There is a legend that the Roman emperor Nero sat on his throne and played the fiddle while the great fire of Rome burned beneath him.
Turns out the legend isn’t true. He wasn’t fiddling. Instead, he dressed up in an actor’s stage costume and sang a song as his empire crumbled beneath him.
The fiddle is so much better. Which is why that legend has endured.
Fast forward a couple millennia and you’ll find a repeat performance might be taking place from an office at the Wells Fargo Center – assuming Flyers Governor (his title, ever-changing) Dave Scott is in town.
Because what has happened on his watch is the absolute burning to the ground of the once-iconic franchise he was hand-picked by beloved founder, and former chairman, Ed Snider, to oversee.
That’s because if he thought last season was rock bottom, he never could have anticipated GM Chuck Fletcher digging through the floor further to find scorching hot lava and letting it erupt and consume the entirety of the franchise.
Scott doubled down on Fletcher last season, after many assumed it was time for the GM to be shown the door. Scott met with the media in late January, and, with Fletcher by his side, apologized for the way the season had gone. He called it unacceptable. He promised change. He promised a blank check. He promised an aggressive re-tool.
And Fletcher was on board with all of it. The blank check seeming to fill out a lot of organizational needs and roles. Hockey operations grew significantly. The front office staff grew. The development staff grew. The analytics department grew. Scott was putting Comcast’s money where his mouth was.
And it seemed like Fletcher had a plan going into the offseason to try to acquire at least one, if not two, top-tier skill players.
Couple that with having the fifth overall pick in last week’s entry draft, and Fletcher was poised to get creative, shift assets, maybe make a hockey trade, and chase those top-end talents.
It set up a lot of intrigue. It prepared us – and Chuck – for what would be an eventful week and the potential resurgence of the Flyers franchise.
After all, it was leaked that hometown boy Johnny Gaudreau, he of a 115-point season with Calgary last year, would like to play for the Flyers.
How would Fletcher make it work? would he trade the No. 5 overall pick at the draft? Would he trade a player on the roster? to create cap space? Would he convince someone to take James van Riemsdyk’s contract and what would be the cost?
After all, the plan was an aggressive retool. The Flyers were going to try to improve in more rapid fashion.
We were sold a bill of goods.
The Flyers did nothing but make a series of confounding decisions over the course of the last week that were in direct conflict with one another.
Trade three draft picks for Tony DeAngelo – we’re going to try to win this season.
Buying out Oskar Lindblom – Here we go, creating cap space for Gaudreau. Just gotta move one more contract.
Refuse to pay the asking price to take JVR. Miss out on Gaudreau and every other big name free agent. Refuse to make any hockey trade to try and improve the team. Use the money saved by buying out Lindblom to bring back Justin Braun on a one-year contract and sign tough guy, fourth liner Nick Deslauriers, who is 31-years-old mind you, to a (gulp) 4-year, $7 million contract. And then add a handful of AHL players, including Troy Grosenick, a 32-year-old goalie, who has played all of four NHL games, to serve along with Felix Sandstrom (5 NHL games) as the primary backups to Carter Hart.
So, what was the plan here again?
— Bucci on Draft (@Buccigross) July 13, 2022
They traded future assets for an offensive-minded defenseman, who is going to be asked to play top pair minutes even though he’s better suited for a role further down the depth chart, but then balked at trading the assets necessary to land a superstar player in his prime, not wanting to risk the future.
And then Fletcher proceeded to add seven fringe players, most for the minor league level. And of the seven, four, Braun, Kevin Connaughton, Cooper Marody, and Louis Delpedio – were ether previously signed by Fletcher here, or in Minnesota or who came up through the Flyers ranks.
That’s a plan?
That’s an aggressive re-tool?
No. That was horse manure. Certifiable, Grade A stock.
If I'm a Flyers fan and I heard the GM say “we’d like to have more high-end skill" to the forward group and they couldn't carve out enough money to sign JOHNNY GAUDREAU … I'm not happy.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 13, 2022
Since the Flyers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Islanders in the summer of 2020, Fletcher has traded 11 players (Michael Raffl, Erik Gustaffson, Nolan Patrick, Phil Myers, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Jake Voracek, Claude Giroux, Connor Bunnaman, and German Rubtsov), and 12 draft picks in exchange for five players (Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, Owen Tippett and Tony DeAngelo) and eight draft picks (three of which have been used on Zayde Wisdom, Elliot Desnoyers, and Ty Murchison).
When you look at that list, have the Flyers improved themselves since reaching the second round two seasons ago?
Hardly. You can argue that it’s only a slight downgrade, but that’s not O.K. Many would argue that it’s worse, which is… worse!
As for the free agents brought in or re-signed, Brian Elliott, Braun (twice), Samuel Morin, Martin Jones, Keith Yandle, Nate Thompson, Nick Seeler, Gerry Mayhew, Sandstrom (twice), Grosenick and Deslauriers.
Does this have the look of a team that is trying to win? At all?
It’s a mish mash. A combination of some guys you would consider nice pieces for a contender and a bunch of filler.
The Flyers roster has been put together like a toddler being asked to put all 64 Crayola crayons back in their original spot in the box. They might get a few right, but mostly they are going to be wrong fits, or partly broken.
That’s the Flyers. There is no plan. Never was one. They’ve had six months to put it together, and this is what we got. Unacceptable.
Oh, and this whole business where Fletcher said the Flyers were never in on Gaudreau? A lie. A bold. Faced. Lie.
Why lie to the public, Chuck? Especially now? Especially with as precarious as everything is with this organization?
It’s almost like Chuck is begging to be fired.
So, what is Dave Scott to do?
If he wants any hope at all at salvaging any sort of even marginally positive legacy of his tenure with the franchise, he needs to blow up the entirety of the hockey operations department right now.
That’s everyone. Clean out the culture that has festered there for the past four years. Even if there are people who you likely can’t blame for the sins of this franchise, they’ve got to go too. It’s collateral damage.
It’s not cleaning house in the locker rom. That ship sailed…. for now.
No, this is a complete and utter tear down of everything that takes place in the second floor offices of the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees. Eviscerate it. It’s the only hope left to save a franchise.
Otherwise, the target has to change.
Because, as often as I kill the business side of the Flyers, what the hell are they supposed to do with this steaming pile of fetid waste that is being handed them? How can they even hope to continue to try to rebuild relationships with fans and the city when this kind of institutional hara-kiri is allowed to go on?
I’m told the phone lines were buzzing today with fans looking to get out of their season tickets. Good for the fans. Not because I want to see the Flyers suffer. I don’t. I wish them success every year. But rather because it’s the only way for the fans to fight for their team.
And if Scott doesn’t see that. If he’s too busy listening to the whispers in his ear being provided by personal hockey consultants, then it’s time for forced retirement.
Did Fletcher and his group deserve one more chance to try and get it right considering the combination of bad luck, and unexpected circumstances the past two years? Yes.
This, however. THIS… was the only thing they couldn’t let happen. And they did. No management team has ever failed so spectacularly in my lifetime as these Flyers – and there were a lot of bad Phillies teams, the Process-era Sixers and the sugar rush that was Chip Kelly.
But this is the worst of the worst of the worst.
Go. All of them. Nice people. Good people. But either very bad at their jobs or too closely associated with those that are.
End the disgrace. Give the city back their hockey team. NOW. I’ll hold the fiddle for you.
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