So, When Do We Fire Dave Hakstol?

The 2016-2017 season began with a ‘goalie controversy’ in Philadelphia. Who could have guessed, by the end, we would have a coaching controversy on our hands?

The Flyers dull performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, embarrassing last second loss to the Bruins, and pitiful defensive effort against the Blue Jackets have made any glimmer of playoff hopes fade. They are still mathematically in the mix, but the chances are microscopic.  This team has had their ups and downs this season. In fact, they could be the first team in NHL history to have a 10-game winning streak during the regular season, but ultimately fail to make the playoffs. There are still multiple issues with this club that will need to be worked out while the kids make their transition into the league. But one factor has had a lot of people constantly ‘scratching’ their heads; the coaching by Dave Hakstol.

Healthy Scratches…

Over the course of this season, there has been a common questionable theme that Dave Hakstol has had with his daily lineups. Healthy scratches to more talented players have happened too many times. From Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Del Zotto, to Travis Konecny, and even tonight, in game number 68 on the season, to Nick Cousins. Arguments can be had, but at the end of the day, the pros never outweigh the cons in these lineup decisions. Dave is purposely putting these players in the press box as ‘learning’ experience.

 

Unfortunately, Dave, this is the NHL. As much of a ‘developmental specialist’ as you are, you still have to win enough games to keep the fan base intact. Luckily, you’re still with the Philadelphia Flyers…for now.

Overall Outcome: Didn’t change a thing.

Untouchable 4th Line…

How is it, that on any given day, the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Konecny could see the press box. But, god forbid, Chris Vandevelde or Pierre Edouard Bellemare don’t see at least 15 minutes of ice time per match. It’s not even the system of having a shut down 4th line being the issue. If that system is key for Dave Hakstol, then use what you had a say in this past offseason. Dale Weise, Boyd Gordon, and Roman Lyubimov would be such a better set up (momentarily) just to see Chris Vandevelde out of the lineup FOR ONE GAME! It would give the fan base a breath of fresh air to know that you have not already given up at the NHL level and are just trying to relive some glory days with Vandy at UND.

Overall Outcome: Makes us worse.

Anchored Defensive Pairs…

Is it a hazing thing for rookie defensemen to be anchored down by Andrew MacDonald? Sure seems that way! First, Shayne had to deal with him. This year, it’s Ivan’s turn. This issue is comparable to the 4th line debacle. Hakstol just doesn’t see the obvious reasons to split certain people, who, among others, are the obvious choice to separate. And let us not forget the fact that Dave benched the runner up to the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, over the likes of Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning, multiple times this season. With that said, our defense is subpar regardless.

Overall Outcome: Didn’t change a thing.

Goalie Decisions…

Well, both goalies have been a disappointment this season. Except for 2-0 Anthony Stolarz, who is clearly ready (based off sample size) to be a prime-time goaltender in this league! All jokes aside, Dave Hakstol has handled the goalies this season like a 5-year-old who was rooting for their favorite goaltender to start at their first, in-person, NHL game. He never rode the hot hand. And when he did ‘ride’ a goalie, it was for all the wrong reasons (*cough cough* Michael Neuvirth starting in the Stadium Series *cough cough*). With this, I have defended Hakstol as long as last week’s implication game against Toronto. I thought the call for Neuvrith was a matchup strict decision. Clearly, this call did not work as planned. And since I’m not making $2 million a year, I can go back on my call without drastic repercussions. With that said, let’s take a breather and look back at the first sentence in this paragraph. Well, both goalies have been a disappointment this season.

Overall Outcome: Didn’t change a thing.

The Town Hall…

Flyers season ticket holders had their annual town hall meeting with the front office a couple weeks ago. Some solid quotes came from this ‘press-denied’ event. Apparently, Andrew MacDonald is a top 3-4 defenseman in the NHL and Shayne Gostisbehere has to learn how to play defense. Okay, I may be exaggerating that second part. In fact, Hakstol actually mentioned how important Ghost was to our lineup in general, and how crucial of a piece he is moving forward. Unfortunately, Dave also mentioned that Andrew MacDonald was a large piece to our system. The only logic I can possibly find here is an ‘advertising’ of sorts for the Las Vegas expansion. Yet, I can’t convince myself that any NHL GM with the stats and film that even us fans have access to, would ever consider taking that kind of contract for that kind of player.

Overall Outcome: Hurt the fan base, not the team.

Dave’s Future…

Even with all of this, Dave still has 3 years left on his coaching contract ($2 million per season). This doesn’t mean we can’t still fire him into the sun.

We can.

We just have to pay 6 million to do so.

Here is my suggestion…

Since the man is supposed to be this ‘developmental specialist’, I would give him another half season. If we are not above .500 (including OT losses) by the time the All-Star break comes around in 2018, then I would cut ties. I also would be willing to let him loose if we don’t make the playoffs next year. (Please send arguments about how rookies can’t compete for a Finals appearance to the @ThePHWA on Twitter!) This franchise cannot afford to waste the primes of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds, regardless of individual performances.

I’m willing to give Dave Hakstol some more time with the squad and see what he can ultimately ‘develop’. But if this system proves to fail over a longer stretch of time then he has already been granted at the professional level…

Sorry I just can’t comprehend another Philadelphia team falling into the tank.

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