting than writing the Flyers sucked for the umpteenth time in my 14 months here at Crossing Broad.

So, analysis after the jump:

1. “Five goalies in 23 games”

That’s almost unbelievable, but it’s not, because it’s the Flyers, who have had goaltending issues since the dawn of time.

The latest was Anthony Stolarz, who was pressed into action in the most dire of dire situations. Stolarz was pretty much the odd man out for the Flyers organization. With Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth slated as the NHL netminders and Carter Hart and Alex Lyon slated to man the space between the pipes for the Phantoms in the AHL, Stolarz was sort of the odd man out.

In fact, in his time with the Phantoms this year, he had only appeared in three games total, and only one game since Oct. 14.

The Flyers had so soured on Stolarz that they chose instead to claim Calvin Pickard off waivers rather than turn to Stolarz for a backup role when both Lyon and Neuvirth weren’t healthy at the start of the season.

But now, Elliott is hurt again (second time in seven months), Neuvirth is on injured reserve, which is as unsurprising as statement as there are still Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge three days later, and now Lyon has a minor lower-body injury.

This left the Flyers with Pickard and no one else available to back him up.

The Flyers weren’t about to call on Carter Hart, who can’t stop pucks in the AHL right now (3.61 GAA, .884 save percentage in 12 games) so, by default, Stolarz was all they had left.

Of course, he was just being recalled to hold a seat on the NHL bench and basically be an emergency goalie – no different than, say, Scott Foster. 

OK… maybe it’s a little different, after all, Stolarz is truly under contract. But, he was not expected to play. At all.

Pickard, who shut out the New York Rangers Friday was going to start again. And he was going to do it against the Leafs, who waived him for the Flyers to claim him.

No doubt Pickard was amped for the opportunity to stick it to his old team – especially coming off the emotional high of a shutout the day before.

Except Pickard made only two saves, allowed four goals, and didn’t survive the first period. That’s because the Leafs, knowing him well, exploited his weaknesses – over-committing on plays and being prone to shots aimed for the five hole.

And with that, Stolarz got into the game. He played well in his two-plus periods. He made 32 saves on 34 shots.

But that really doesn’t matter. What matters is the Flyers goaltending situation is such a fetid disaster that they were forced to use five goalies in 23 games, and none of them have fared well. Elliott has been decent – basically a little better than league average (2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage) – despite having a losing record.

But otherwise, the Flyers goaltending has been trash. You can’t win, even occasionally, when you are using five different goalies in 23 games.

2. “Team save percentage is by far league-worst at .877 incl tonight. That’s almost 3 GA every 20 shots.”

The Flyers have allowed 3.57 goals per game. Only two teams in the entire NHL are worse – the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators.

But that save percentage – it’s actually .880 now thanks to Stolarz’ effort against Toronto – is an abomination. It’s 0.24 below league average. Think about that for a second. The Flyers goalies are allowing one more goal for roughly every 40 shots taken against them than the average team. Not the best team but the middle-of-the-road goaltending team. They’re actually 0.45 behind the best team (Boston). That means that Boston goalies stop almost five percent more shots than Flyers goalies do. Woof.

Making matters worse, the Flyers are actually an OK offensive team production wise. Their 68 goals rank 17th in the NHL, which is right in the middle of the pack. And yet, their goal-differential is fourth-worst in the league (minus-14).

3. “Let’s put it another way: have allowed 4 or more goals in 12 of 23 games. No chance to win when you need to score 5 every other night.”

No Frank. You can not.

4. “Utterly unacceptable – and you can’t say it snuck up on management.”

5. “A team poised to “take a step forward” needed a bridge to Carter Hart. Instead, Elliott + Neuvirth = Malpractice.”

That’s the word I really wanted to get to – malpractice. Because that’s what this is. Ron Hextall had to know his goaltending situation was shaky at best coming into the season.

Neuvirth was constantly hurt last year.

Elliott played well at times, but he was felled by a serious core muscle injury (nee, hernia) and never looked the same after coming back.

Trading for Peter Mrazek was a disaster and he wasn’t welcomed back.

Although Lyon gave it the old college try, he’s still not really ready for the NHL, and if and when he ever is, it’s likely as a backup at best.

Stolarz was coming off a pretty bad knee injury himself, and it was obvious he wasn’t part of the team’s plans moving forward.

And yet, despite all of these concerns, this issue was not addressed by Hextall in the offseason. Rather than pursue a goalie who could be a bridge to Carter Hart and keep the Flyers competitive, Hextall closed his eyes and hoped for the best.

And it has been the most unmitigated disaster of his tenure as general manager.

People can complain all they want about the coach, or the players not living up to expectations, or the penalty kill being terrible or the power play nose-diving, or any other myriad maladies the Flyers have – and all of them have merit.

But those would be masked a little better if there was even a sense of stability in net, and Hextall ignored it. This is akin to leaving the surgical scissors inside the patient after stitching him back up.

He has to know it. His bosses have to know it. It’s why they’ve been circling the Wells Fargo Center press box more lately than ever before.

Blame whoever you want, and there’s a lot of finger-pointing that is valid at this juncture, but the first target you should have in your sights is the GM.

6. “I’m not a Hakstol defender, but I’d like to see what his team looks like with decent goaltending.”

Again, I agree with Frank – and I’ve been one of the more fervent Hakstol critics out there. But the guy has been a different coach this season. Maybe we’re seeing him react to the pressure that is on him and this organization to finally succeed. Maybe it’s taken him longer than it should to figure this NHL game out, but he is figuring it out.

Or maybe he’s coaching by the seat of his pants and isn’t really good at his job. Who knows for sure. But Frank makes a great point. Hakstol and the Flyers have been the poster child for traditionalists against the analytics boom in hockey.

The Flyers do often have good underlying metrics to their game. The fancy stats usually show that this team is playing better than the results would indicate.

It’s why we heard last season during a 10-game losing streak that the team was playing far better than their record would indicate.

And yet, despite all of these good sub-statistics, the Flyers are still mediocre at best, and well below average at worst.

But maybe, just maybe, this team would be what they think and believe they can be with better goaltending. Maybe it’s mental. Maybe the players lack confidence in who they are trotting out there in the crease game after game – and maybe that confidence is completely shaken after a bad goal or two, or the goalie not bailing out a mistake in front of him.

Maybe that causes the team to play tight, and once you tighten up, the odds of making mistakes increases. Turnovers, penalties. Making plays where you overthink instead of playing instinctively in the moment.

Or maybe, as Scott Laughton said several games back, the Flyers try to cheat too much to create offense because that confidence on the last line of defense isn’t too high, and that more cavalier approach to hockey ends up biting them.

All of these things are possible. And the GM needs to be able to recognize that and rectify that, and he hasn’t been able to do so in his four-plus years at the helm.

Which brings me to this:

7. A conclusion

What if all of the focus by fans and the media have been on Hakstol’s job as the coach, but internally the focus is on Hextall’s job as the GM?

What if Hextall is on the hot seat more than his coach is?

Sound crazy?

Maybe it is. But then again, maybe it’s not.

Maybe the conversations between Senior Vice President Bob Clarke – who is basically a highly paid consultant for the team these days – and President Paul Holmgren – which have been happening regularly with little to no reporting or fanfare – are more about Hexy than Hak.

Tough decisions are coming. It could start with the coaching staff – but not necessarily Hakstol.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, if Ian Laperriere is finally relieved of his assistant coaching position and replaced by Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon. Gordon has a long history of coaching good penalty kill units at all levels of hockey.

And I know the Flyers organization really likes assistant coach Kris Knoblauch as a potential future head coach, but I also know they would want him to gain experience on that front too. So I could see Knoblauch re-assigned to the Phantoms as their new head coach.

I’m not sure the Flyers would add another assistant, or just roll with Gordon and Gord Murphy on the bench with Hakstol. The latter seems more likely, but one can’t be sure.

Those changes would likely come first before Hextall or Hakstol ended up on the chopping block.

A big trade can also happen. And we’ve covered this extensively here, on the Snow The Goalie podcast and during the Press Row Show live on my Twitter feed (Periscope) and the Crossing Broad Facebook  page (FB live) from Flyers home games. Jake Voracek continues to be the name I think would bring the Flyers the most return and have a significant impact on the locker room.

And if Hakstol were to be let go, I think Gordon to close out the season makes the most sense and then evaluate the situation at season’s end with several options like Gordon, Knoblauch or an outside option (Quenneville?)

But the real interesting seat is the GM’s chair. Can Hextall preserve his job by changing his far-too-patient and conservative management style? And if not, who could replace him? Internally Chris Pryor has been a long-time good soldier for the organization, patiently waiting his turn. He’s been with the organization for 20 years, has been director of player personnel for more than five years and was promoted to assistant GM prior to the start of the 2016-17 season.

And then there’s Dean Lombardi, who won a couple Cups as GM of the Kings, who currently serves as a senior advisor to the scouting staff.

Or the Flyers could look outside of the organization, although that’s rarely been the case (Russ Farwell has been the only GM brought in “from the outside” in the history of the franchise.)

Anyway, I get the sense that change is on the horizon in some capacity – and the coach, who has been the target of so much fan-generated ire – might not be the first to go.