Reports have been varied over the last few days over the fate of Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, but now multiple outlets including Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer are reporting that he has indeed been fired. In the official team release, GM Chuck Fletcher explains his decision:
After meeting this morning with Dave Hakstol and thoughtful consideration, I have decided to relieve him of his duties as head coach. As I continue to assess the team, I feel that this is the best course of action for our group moving forward. I’d like to thank Dave for his service to the team and the organization. Scott Gordon will serve as head coach on an interim basis.
Gordon, who had been coaching with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, has previous head coach experience with the New York Islanders. As for who will eventually take over the head job, nothing has been decided yet. The rumors surrounding Joel Quenneville appear to not be true at this moment, as the legendary coach is expected to wait until the offseason before making a decision on his next coaching job. Fletcher confirmed as much, saying he has not asked Chicago for permission to talk with Quenneville, and in fact hasn’t even spoken to him in two years.
In Philadelphia, the writing had been on the wall for some time. Though Fletcher decided to not fire Hakstol immediately after taking the job, instead replacing one of his assistant coaches with long-time colleague Rick Wilson, it was only a matter of time if the team did not rebound from a rough start. After performing well enough to make the playoffs last season, Philadelphia came into 2018-19 with plenty of optimism surrounding their young group. Instead of a quick start though, the team struggled out of the gate and couldn’t fix the goaltending problem that has plagued this organization for years. Elliott and Neuvirth have both dealt with injury, while not performing well enough even when they were healthy.
Carter Hart is on his way up from the minor leagues to give the team some hope in net, but solving the goaltending issue by forcing a 20-year old prospect into the spotlight is a risky move. Fortunately Hart will be working with a familiar face in Gordon, but still will have immense pressure to turn things around. The team has some outstanding offensive talents, but allowed 22 goals over their last four games (all losses) and couldn’t wait to make a switch behind the bench.
Now that the coaching move that many expected has happened, the question will turn to the roster itself. Fletcher has been rumored to be looking to try and make at least one move before Wednesday’s trade freeze comes into effect, but it’s unclear what exactly he’s trying to do to improve the roster. There are plenty of young talents on the group, but if the team is trying to compete this season they may have to move one for some more experience or reliability. That doesn’t make a ton of sense given their place in the standings—the Flyers sit last in the Eastern Conference with just 28 points—but there were reports that former GM Ron Hextall was let go because of his unwillingness to make moves to help the present club.
The season is clearly not over, and the Flyers currently sit just eight points out of a Metropolitan Division playoff spot. Even a short hot streak could put them right back into the race, and that will be what Gordon hopes to accomplish in the short-term. The team starts that journey on Tuesday night when they welcome the Detroit Red Wings into town.