Dave Hakstol delivers challenge to Flyers: ‘Let's sack up'


VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol pays little attention to outside noise.

He's an internally motivated head coach — patient just like his general manager and not easily swayed by external pressure.

But that doesn't mean he never gets pissed off. He's not oblivious to reality. He may not hear the cries or see the pitchforks that rise with the fans when things go wrong, but he understands the emotion of adversity.

He's far from immune to it.

At 4-6-0, the Flyers have their most regulation losses through the first 10 games of a season since 2013-14, when they started 3-7-0. They've allowed an NHL-high 40 goals. Their netminders sport an .865 save percentage, tied for last in hockey, while only two teams own a worse goal differential than their minus-9.

Thursday night's 3-0 loss to the Bruins was the newest and most poignant frustration to the 2018-19 season.

Hakstol, in his fourth season, this one bringing the highest of expectations, delivered what sounded like a real challenge to his players.

He needs more. He wants more. He expects more, just like everybody else.

This challenge was felt.

"My message is this: Let's go and be a little bit better, let's give each other that push and that boost and that confidence," Hakstol said Friday after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "Hey, let's go to battle, let's sack up a little here and let's go get it done. And that's what's going to get us going in the right direction."

Change is often what's demanded when wins aren't being produced or play is not up to standards. Part of Hakstol's next change will be in net Saturday afternoon against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers will turn to Michal Neuvirth, who is set to make his season debut. The oft-injured goalie has been out since Sept. 21 with a lower-body ailment.

When asked if a goalie switch could jump-start the Flyers, Hakstol became passionate. It would be silly to lean on an injury-plagued Neuvirth to play savior, but the bench boss is certainly looking for something — anyone — to fuel the Flyers' fire.

He made that abundantly clear.

"We don't need a goaltender to go in and necessarily be the spark. That's not what we're asking, we're going to ask everybody to go out and do their job," Hakstol said. "But somebody's got to be the spark. I'll guarantee you that. Somebody's got to be the spark to push us in the right direction. 

"I don't know whether that will be a goaltender or a defenseman or one of our forwards. I don't know if that's going to be a great defensive play or a highlight-reel goal or a big save, but yeah, we need a spark from an area of our lineup to just push us in the right direction. That's what builds some of the confidence and some of the swagger that we're talking about."

Hakstol sounds ready to sack up. The fans are ready for it. He believes his players are, too.

"I think we have what we need inside of our dressing room," Hakstol said. "I believe we have a good team. I wholeheartedly believe we have a good team.

"I don't believe there are drastic changes that need to be made. I look at our team, and I just don't think that's the case. If I saw holes, I would tell you what I thought. I think there's enough here and then some."

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