Flyers must fire up the Fletcher ‘hot seat’

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'Fire Chuck Fletcher'
A fan poses for a photo before an NHL hockey game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings, Sunday, March 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Dan Gelston)

Only a few days after saying that the Philadelphia Flyers were ‘selling,’ Chuck Fletcher finished the week of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline with the following transactions:

  • Isaac Ratcliffe to the Nashville Predators for ‘future considerations’
  • Zack MacEwen to the Los Angeles Kings for Brenden Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round pick
  • Patrick Brown to the Ottawa Senators for a 2023 sixth-round pick 

Swirling reports of interest surfaced at the beginning of last month surrounding potential trade candidates. Among the top candidates of skaters on the move at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was James van Riemsdyk. By Valentine’s Day, nine teams reportedly showed interest.

He remains on the roster. At the end of the season, van Riemsdyk will be an unrestricted free agent. Fletcher couldn’t move a powerplay forward with 71 games of postseason experience for anything, even after offering to retain half of the money owed. He blamed the market instead:

“We would probably rather have a good pick and allow JvR an opportunity to play in the playoffs, but the market spoke. It wasn’t to be.”

Chuck Fletcher; 3/3/2023

According to Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff, the ask to acquire van Riemsdyk was a second-round and third-round pick. He overcooked the market. Meanwhile, these were just some deals sending wingers to teams with a need for that position a week before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline:

  • CHI sends Lafferty, McCabe, a 2024 fifth-round, and 2025 fifth-round pick to TOR for Anderson, Gogolev, a 2025 first-round, and 2026 second-round pick
  • CAR sends Puistola to EDM for Puljujarvi
  • MIN sends 2024 third-round pick to WSH for Johansson
  • NYI sends 2024 third-round pick to TOR for Engvall
  • MIN sends 2023 fifth-round pick to CBJ for Nyquist
  • VGK sends Diliberatore and a 2024 third-round pick to PIT for Blueger
  • SJS sends Eyssimont to TB for Namestnikov
  • DAL sends Khudobin and a 2025 second-round pick to CHI for Domi and Wells
  • STL sends McLaughlin and a 2025 seventh-round pick to STL for Vrana
  • WPG sends 2025 fourth-round pick to SJS for Namestnikov

Under heavy criticism, John Tortorella defended Fletcher surrounding the missed opportunity to shop van Riemsdyk:

“Do you not think he tried to move him? Are you guys kidding me? He tried like hell to move him.”

John Tortorella; 3/4/2023

It isn’t that Fletcher didn’t try to move van Riemsdyk. That was evident when he received an offer from the Detroit Red Wings. What comes under fire is the urgency to move van Riemsdyk. He waited too long to haggle a second-round and third-round pick for van Riemsdyk. Receiving your only offer at 1:40pm on the day of the deadline is evident enough that the brunt of meaningful negotiations took place in the eleventh hour.

“I didn’t have any offers at all until about 1:40pm. I got a call from a team, and they had a concept that if they were able to move a forward off their team, then they had interest in acquiring JvR. We talked about the parameters and what the deal would look like; it made sense from that standpoint, but all along, it was conditional on the other trade going through.”

Chuck Fletcher; 3/3/2023

Steve Yzerman was the general manager in context with a conditional trade on the table for van Riemsdyk as long as he could move a skater in a separate deal. That didn’t happen, which meant van Riemsdyk wasn’t playing in ‘Hockeytown.’ Fletcher said he knew around 2:30pm that the potential trade featuring van Riemsdyk and the Red Wings fell through.

Additionally, Fletcher stated that falling out with Detroit did not hold up any other offers from other teams for van Riemsdyk. Managing the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was a disaster, concluding with Fletcher admitting that he didn’t receive an offer of a fourth-round pick for van Riemsdyk. Comparably, the urgency is lacking. Destinations highlighted as a potential landing spot for van Riemsdyk sent future third, fourth, and fifth-round picks the week of the deadline for other players who claim a similar role.

Fifteen points away from 600 (297G, 288A) in his career, van Riemsdyk should yield a return when other teams were aware of the willingness to retain half of the salary. Following the 2022-2023 season, he’ll melt off the salary cap for nothing in return. It is a wasted asset because, if managed correctly, the Flyers would’ve received a draft pick.

Ownership and Trust

Season ticket holders attended a Philadelphia Flyers Town Hall at Xfinity Live! Steve Coates introduced Fletcher to a crowd that voiced their opinions known by booing. Daniel Briere did receive a pass from the fans in attendance.

Coates, upon hearing the boos, told the fans to “keep it classy.” Above all things, Flyers fans are honest. They feel lied to after the ‘aggressive retool’ pivoting away from a potential signing of Johnny Gaudreau. Fletcher said they were ‘sellers’ and missed on selling the most obvious asset that should’ve returned at least a mid-round draft pick. If at all, booing is classy, because it’s the most transparent emotion you’re getting from the people long invested in the product.

Whether it’s failing at the trade deadline, overpaying contract extensions, or losing valuable draft capital in an acquisition, Fletcher is finding ways to fail at a rapid rate. Tortorella benched Travis Sanheim last night due to his weak defensive performance. Tony DeAngelo was ejected from the game for spearing Corey Perry. All of it took place in a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The approval rating and respect levels are lower than in 2021-2022. At the time, Alain Vigneault took the fall and Mike Yeo fulfilled the duties as an interim, short-term replacement.

It’s evident the problem wasn’t Vigneault, nor is it Tortorella; it’s higher up in the Philadelphia brass.

(AP Photo/Dan Gelston)