December 4, 2017 | 6:05pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
FANS' PATIENCE WEARING THIN
Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers GM
MONTREAL, QC -- Patience; it’s said to be a virtue. It is a word that Flyers’ General Manager Ron Hextall has been preaching since he took over in May of 2014.
From the beginning of his tenure, Hextall has stayed true to this, as he has built slow and steady through the NHL Draft and developing talent within the organization. In today’s NHL, that seems to be the best method to build a Cup-contending team for an extended amount of time.
But three and a half years later and patience is wearing thin amongst the Philadelphia faithful.
On heels of the team’s 10th straight loss (0-5-5 during that stretch) after being shutdown by Boston on Saturday, panic mode is in full force right now in the City of Brotherly Love. The lack of effort is evident, and the fans are calling for the head of Head Coach Dave Hakstol. To put it bluntly, the fans have had enough of the mediocrity.
To be fair, it was obvious that this season would one filled with ups and downs. Despite the fanbase being ecstatic with the arrival of youth, it would’ve been unrealistic to expect all rookies to hit their stride right out of the gate. Having five defensemen under the age of 25 on your roster is not exactly an ideal situation. The growing pains were to be expected.
But even though the Flyers were not expected to be Cup contenders by any stretch of the imagination, there was no reason to think that they would be bottom dwellers, either.
After surprisingly making the playoffs in Hakstol’s first year behind the bench in 2015-16, the team has yet to take the next step in the right direction and build off the impromptu playoff berth. In fact, they are heading in the opposite direction, and seem to be getting worse with each passing day. It has been all downhill since the team’s 10-game winning streak last season.
So who’s to blame?
Well, if you ask the fans, they’ll tell you it’s Hakstol, which was evident as the “Fire Hakstol” chants echoed through the Wells Fargo Center during the team’s game vs. San Jose last week. Is it fair to point the blame at the coach? Absolutely. Hakstol has made questionable roster decisions time and time again, like favoring veterans over youngsters constantly. This was evident Saturday afternoon, as he benched Travis Konecny for all but 36 seconds of the third period.
Aside from that, his utilization of the goaltenders since Day One has been questionable, to say the least. When Hakstol arrived, Steve Mason was the undisputed No.1 goaltender, and had been for two previous years. But Hakstol insisted on using a “platoon” format, which ultimately ended up driving Mason out of town. But given how Mason has played since leaving Philly, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.
But the team’s lack of energy and effort on a game-in and game-out basis has been alarming during the recent losing streak and has to fall on his shoulders. Hakstol himself is constantly looking lifeless and emotionless behind the bench, which rubs off on your team. The Flyers are playing like a group that has given up on its coach.
Last week on the “Insider Trading” segment on TSN, Bob McKenzie reported that Hextall would not fire Hakstol and was “all in” with his coach, which may come as a disappointment to most fans of the Orange and Black. But how long can all this go on for?
Speaking of Hextall, it would be foolish not to hold him accountable for some the blame, as well.
Although patience has been his philosophy since the start, the team’s lack of advancement over the last calendar year has to be thought of as unacceptable. Yes, it is true, the team’s future looks extremely bright with a plethora of talented young players on the roster, and even more coming up the pipeline, but after awhile losing gets to be tiring.
The team’s offense is simply not deep enough, and the lack of a true starting goaltender is evident. The future is bright, yes, but sitting in the basement of the Metropolitan Division in Year Four of a rebuild is not exactly an ideal situation for Hextall.
Hextall’s patience and willingness to build from within is admirable and has done the organization really well for the most part, but it’s time to realize the coach is not adequate and the team is need of immediate help. The future is bright, but it is time to give the fans something to cheer for in the here and now.
The Flyers’ downward spiral does not look to have an imminent end in sight, and eventually, something will have to give.