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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Flyers are in a crisis, which after Monday’s firing of general manager Ron Hextall doesn’t come as a major surprise. Nor is it shocking that 23 games into the 2018-19 NHL season the Flyers are a team in freefall with no identity—other than its googly-eyed, orange mascot “Gritty.”
The scary part is that Flyers’ team president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman/chief executive officer Dave Scott didn’t exactly provide much clarity on Tuesday as to where the Flyers, whose five goalies combined this season are dead last in the NHL in save percentage (.880), allowing almost a goal every third shot taken against them, are going.
Holmgren and Scott did provide, however, what led to Hextall’s firing.
Hextall wanted to patiently build.
Holmgren and Scott want to win now.
That’s why the Flyers are a mess right now.
“For me, I sort of boil it down to one question,” Scott said. “Do I think that we can do better as a team now? Not two years or three years from now, but now.”
Speculation ran rampant that Hextall was fired because of his reluctance to pull the trigger on Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol, especially after the Flyers’ 6-0 loss to Toronto over the weekend when it appeared the Flyers had no drive to compete or fight.
“Was he ever told to fire the coach? No. Was he ever told to make a trade? No. Why even bother having GM if you’re going to have those conversations?” Holmgren asked.
“I’ll just say he was very confident in his plan and his vision, and Paul said it, he wasn’t going to waver really from that plan,” Scott said. “So to Paul and me, this is the fifth year (in Hextall’s GM tenure), you guys look at the same data we look at. We thought it was time for a change.”
Holmgren defined Hextall as “unyielding” in his patient plan, though “Ron’s approach was good, as I said, he put us in good position. I think, moving forward, is there someone out there that has a fresh look upon things? I think any hockey guy can look at the Flyers right now and see just what we’re talking about. There’s a lot of good young players on the team, and there’s some really good older players. We have a good team. We have a lot of good players. Are there things (where) the new guy can come in and say, I can add a couple of pieces that can really help the team now? I don’t know. That’s gonna be up to the new GM.
“If you look at the difference between Ron and I, we had a lot of debate. I was an aggressive guy, and Ron was more of a deep thought-out (guy). I think both approaches have good qualities and both approaches probably have bad qualities, when you drill right down to it. We’re here today to do what’s right, and in my mind, and I think in Dave’s mind, (this is) what’s right for the organization. Now we’re in the process of moving forward.”
Where the Flyers go from here is anyone’s guess. Though as December approaches, a team that once had pre-season aspirations of at least reaching the second round of the playoffs appears going nowhere fast.
But hey, they do have “Gritty.”