Will Flyers' road trip decide Dave Hakstol's fate?
The team's struggles caused the fans chanting for Dave Hakstol's firing last week. They are 28-48 since their 10-game winning streak ended last season.
CALGARY — The Flyers, losers of 10 straight, have gone through the motions during the last two games and that should have general manager Ron Hextall on high alert.
Losing to San Jose on Tuesday when you are tired from playing five games in eight nights is one thing.
Being blanked by Boston on Saturday and looking lifeless when you had three days between games, well, that is something else. Quite frankly, it appears the Flyers have stopped playing for their placid coach.
From here, I thought third-year coach Dave Hakstol would originally have until the beginning of 2018 to turn things around.
Now I'm not so sure.
Their listless play lately — along with their repetitive mistakes that started a year ago, and the way Hakstol has puzzling used young players like Travis Konecny, Danick Martel (when he was here) and Taylor Leier — might have him on a shorter leash.
Those speedy forwards have a chance to be a part of the Flyers' future. Yet, Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise got more minutes than a productive Konecny in Saturday's 3-0 loss to Boston. (Leier didn't play, and Martel is back with the Phantoms.)
If the Flyers lose all three games on a Western Canada trip that starts Monday in Calgary, their winless streak will have climbed to a franchise-record 13 and they might have a new coach by the weekend. It would take a lot for Hextall to part ways with the man he hired, but if this losing streak grows he might be backed into a corner.
Because of Hextall's past connection to Los Angeles, the rumor mill keeps churning ex-Kings coach Darryl Sutter's name as a possible replacement. Dave Tippett, who has 14 years of NHL head-coaching experience, is also among the numerous candidates.
Phantoms coach Scott Gordon makes more sense. If Hakstol is dismissed, give Gordon the rest of the season as an interim coach before deciding about next year. Gordon has had great success developing young players who are now with the Flyers.
Most of those young players have not progressed under Hakstol's watch.
Hextall, who is on the current road trip, went out on a limb when he hired Hakstol out of the NCAA ranks. But how much patience can he have when he sees a team that continually doesn't play a full 60 minutes and frequently gets outworked?
Maybe the Flyers will put it all together in Western Canada and start a streak that puts them back in the playoff race.
A year ago, they became the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs during a season in which it won 10 straight. Since then, the Flyers have just 28 wins and 48 losses (28-34-14).
Think about that and, remember, the NHL is filled with parity. Maybe this year the Flyers will regroup and make the playoffs during a season in which they lost 10 in a row.
Earning a playoff spot, however, shouldn't be the main focus of this season. Developing young players should be the No. 1 priority and right now that isn't happening.
The clock should be ticking on the coach. He works hard and cares deeply and is not totally to blame, but the sad reality is that it's easier to change the coach than the bulk of the team.
Especially when that coach's message is not getting through.