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Fletcher/Scott Press Conference Transcript

January 26, 2022, 1:36 PM ET [763 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Dave Scott (DS) opening statement

“I’ll start. Good morning, good to see everybody. I just want to say a few words before we get into the Q&A. I don’t want to sugarcoat this. From where I sit, we’re in a terrible spot right now. I can tell you I’m angry, I know our fans are more than angry and the whole organization’s angry. We’re sick of losing. We talk about this every day, we’ve got to figure out how to right the ship. We have a winning culture going back to Ed Snider, which was really instilled in all of us and it’s something I think about a lot lately. When we talk about winning, it’s not just a winning record. It’s winning the Stanley Cup, being a contender. That’s really where we want to go, that’s who we want to be. As I look back to the start of the season, had high hopes, really had high hopes.

I went back and looked at some of my comments from last fall. I think Chuck made some smart moves, I think we put a really strong roster together. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for us. If you were to ask me what our No. 1 challenge is today, it’s injuries. It’s not an excuse, but it’s our reality. I can tell you I read that medical report every day, open it up and cringe a little bit. The last time I looked at it, we were 10 injuries just at the NHL level.

The good news is I think some of that will come back to us. We’re at the halfway point in the season, we’ve got some time. But I can tell you everybody in this organization is waking up every day and really thinking about what we can do to improve this team.

Chuck and I talk daily, it’s been a good partnership, the front office support, the coaching staff, really all of our hockey people, we’re all thinking long and hard about it. I just want to address our fans for a second and really just say I’m sorry, you deserve so much better than what we’re dealing with right now. This isn’t what anybody signed up for. I can tell you we’re determined to right the ship here and get it right and looking forward to the future.”


Chuck Fletcher (CF) opening statement

“I just might add one quick thing I guess a little bit off that topic. I just think it’s really important that we commend and congratulate Keith Yandle on an incredible accomplishment. To play that many games in a row, particularly in that position, going back for pucks, you’re getting hit, you’re blocking shots, the COVID era, it’s just remarkable that he was able to not only play that many games, but I think he’s one of the leading scoring defensemen during that time period. It’s an incredible accomplishment and certainly one bright spot in a pretty tough time right now.”


Any updates on Ryan Ellis and Sean Couturier?

CF: “I think they’re both working hard. I think it could go either way with both players. There’s a chance that they could come back this year and there’s a chance that they will need procedures that will take them out for the rest of the season. We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid surgery in both cases. Yet, having said that, the most important for me, my direction to the players and to the medical staff is at this point, we have a long road ahead of us this year. Let’s get these guys right for next year. If that allows them to get healthy this year and play, great, but the focus has got to be on their long-term health. Speaking with the doctors and our medical people, we do not feel these injuries are career-threatening at all. But they certainly could be season-threatening as we all have seen.”

Where are things with Claude Giroux, especially in regards to his no-movement clause?

CF “I spoke with (Giroux's agent) Pat Brisson yesterday, we speak two to three times a month generally. We have a few other clients of his on our roster, so I have a very good relationship with Pat and I think a great relationship with G.

"I think the best way to put it, first of all, I think Bob Clarke is probably the best player in franchise history. Once we get beyond Bob Clarke, there’s been some great players: Billy Barber, Bernie Parent, Eric Lindros, Simon Gagne, Brian Propp, you could go on and on. I think Claude is certainly right in that group. Eric Desjardins, I shouldn’t forget him. He’s right in that group, he’s one of the best Flyers to ever play. He’s our captain, he’s been our best player this year. Nobody cares more about the Flyers than he does.

"I think we have to recognize what we’re dealing with here, he’s a franchise icon, his jersey’s going to be in the rafters, to me he’s a Hall of Fame player. Claude has a no-move trade in his contract. Ultimately that’ll be his decision. We’re at the halfway point, we’re two months to the trade deadline. I guess the best way to put it is we’ll continue to have conversations and ultimately a decision will have to be made one way or the other. It’ll be Claude’s decision.”

Is this in indication that the team will go into rebuild mode?

CF: “Everything’s on the table. We’re going to try to aggressively retool here. The trade deadline typically, as you all know, the teams that are clearly going to make the playoffs are often looking to add guys on expiring contracts. The teams that aren’t making the playoffs have a chance to maybe add some future assets whether they’d be draft picks or prospects. You do get the occasional hockey trade at the trade deadline, but we’re at the 43-game mark, right now we’re really focused on trying to win some games and get better. The math is daunting, so in view of that, if this continues, then clearly we’re going to look to do what we can at the trade deadline to improve this team going forward.”

Major changes?

CF: “Look, I don’t think there’s any question we need more top-end talent. Claude Giroux is our best offensive hockey player, he’s 34 years old, he was drafted 16 years ago. We have some good young players. And some of those young players, their career arc is still going to play out. But we do need more top-end talent, there’s no question. We’ve tried to address that a bit the last few years, adding some players with some skill sets that we need. We just have to continue to chip away at that. But I do believe there’s a group of players here that can be part of a winning core. But we definitely need to add more pieces and that will be the focus going forward.”

Bottom out?

CF: “The easiest way to get top-end talent is through the draft, historically that’s been proven year after year. Bottoming out? I don’t think that’s what we feel we need to do. I do believe we have good pieces. Realistically, players like Couturier and Ellis are going to come back at some point. When they come back, we’re a significantly better hockey team. But we need to take advantage of the opportunities that we do have in the draft, we have to look at trades and you can always supplement your roster in free agency. Look, we need more top-end talent and the draft is the easiest way. But we’re not going to trade all 20 players on our team and try to get 15 picks every year. I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

DS: "Let me just add, too. I don’t really see this as being a 3, 4, 5 year rebuild at all. I don’t think Chuck does, either. We have a pretty good core, I think it really starts with a healthy Coots and Hayes, Farabee, we’d love to have Ellis back. We’ve got a core group to build on. I think as we look at the reality of it, two, three pieces we’d be great. Maybe a little more.

But the core is good. We’ve just got to get healthy. Our job is to make sure Chuck’s got all the resources he needs to make this a success, and he does. I can tell you, everything’s on the table. We’re looking at the front office, we’re looking at the coaching staff which we have been, players, investment. Whatever we need to do to improve this team. But I don’t see it being a 3, 4, 5 year thing. We should get this right, we should be in it next year."

Dave, with coaching, if you have a guy who’s been in the top 10 in wins in Alain Vigneault and he couldn’t get this back on track, Mike Yeo has experience… what kind of coach are you looking for to steer this back in the right direction?

DS: "I think I’ll let Chuck answer that. I think it’ll be a long-term move, and we’ll have a lot of good options. Now, we feel Mike’s holding a very difficult hand. I’m proud of him. He shows up positive every day, but as we look longer, I don’t know, Chuck? We’ve got some good options if we’re thinking about long-term."

CF: "Yeah. We’ll see how the rest of the season plays out here. The best time to make those decisions is in the summer, the offseason, when you’re not burdened with the daily grind of games and practices, so you can objectively look at what you need to do as a team.

"Mike’s been dealt a tough hand. He's doing the best he can. I’ve actually seen progress in some areas in terms of neutral zone, defensive zone. We’re giving up less. Unfortunately, right now, it seems like we make some egregious, big mistakes at the wrong time, and right now we aren’t able to generate enough offense to overcome those. But we’ve seen progress, and we’re going to have an opportunity here. We only have two road games, I believe, between now and March 10, we have a lot of practice days, we have opportunities to hopefully reintegrate some of the injured players back into the lineup.

"As we look ahead here, the goal is to win some games the rest of the way, stabilize here, become a better team. But I can’t state enough how important the next few months will be for some of our young players. It’s just not realistic to go out – as I mentioned earlier – to reinvent the team. You can’t replace 20 players every year. We have some young players up right now that are getting an opportunity right now to play in the NHL, probably because of injury, we also have some young players that are in the American League, we have a couple young players that unfortunately are injured, but over the next eight weeks, this is an unbelievable opportunity for these players to show what they can do, and show us.

"Maybe some of the answers to what we’re looking for are here in-house, and that’s what you hope. That’ll certainly be one of the areas of focus here as we go forward."

For Dave, how concerned are you about the dwindling attendance and what message do you have to the fans out there?

DS: "When you’re not winning, you don’t have a good product on the ice, it’s going to impact attendance. We’re feeling it, I’m feeling for the fans. You’ve got team performance, you’ve also got COVID protocol. Philadelphia’s very tough with its vaccination (requirements), that’s impacting attendance. It’s impacting the Wings, it’s impacting the Sixers. It doesn’t help the cause. But bottom line is we have to get better, we have to figure out how to win games."

Chuck, you just brought in a new assistant, was there a reason why there was such a delay from when the others left to now?

CF: "Just part of the process. We spoke to some different people who were offered an opportunity to come in and coach for the rest of the season with no promises beyond that. I’m actually very thankful for John Torchetti coming in, to be honest with you, helping Mike and I right now, I think it’s great. Some people aren’t interested in two-month opportunities, to move away from their family with no promises. But it took a little bit of time. We’d just gone through a stretch of 8 games in 13 days, where you’re literally just trying to make sure you have enough time to make the right decision.

"John’s a lifer, this is a man who I’ve worked with before. He’s technically very savvy, he’s run power plays, he’s run PK, he’s been an interim head coach, he’s coached in the American League, coached in the ECHL, coached in Russia. He’s done everything. I think he’ll really help Mike and the coaching staff and the players.

"Part of what I mentioned earlier is that we have a handful of players that are in the NHL right now that maybe typically wouldn’t be, and so we’re also in addition to preparing for games and trying to win games, you’re also developing in the NHL, which is not a usual thing. John’s great at that area. So we appreciate him coming in,and offering to help us."

Following up on that, is he in COVID protocol now?

Fletcher: Yes, he is. Kinda sums things up right there.

So you have no idea when he’ll be cleared?

Fletcher: Grabbed him at the airport, and two hours later, he was in COVID protocol. You can’t make this stuff up. Hopefully he’ll be a candidate to coach Saturday. It’s kinda right around that.

Will Torchetti run the power play?

CF: "That will be up to Mike. Mike can address it. I think he's looking at a different way. He'll certain lighten Mike's workload. Darryl and Nick Schultz have done a great job, too. But this is a guy, they want more experience. A guy will really help this situation in having a few more hands on deck."

With so many veterans out, how much has lack of development by young players hurt?

CF: "Well, we can't compete. Certainly, right now, we're not competing. I think I would argue, you know, I think on Nov. 20, we had a .600 points percentage. So I think our process was great. I don't think we were playing the right way, meaning we didn't have the puck enough. There were certain things we wanted to change. But we were hanging around a playoff spot. So I think this team, right now, obviously, everything's going wrong. I get it. It's unacceptable. We're working at it every day.

"But we have some good young players. I mean, sometimes young players don't develop because they're not talented enough. And sometimes they don't develop because you don't put enough resources in. I can tell you that thanks to Dave, we doubled the size of our development staff last year. And it's a little bit like gardening. You plant seeds in the ground. It might take a year or two to see the fruits of that.

"We've invested a lot of money in every area, including player development, in the last few months. We're doubling the size of our analytics department. We just named Alyn McCauley director of player personnel, and we've added to our pro staff, we've added to our amateur staff. We've overhauled our strength and conditioning department last summer."

"So this is my third full season here. We've made an awful lot of changes, in many cases adding to the existing staff. We've massively increased our budget. And hopefully, as we go forward here, we're gonna have personnel in place to make sure that we properly develop every player that we draft."

That's the resource side. Is the talent there?

CF: "I mean, that's a pretty broad question. Joel Farabee? Absolutely the talent's there. I mean, we go through player by player, it's no different. When you draft, some players hit, some players don't hit. And, you know, we, as we mentioned to Charlie earlier, I think there's no question we need more top-end talent. But we have a lot of good hockey players. We have a pretty good core here. And time will tell.

"My first draft here, and I say that just because I wasn't in the room when it happened for a lot of these past drafts. I can tell you I've read all the reports from our scouts from 2014 on. I know what everybody felt. I know where we were right, where we were off. But I wasn't in the room when these decisions were made because there were certain players when they were picked.

"In 2019, when I can tell you, the first player we took was Cam York. We drafted him because we really felt we needed another puck-moving defenseman, a guy that could retrieve and help on the power play. Kind of one of these modern-age, new-aged defensemen. He's 21 years old, he's already making an impact on our team. Our second- and third-round pick from that draft are still in college. The 20 Draft, 21 Draft, obviously it's hard to tell.

"So I can tell you this. I believe our scouts do a hell of a job. And you know, I like the process we have in place, and I believe we will be able to find good talent going forward."

What you do to get fans to come back?

DS: "Yeah, I mean we have to continue to communicate with our fans. Valerie Camillo runs the business side there. And we're trying to do everything and more. Another area we're investing in. But, you know, my job, again, is to provide Chuck and Valerie with resources. And I'm -- that's what I'm doing."

Did you bring injured players back too soon? Are you investigating your medical staff? It looks bad on the outside.

CF: "Yeah, well, clearly we do that at the end of every season. And, again, we're kind of midstream here. So it's difficult to have that full season autopsy that you normally do. A lot of this stuff, we'll have to do at the end of the year where we're building (?). But clearly, it's an area we're going to look at.

"We've had conversations with the doctors. I don't know that players have come back too soon. Um, you know, there's been a little bit of bad luck, I guess. A couple of these injuries are a little complicated where the player feels pretty good and then gives it a try and something can re-aggravate it. So, well, look, certainly it's been tough. And you're right. There has been re-occurrence in a couple of cases, and that's something you want to avoid.

So, again, as I said, everything's on the table. We're definitely going to look at it. Just, in season here, there's only so much you can kind of do in the moment. But the questions are being asked, and certainly we'll dig into it."

Is there a point, with Couturier and Ellis on the fence about surgeries, that you decided NOT to try to get them back this season and to just get the surgery so they're ready next season?

CF: There's an element of that, but I think the biggest element is just what's best for the player. I mean, in a lot of cases, surgery should be the last resort. You're not rushing to have guys get surgery. If there's a way to allow the player to heal without surgery, that's what we're exploring. But, you know, ultimately, your hope is that if surgery does happen that it doesn't impact next year. We're not at that point with either player. But the driving force behind everything we do right now is doing what's best for the player and try to get them back without surgery if we can avoid it.

Chuck, how do you evaluate the Rasmus Ristolainen trade at this point, and moving forward?

CF: Well, when we traded for him -- look. Clearly, I paid a big price. I recognize that. It's difficult to get physical defenseman, never mind physical right-shot defenseman. There were other teams that were offering similar type of packages to ours. And we had the highest pick, so we got him. And I recognize we paid a big price. mentioned to Charlie earlier, we need more top-end talent. I also think we need, you know, some bigger, more competitive people, too. You look at that game last night. The Islanders are a big, heavy team, and we had our hands full. So we need to do a better job in competing in that area. As we go forward, Ristolainen can certainly be part of the six-man defense core and bring an element that not a lot of people have.

"The goal when we traded for him was to keep him. And obviously, he's a pending UFA. He will control a lot of that discussion, and we'll work with his representation to see what makes sense."

Danny Briere was a candidate for the GM job in Montreal. Do you see him taking on a bigger role in management here?

CF: "Yeah. We've had a lot of good conversations with Danny and certainly during the process when he was interviewing with Montreal, we were communicating a lot. Brent and I were trying to help a bit. It was a great opportunity for Danny. But Danny, obviously he's been president of the Maine franchise. Couple years ago, in the 2020 draft, Danny looked at a lot of the potential first-rounders and worked with Brent on kind of that area we were looking at when we drafted Tyson Foerster, so he's been involved then. He's been involved with player development this year. He's been on the bench with Lappy. I think moving forward here, he's gonna have a much bigger role in hockey ops.

"He's a guy, to me, great, obviously knows the game, played the game, great personality. Very good evaluator of players and I think there's a lot he can add to our group. Again, he has been involved in a lot of the decisions. He's sat in pretty much every big meeting we've had the last two years. So I've enjoyed working with him and hopefully something that can transition to even a bigger role with us going forward."

In terms of talent evaluation, what was here before [at the end of Ron Hextall's tenure]? Is it tough to come up with creative ways to work on roster?

CF: "That's the job of every general manager. I came here, accepted this job. I knew the pluses and minuses, every team has them. I can just tell you... I'll just go back to the drafts we've had since I've been here.

"If you look at what we've tried to do, I think Cam York, we really felt we needed another defenseman that could move the puck. I still think that's one of the areas of our game that we need the most work on. Our retrievals, our transition. We don't get out of the D zone quickly and cleanly enough for my liking and we defend too much. It's hard to score goals when you're defending.

"Cam York is a guy I think can really help in that regard. If you look after that, trying to find some creative offensive players. We drafted Bobby Brink. Undersized guy. Tremendous heart. Competitor. Hockey sense. Tyson Foerster. Big shot. Trying to find ... we don't have enough shooters in my mind, part of the reason we got Cam Atkinson. Trying to find some shooter-scorers instead of guys trying to make plays all the time. He's a guy that can complement our group really well and even last year, with Tuomaala. I traded our first-round pick, but Samu is a guy that if he hits, he's got quickness, the shot, and the offensive skill. He's got things he has to work on to play. But we've tried to add some talent, some guys that have a chance to hit. Even some of our later picks.

"They don't ... not every player makes it, but we're trying to find talent and I think every team in the league is trying to do that. And yet, we also need some big, physical guys, too. So there's a balance. But we're pursuing that. We'll continue to pursue that and we'll continue to work with this group.

"We have some good young talent on our team. Kids like Farabee, Konecny, those are two of the better young forwards in the league. Lots of skills. I'm hopeful Morgan Frost can continue to take a step. He's a young man, I think the last three games have probably been his best. He's still a work-in-progress. But coming off missing a whole year, he's a guy that has a chance to play and bring the skillset that we need. And then that's, he's one of the players that has a great opportunity here in the next couple months to impress upon us and maybe be a part of the solution next year so we don't have to buy one more player in free agency.

"So there's parts here that we're hopeful about and we'll just continue to grow the group."

Dave, there's a perception among a segment of the fan base, among some Alumni, that the current Flyers org. too disconnected from Ed Snider era. How do you see it?

DS: "I feel if you talk to people inside of the organization now, I think it's been pretty stable for a couple years now, whether it's on the business side. I've had Valerie Camillo, she's in her fourth year. She's a terrific executive. She's built a great team. Chuck's been here now just about as long, I guess about the same time. So no, I think if you ask anybody in hockey ops, they would say nothing's changed. Talk to the old timers, people that are still with the organization.

"I think if you're on the outside looking in, maybe you're hearing some things and seeing it differently. But with that said, you can always make it better. I want it to be a family atmosphere. I don't think it's changed. I mean, I've been living it for ... I'm in my ninth season here. We just try to build on what Ed started. I will say this, Comcast has been the same terrific partner to me that they were to Ed. Comcast has been in this thing for 26 years, the controlling partner."

Is Comcast committed to keeping the Flyers? No plans to sell?

Scott: "Absolutely. We're headquartered here. We have a lot of sports content throughout the company and this is something that everybody gets excited about."

Another coaching change is likely at the end of this season. But at what point do you look above that, at your management structure? At your GM and his staff?

DS: "I mean, right now, Chuck is my guy. We're trying to build beyond that. Strengthen our front office as much as we can. But we've made a lot of positive changes that way. I'm excited about that. I feel like, personally, I'm surrounded by great hockey people. We've got our four advisors (Clarke, Holmgren, Barber, Lombardi). We've got Chuck and his staff. We've got deep talent on the hockey ops side. I feel like we're not lacking anything there."

Chuck, have you ever had a season like this before in terms of expectations and how the season has gone?

CF: "It's been a disappointing season. We're in a tough conference. It's a tough league. Our goal was to be in the playoff hunt and be a good hockey team. We haven't been. There have been a lot of factors. Injuries are a part of it. But other teams have had injuries and they've been able to get through it.

"So it's been extremely disappointing when we look at where I think we should be and where we are. Obviously, I'm the guy in charge. That falls on me. Right now, we are what we are. My mindset is, now, there are going to be opportunities to get better. We have to take advantage of it. We can't undo what's been done.

"Right now, first, we need to find a way to get a win. We need to take the temperature down. We need to get a good environment back around here so we can make objective, smart decisions.

"There will be a lot of decisions to me. There will be opportunities to improve the team. There's no question. I've been through tough stretches other places. This is definitely the toughest I've ever gone through. Definitely the biggest disappointment."

Chuck you've mentioned injuries being an issue. Other teams have dealt with injuries. COVID was an issue with this team. Other teams have dealt with COVID. Why hasn't this team been as resilient as you would have liked?

CF: "It's a good question. With time, maybe we'll be able to break it down and look at it. We're in the middle of it right now. We still have half a season to go. But there's a whole host of factors. We had a pretty good record around Thanksgiving, although I don't think we were playing to our ability. From that point on, it's been a freefall. Certainly, again, we've had a lot of key guys out of the lineup. Some other players aren't playing to their capabilities. It's been tough. Right now, it's a real tough stretch. I think we have 10 forwards out between Lappy's team and our team. We're relatively healthy on defense [but] we don't have Ellis. We have our goalies.

But we're short up front. We need to find a way to score more goals. Right now, we're a little thin and certainly not generating a lot of offensive chances. So there have been a whole host of reasons."

Is it important, being out of the playoff picture to bring up some of the Phantoms guys and get them experience? Specifically, Egor Zamula, and do you weigh that against benching a Yandle, who obviously just set the record?

CF: "We have six Phantoms guys up here right now. On defense, ideally, players should develop in the American League until they're ready. Egor is a young guy, he's improving. He's getting better.But he needs to get stronger. Needs to get more experience. He has a huge role for Lappy. Lappy is doing a great job with the players down there. We don't want to rush him. It may happen at some point but right now, no."

Dave, a few minutes ago, you said Chuck was your guy. Why do you have the confidence that Chuck is the right guy to spearhead this?

DS: "I like the way he's built this organization. I've worked with predecessors. I like Chuck's style. I think he's collaborative. I like what we did going into this season. On paper, it looked really solid. Look, injuries happen. No excuses but it did happen. I think we have more than anybody I've seen. I just saw the [man games lost] numbers and we're right at the top."

Chuck, for a couple of years, the Flyers were right at or near the topic in leaguewide prospect rankings in national publications and among the pundits. Some prospects have filtered up to the NHL and are contributing. But with other guys there are questions and loss of depth. Obviously, there's been a high number of injuries, in several cases major. In the big picture, how would you evaluate where things have been in terms of player development?

CF: "Development is such a big part of an organization today. I thought we needed more bodies [on the development side]. We doubled the size of our staff. There's no question we can do better. We've added some very good people. We already had good people and we've added. Kjell Samuelsson and John Riley, who are very good development guys, have been here a number of years. But you can only be in one place at once. You can't be on the road with Ronnie Attard and with another player somewhere else. Even at the American League level, we had one assistant coach. Now we have two. The more people you have, quality people, the more players you can touch. We doubled the size of the athletic staff and the development staff. We can do more that way. Get a lot more information. But, clearly, it's a very big challenge."
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