A lot of times, when a coach or GM gets fired, people want the name to be someone they might not have expected.
There’s a lot to be said for thinking outside the box and a lot of teams would do well to stop swimming in the same old hiring pools that have been all too common in the league for, I don’t know, the last century. It’s unfortunately all too true that the easiest way to get a job in this sport is for your dad to have played, coached, or managed professional hockey in the 1980s.
That’s not to say that people who come from hockey families aren’t perfectly qualified for the jobs they fill, but rather that hiring someone who, I don’t know, didn’t Play The Game is something other sports started doing a long time ago and hockey, as ever, has been slow on the uptake.
The point of hiring someone isn’t subterfuge; it’s to make your team better.
For example, it wasn’t a bad move for the Oilers to hire hockey lifer Ken Hitchcock as coach, because that’s a guy who gets results more often than not, even if it’s on a short-term basis in a lot of cases. Not that you need someone clamping down on Connor McDavid, but if the Oilers are expected to play a sounder brand of defense under Hitchcock — and so far, that’s exactly what they’re doing — then that’s all the better.
But in hiring Chuck Fletcher to run the Philadelphia Flyers, Paul Holmgren basically said, “We’d love for this team to tread water, barely make the playoffs, and that’s about it.”
Fletcher’s start in hockey came because of who his dad is, and that would be fine if he proved he was particularly good at his job with the Wild. He wasn’t bad or anything, but he was as middle-of-the-road as you can probably get as a general manager.
Minnesota had 100-point seasons in just three of the nine years he was GM, though he inherited a bit of a mess in taking over from Doug Risebrough. So let’s note here that the Wild made the playoffs in each of Fletcher’s final six seasons at the helm, but they hit 100 points in only three of them, and the last two were because they hired Human 100-Point Season Machine Bruce Boudreau.
Which, hey, if you hire Boudreau, that’s great! And Fletcher is almost certainly going to give himself the chance to bring aboard a new coach sooner than later (see also: the Rick Wilson hire), but the odds that he is of the same quality as Boudreau — or anything particularly close — seem quite low.
Again, it’s not that Fletcher is the kind of old-school hire that normally get roasted by everyone on Hockey Twitter or whatever, but you have to ask a really simple question if you’re a Flyers fan: What in his resume as Wild GM inspires a lot of confidence that he’s going to be able to get this roster anywhere meaningful? I’m talking even “to a Conference Final.”
Minnesota certainly never had a roster of players as talented as Philadelphia’s is now, but at the same time, Fletcher’s history as a drafter, signer, and trader is basically the most “blah” stuff in the sport.
But look at the team’s draft history (Mikael Granlund and his two seasons of between 60 and 70 points tops the list), trade slate (being the guy to whom Garth Snow inevitably sold low on Nino Niederreiter), and free agent acquisitions from 2009 to 2018 and you just go, “That’s it?” Zach Parise and Ryan Suter basically fell into his lap because they wanted to come home, but he had to give them an AAV equivalent to $9.98 million in today’s dollars to do it. And those deals had to last until both players are well into their 40s to make it work.
And while I guess it’s nice to sign the two biggest names on the market, you have to ask what it means if those guys are the two best players available at the time and if it’s worth giving them a combined quarter of the salary cap (at the time). It certainly didn’t get the Wild anywhere meaningful.
It’s perfectly unreasonable to say the Wild have been the dictionary definition of mediocre and forgettable in this league for the better part of a decade, and at some point that’s gotta be on Fletcher, right? He inherited a bad situation, but all he did was he build it into a perfectly average club with an average core. And man, he spent a lot of money to do it.
Yeah, they made the playoffs six years in a row, but given this is a league in which half the teams make the playoffs, what was the point? This is a team that averaged 98 points per 82 games over the last six seasons. That’s about two or three points above the postseason cut-off. Something like a five- or six-seed probably, on average.
Hires don’t have to be exciting, but if your team is trying to get better than “makes the playoffs annually but only gets out of the first round a third of the time” I don’t know why anyone should think this particular hire is gonna get the Flyers anywhere.
Fletcher’s Minnesota teams went 15-23-5 in the postseason. Lost almost twice as much as they won. Probably don’t need to say much more than that.
I guess if just being in the playoffs every year while spending to the cap is the only aspiration the Flyers have with this group, then Fletcher’s a good hire. If they want more than that, they might have wanted to hire someone whose resume is something more than ordinary.
All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.