There are a few theories floating around on why Bobby Clarke chose to spill the beans on former general manager Ron Hextall.
If you missed it, Clarke, the former Flyers’ all-time leader in games played and points, was a guest on the St. Louis-based Cam and Strick podcast last week and was candid about Hextall’s time in Philadelphia, both as a player and as the team’s GM.
He said Hextall “alienated” himself from scouts, executives and the alumni, and was stubborn with many decisions that have resulted in the team’s current situation — most notably selecting Nolan Patrick second overall in the 2017 draft when later selections turned into superstars. Clarke said on the podcast that “none of our scouts wanted Nolan Patrick.”
We can argue about revisionist history all day, but something certainly prodded Clarke, who serves as Flyers executive, to blindside Hextall, who is now the general manager for the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although there is certainly bad blood between the two former Flyers, it’s likely Clarke took his shot to protect current general manager Chuck Fletcher, who has been carrying a larger target these days while the fanbase carries torches and pitchforks.
Clarke and the Fletcher family go way back, which includes a friendship between Cliff Fletcher and Clarke. Clarke then mentored the younger Fletcher in Minnesota.
You could say Clarke is simply sticking up for his boy in deflecting the negative energy to Fletcher’s predecessor Hextall. To read between the lines, Clarke’s argument is that Hextall created the mess and Fletcher hasn’t had enough time to clean it up.
In actuality, Fletcher has been here a lot longer and has been involved with more moves than you might think. That’s not to say Hextall didn’t set the organization back by poor drafting in his tenure. He did. And the Flyers are paying for first-round picks like Patrick, German Rubstov (2016) and the yet-to-be-seen Jay O’Brien (2018).
But Fletcher has a lot of blood on his hands, too, when speaking of what has resulted in a disastrous 2021-22 season. And we’re not just talking about the recent offseason moves.
Fletcher has either drafted, traded for, signed, extended or claimed off waivers every player on the Flyers roster except for Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Frost.
That’s three players whom Fletcher didn’t make a direct decision on. In fact, Fletcher extended both Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton twice. He traded for Nate Thompson, let him walk, and brought him back a year later as an unrestricted free agent.
Hextall drafted Sanheim, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Oskar Lindblom, Carter Hart to be cornerstone pieces, but it was Fletcher who cemented them in with long-term contracts. If he didn’t like Hextall’s guys, then why bring them back?
Fletcher traded for Kevin Hayes and gave him a seven-year, $50 million deal. He chose to extend Sean Couturier to an eight-year, $62 million contract instead of testing the trade market.
Ryan Ellis’ contract has five more years remaining at a $6.25 million annual cap hit. The structure of the Flyers’ long-term plans have Fletcher’s fingerprints all over them.
Hextall put the wheels in motion but Fletcher has been driving the bus.
How miserable have things been? Prior to the Monday meeting with the New York Islanders, the Flyers had endured a 10-game winless streak and entered the Isles game on a seven-game skid. At 37 games in, that means 46 percent of the Flyers’ season has been spent in one of those two losing streaks.
3 of a Kind
The Flyers hadn’t allowed a hat trick through their first 32 games of the season. Then they let up three hat tricks in the next four games. Troy Terry (Anaheim), Tomas Hertl (San Jose) and David Pastrnak all contributed a three-goal game against the Flyers. They’ve allowed a multi-goal scorer in five of their last six games heading into the Islanders’ home-and-home series.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The Flyers are 2-15-3 when allowing the first goal of the game. On the flip side, they are 11-2-4 when scoring first. In other news, the Flyers are just 5-12-4 against Eastern Conference opponents and are 1-5-1 against Original Six teams. They seem to play better against the Western Conference (8-5-3) and against teams from Canada 4-2-2. ••