Dave Scott has long been connected to the cable TV industry and does not have the hockey background of, say, the late Ed Snider. But as his responsibilities with the Flyers have grown in recent years, so has his knowledge of the NHL. And his team.
Before this season started, Scott, the chairman and CEO of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast Spectacor, was one of the few people who foresaw the team’s success.
Back in October and just prior to facing Chicago in Prague, Scott noted this was his seventh year with the Flyers and said “this is definitely the most optimistic I have felt heading into a season opener.” He added that, thanks to some offseason moves, the team was “in position to take some important steps forward.”
The Flyers did just that, compiling a surprising 41-21-7 record and improving more than any NHL team.
On Thursday, in a wide-ranging conference call with reporters, Scott said coach Alain Vigneault was the key to the Flyers’ turnaround this season, added that he has high playoff expectations, and noted he still doesn’t have clarity from the city as to whether fans can attend home games before March 1, 2021.
Since Nov. 1, Boston was the only NHL team with a better record than the Flyers, giving Scott optimism that they could make a run in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I’m still very excited and feel great about the team,,” he said. “You look at the key stats, whether it’s five-on-five or special teams, we took a big step when we stopped in March” because of the coronavirus outbreak. “... We’re optimistic. We’re in it.”
Scott, whose team has not won a playoff series since 2012, added that the Flyers were “ready for the next step” and that “we have as good a chance as anybody.”
Before Vigneault was hired, Scott said the front office “spent a lot of time looking at his history. I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. We actually live in the same neighborhood down in Old City Philadelphia. He’s just a terrific guy. He’s confident, no nonsense. I love the way he coaches and runs his play. He’s really got the respect from the whole organization, from the whole team.”
After the Flyers got acclimated to Vigneault’s coaching style and his system, they blossomed into one of the league’s top teams.
“I really think with him coming on board it was a new day for the Flyers,” Scott said of Vigneault, a coach-of-the-year finalist.
Scott also praised the work of general manager Chuck Fletcher for bringing in players like Kevin Hayes, who scored two goals in Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage. “The chemistry’s great and everybody’s working together. I couldn’t be happier.”
Scott was asked when it will get to the point where anything other than a championship will be considered a failed season.
“I think you know our history and our culture,” said Scott, mindful the Flyers haven’t won a Cup since 1975, “It really started with Ed Snider, but we come in and we invest. We really go for it every year.”
The firings of GM Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol were on Scott’s watch.
“We made some big changes which needed to be made,” Scott said. “I like the team we have together now, the front office and the coaching staff.”
Scott said he was a “little disappointed” that the city said no fans would be allowed in games through Feb. 28, 2021, “but I don’t think we have full clarity from the mayor’s office or the city. That’s a long time away. We’re hopeful that date could move up.”
He implied that when fans are allowed to attend games, fewer spectators might have to be accommodated because of social-distancing protocols.
Financially, he said, “it’s not the end of the world” for the club if fans aren’t allowed to attend during most of next season.
“The goal is [to] start next season and at least have the games on television,” he said. “Never really had the expectation that by this fall or late this year, we’d really be in position to have fans in the building. I think as we get into calendar ‘21, we’ve got a lot of thoughts around social distancing and ramping up from there as people feel safer. Hopefully, we get a vaccination at some point here in the not-too-distant future.”
In the meantime, Scott is focused on the upcoming playoffs and, he hopes, his team playing hockey for a long stretch of the summer.