The Philadelphia Flyers want to win now, and they believe Chuck Fletcher is the general manager to make that happen.
Fletcher was hired as executive vice president and general manager of the Flyers on Monday, one week after Ron Hextall was fired.
“At the conclusion of a rigorous review of GM candidates, Chuck Fletcher clearly stood out from the field of talented and capable executives we considered,” Dave Scott, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor and Governor of the Philadelphia Flyers. “Chuck has earned success throughout his impressive NHL career and offers the right mix of expertise, business acumen and leadership qualities that the Flyers need today as we work to achieve our ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup championship.”
Fletcher was previously the general manager for the Minnesota Wild for nine seasons, before being relieved of his duties after last season. From 2012-18, the Wild made the playoffs for six straight seasons, but never advanced past the second round.
Prior to the Flyers, he held senior-level managerial and advisory positions with the New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers. He was an assistant general manager with the Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Fletcher was considered a heavy favorite for the job. Columbus assistant GM Bill Zito and Anaheim special assignment scout Dave Nonis, former Toronto general manager, were also interviewed.
“The Flyers are proud to have Chuck Fletcher as the new general manager of our hockey club,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren. “Throughout his career he has helped shape teams that have consistently competed in the playoffs. In addition, Chuck’s tireless work ethic, wealth of knowledge and experience in the hockey community will be instrumental in leading our team into the future.”
Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold believes Fletcher will be “absolutely fantastic” as general manager in Philadelphia.
“I think it’s just what Philly needs. I think everybody’s going to be happy: win, win, win,” said Leopold. “I think he’ll be absolutely fantastic in Philadelphia. He’s a great general manager. Makes him good GM: “He’s a very cerebral guy. He’s very good at building a playoff team, and he looks further ahead than just the year they’re in and next year. He’s going to be very successful.”
But does Fletcher have the boldness that the Flyers are seeking?
“We’ll find out,” said Leopold. “He was bold with us. We made some big moves. He’s not afraid to make moves. I can tell you that. Bold he can do.”
Hextall was fired as the Flyers got out to a 10-11-2 start, with a minus-13 goal differential. The team said it didn’t share the patient philosophy of Hextall, who was credited with building a strong collection of prospects and managed the salary cap well, but whose teams failed to advance out of the first round of the playoffs.
“He was very confident in his plan and his vision, and he wasn’t going to waver from that plan,” said Scott last week. “Do I think we can do better as a team now? Not two years or three years from now, but now? I think the answer is yes.”
If it’s bold they want, Fletcher can be bold. Sometimes that meant a home run like trading fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick to the Islanders in 2013 for Nino Niederreiter. Sometimes that meant a less successful trade, like sending Brent Burns and a second-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Charlie Coyle, Devin Steoguchi and a first-round pick in 2011.
Those signings were meant to be the cornerstone for a championship team. But while Fletcher’s teams made the playoffs in a difficult Central Division, they never played for one.
“It is an honor to join the Flyers, an iconic NHL franchise, and I would like to thank Dave Scott and Paul Holmgren for entrusting me to guide the team forward,” said Fletcher. “Adding to my excitement is the high level of talent that is in place, which sets this opportunity apart and will pay dividends as we move the organization ahead and ultimately compete for a championship.”