Running a successful hockey franchise is one of the most difficult jobs to have in all of the professional sports. NHL franchises need to construct a team with a league salary cap of $81.5mil. As the league expands, the decisions of a general manager become even more calculated. Every free agent signing, player trade, staff hiring, coach firing, and contract negotiation is up for judgment. As of late, the Philadelphia Flyers organization is thriving because of the leadership in the front office. The man at the center of it all has been GM Chuck Fletcher.
Chuck Fletcher is currently up for debate as to the best general manager in all of the four major sports in Philadelphia. The only other general manager in Philadelphia that can compare is Daryl Morey, but he’s yet to have a single game under his belt with the 76ers.
As the only known commodity heading into 2021, Fletcher and his front office are the cream of the crop in Philadelphia. In a market such as the “City of Brotherly Love,” the best of 2019-2020 has a nice ring to it. What matters to the Philadelphia Flyers is how Fletcher ranks among his peers in the NHL.
We’re officially three weeks away from Christmas, but to tell you that Chuck Fletcher is a gift to the Philadelphia Flyers is the proverbial star atop of the tree. Some takeaways from the 2019-2020 season include Ivan Provorov taking his place as a top-twenty defenseman, the defensive unit earning top-ten honors, while Alain Vigneault and Carter Hart have elite status in their roles. Adding a top-ten general manager to the list of franchise accolades warms the heart.
The Story So Far
Remember, paying Kevin Hayes $50mil over seven years was labeled an “overpay.” He finished fifth in team scoring, led the NHL in shorthanded goals, forced turnovers, and won 50.2% of his faceoffs. Hayes to the Philadelphia Flyers was a signing that strengthened the identity of the team in 2019-2020. Another addition that worked in Chuck Fletcher’s favor was Matt Niskanen. With him on the first pairing with Ivan Provorov, the Flyers had a top-six defensive unit.
Another great hire from Chuck Fletcher was Alain Vigneault. A Jack Adams Award finalist from the 2019-2020 season, Vigneault has proven that he is among the NHL’s elite head coaches. The Philadelphia Flyers went from not making the playoffs to competing in a game seven against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
By October 3rd, 2020, Chuck Fletcher extended six contracts (Friedman, Lindblom, Aube-Kubel, Lyon, Hagg, and Elliott) to a total of $8.6mil. He flexed his proficiency in contract negotiations while opening up more cap space. Due to his negotiating strength, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to extend Justin Braun and sign Erik Gustafsson after Matt Niskanen retired. When Philippe Myers agrees to terms with the Flyers, there will be more breathing room than there was during the 2019-2020 season.
He is responsible for adding to the foundation laid out before him. A lot of people will say he took over Ron Hextall’s hard work, and they would be right. However, Fletcher deserves credit for not fumbling that foundation. We’ve witnessed that happen before in Philadelphia. He could have ruined his reputation if he treated the Philadelphia Flyers like Chip Kelly did to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Where does Chuck Fletcher Rank Among Peers?
Considering where the Philadelphia Flyers were in 2018-2019 and where they finished in 2019-2020, Chuck Fletcher is in the top 25% of all the NHL general managers. Several general managers deserve their place ahead of Chuck Fletcher (Lamoriello, Yzerman, Sweeney, Armstrong, MacClellan, Brisebois, and Sakic) because they have a longer stretch of success with their team, their record against the Flyers in 2019-2020, the impact they had on a championship team, or their overall management savvy.
Nonetheless, Chuck Fletcher is a top-ten general manager. To pinpoint his ranking, I have Fletcher as the eighth-best in the NHL. Filling out the top-ten behind Fletcher would be Kelly McCrimmon and Jarmo Kekalainen.
Kelly McCrimmon took over for the Vegas Golden Knights in the same way that Chuck Fletcher did for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018-2019. While McCrimmon did acquire Robin Lehner, Fletcher’s ability to salvage the Ryan Hartman ordeal to trade for Tyler Pitlick in 2019-2020 was a masterstroke after dealing for Matt Niskanen and signing Kevin Hayes. Alain Vigneault was also a better hire than Peter DeBoer in comparison.
The Columbus Blue Jackets returned to the playoffs, which is a goal for every NHL team. Why Chuck Fletcher placed ahead of Jarmo Kekalainen is majorly due to the Philadelphia Flyers not only making the playoffs but becoming an all-round elite franchise in 2019-2020. From the front office to the ice, Fletcher made all the necessary moves.
It’s likely that Chuck Fletcher’s toughest challenge has yet to come as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. Hockey during a pandemic invites naturally unforeseen challenges. The flat cap is going to surely make Fletcher’s job more challenging in terms of contract negotiations, but he’ll also have a crucial decision to make with the Seattle Kraken taking part in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Fletcher deserves a thumbs up for his job performance thus far.