Back to the old ways? Flyers say look at us now


When Paul Holmgren made the call to relieve Ron Hextall of his duties as general manager, there was a common refrain among fans fearing of win-now, shortsighted decisions.

Here we go, the Flyers are headed back to their old ways.

Well, in reality, the Flyers weren't a whole lot different to begin with. Hextall deserves credit. He did many positive things. He changed the Flyers' way of thinking and operating. He fixed a troubling salary cap situation and built up the farm system.

But in the business of winning, the Flyers very much stayed the same. In Year 5 of Hextall's process, the Flyers were in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for a second straight season. Twice they had missed the playoffs and twice they had lost in the first round after squeaking into the tournament.

Less than five and a half months following Hextall's firing in late November, the Flyers, an organization often criticized for a reluctance to steer from the past, look awfully different, fueled by outside perspective and experience.

Did you ever think two coaches with a winning pedigree from days with the hated rival Penguins would be brought in with open arms as assistants?

Here we are.

How about hiring a head coach who was working in the division just over a year ago and beating the Flyers in a huge Game 7 during the 2014 playoffs?

Here we are.

The hiring of Chuck Fletcher as general manager created a trickle-down effect of change, with fresh faces and potentially new ways to drive a team into contention.

Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr come from a background with the Wild in Minnesota, where they rekindled a buzz in a passionate hockey market.

Alain Vigneault is now the head coach. He arrived to the Flyers with two Stanley Cup Final appearances, three Presidents' Trophy winners and a Jack Adams Award (top coach).

Fletcher and Vigneault hired two assistants Monday with notable track records. Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have a combined 1,296 games of NHL head coaching experience. Therrien led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, while Yeo won a ring with Pittsburgh in 2009 as an assistant.

Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott spearheaded this outside perspective. All along, it may have been a part of their vision when they hired Fletcher. No, the team hasn't made wholesale changes and Fletcher isn't looking to do so (or at least not yet), but the Flyers are different.

On April 18, the day of his introduction as head coach, Vigneault said he was aware of the frustration among Flyers fans with the state of the team.

"I understand people's disappointment, but I would say that's all behind us," he said. "Chuck is here, he's new. I'm here, I'm new. Nothing I can do about what happened in the past. I can focus on the present and hopefully make the future what we all want it to be. I'm going to be on high alert, I'm going to work my butt off to get this done and I'm very confident that it's going to work out."

Fletcher knows the Flyers' past.

"For me coming in from the outside," Fletcher said, "I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League.

"It has happened long before I got here, but the Flyers have always done things the right way and we'll continue to do that."

With new, outside point of views from Fletcher, Flahr, Vigneault, Therrien and Yeo.

Yes, the Flyers are hungry to win again, sooner rather than later. But you can't say they're back to their old ways.

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