Blow up the Flyers’ roster? Not necessary, says Dave Scott, the team’s chairman.
“I think we’re closer than our record shows,” Scott said. The team will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last nine years.
Dave Scott, the Flyers’ chairman, understands the fans’ grief over an underachieving season that has turned miserable.
He shares their frustration.
“I feel for our fans. I mean, it’s a sad situation,” he said in an interview Monday. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Everyone keeps saying they’re disappointed, and it’s beyond disappointment where we’re sitting today.”
“But I’m not discouraged, and I’m determined,” he added.
Determined to turn things around after a two-month collapse — 11 wins in their last 33 games entering Monday — that knocked the Flyers out of the NHL playoff picture. They will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last nine years.
A year ago, the Flyers went 41-21-7, finished second in the Metropolitan Division, and won their first playoff series since 2012.
That created high expectations, making this season’s fall from contention even more head-scratching.
No overhaul coming
In a wide-ranging interview, Scott, who confers with general manager Chuck Fletcher every day and believes in his decision making, said he doesn’t think the team needs radical changes. He believes the Flyers need another scorer and top-pairing defenseman, and he strongly hinted that a backup goaltender is on the team’s wish list.
“I think we’re closer than our record shows,” Scott said. “If you look at it, it’s the same core group we had last season, and we took a big step under difficult circumstances, playing up in Toronto in the bubble.”
» READ MORE: Maybe Flyers’ bad season will have a silver lining: Showing GM Chuck Fletcher he needs to make major changes | Sam Carchidi
The Flyers are 22-22-7 this season and sit in sixth place in the East Division.
“There’s no excuses. We just didn’t get it done,” Scott said. “We took a big step back. And I can’t stop thinking about our fan base.”
He said he was walking around the Wells Fargo Center the other day “and looking at our past [championship] banners, and I know our fans are frustrated. All I can say is that Chuck and I talk every day, and we’re really determined to turn this thing around and give these guys what they need to get the job done.”
He believes Fletcher will have the salary-cap space to add some key pieces even if he doesn’t trade an expensive player such as Jake Voracek or James van Riemsdyk, or lose one of them in the expansion draft.
Scott supports head coach Alain Vigneault and his assistants but wasn’t exactly thrilled at the job they did this season.
Scott was asked who is the most accountable for the season: coaches, players, or management.
“You look at it, and it’s the coaches’ jobs to make sure the players are ready to play,” he said. “We’ve been showing up not ready to play. I mean, the guys have gotten off to slow starts in, what, 19 of the last 21 games” and allowed the first goal.
“But I don’t think there’s just one thing that you can point to” for the poor season, he said. “All I can tell you is that we’re going to have a busy summer. I’m determined to get his thing back on track, and that ‘s everything from spending to the cap and giving the resources to Chuck and A.V.”
It starts in goal
As far as making multiple changes to the roster, Scott doesn’t believe it’s necessary.
“I don’t think we need a total rebuild,” he said. “Last season wasn’t that long ago” and the Flyers did well with a similar roster. “I think we’re a lot better than what our record reflects right now. Clearly, it starts with goaltending.”
The Flyers are last in the league is goals allowed per game (3.57).
“You get behind like we have, and then you chase the game and make mistakes,” he said. “We all see it.”
Scott said there were several players “who took a step back this year, but I still believe in those guys. The young corps we have” — he mentioned Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, and Carter Hart — “I really think they’re going to be OK. Carter has a heavy load, but he’s a young kid, and I really believe he’ll get it turned around and be everything we thought he would be and more.”
Scott was asked what makes him think the Flyers are a better team than they showed when they repeatedly fell behind early, struggled mightily on special teams, and did not give a full 60-minute effort.
“There’s no excuses for it, but everybody had their own issues with COVID,” he said. “We actually started the season very well, and then we went through COVID. We had a lot of veterans sit. So did a few other teams, but it seemed like when we got everybody back, we could never get it back on track.
“I’m really looking forward to a normal season of 82 games. If you look at Chuck and A.V., they have not had an 82-game season with the Flyers, which is unreal. I think we’re a team that needs a training camp. We got all new coaches two seasons ago, plus going through COVID, so it hasn’t been easy for sure. But I think we’re going to have a normal season [in 2021-22], and Chuck and A.V. will take us where we need to go.”
Faith in Fletcher
Scott said he hasn’t lost faith in Fletcher, who never replaced Matt Niskanen with a suitable defenseman and made some questionable moves in the last year.
» READ MORE: For Flyers, it’s been home-ice disadvantage this season
“Last year, he got [Kevin] Hayes and Nisky, and just that little bit of tweaking seemed to help a lot,” Scott said. “Kevin hasn’t had the same type of year this year, but he’s young and has potential. I think this will be the summer to make some things happen and make some tough decisions. Chuck has all my confidence … and so does A.V.”
Last week, Vigneault said he had an idea why so many of his players had poor seasons, but he said he wouldn’t talk about it until after the season. Was he referring to COVID-19?
Scott said he wasn’t sure what the coach would reveal.
“I really don’t know what he meant,” Scott said. “All I know is we had the six veterans out, and it was hard. But again, other teams have gone through this, too.”
If Ed Snider was alive, he would have erupted countless times over the last two months at the Flyers’ passive play.
He would have said that his team was embarrassing the city and that changes would be made in the offseason because he couldn’t stomach the listless play any longer.
He would have used colorful language — like you probably have while watching the team underachieve this season — and he probably would have said that no job was safe. Not the players, coaches, or management.
Snider was far from perfect as the team’s chairman and cofounder. He sometimes interfered too much, and that led to some bad decisions (see Ilya Bryzgalov, wannabe cosmonaut).
But no one could match his passion for the team.
Scott, the Flyers’ relatively new head honcho, is more reserved and hands-off when compared to Snider. But he cares deeply, works hard at his job, and, though he has other duties for Comcast Spectacor, says he is invested “24/7” in the hockey team.
His style is not to interfere. He trusts the people running the team on a daily basis and relies on their knowledge to build the Flyers’ first Stanley Cup champion since 1975.
Scott knew Snider for 20 years and worked closely with him for 2½ years before Snider died in 2016.
“He was always about hiring the right people and letting them do their job,” Scott said. “That’s what I’m doing. That’s what you have to do.”