How much is the Flyers’ current 10-game losing streak the head coach’s fault?
Well it’s hard to say. The team didn’t look particularly awful during the first eight games of their skid, losing in overtime several times while also blowing several big leads. But the two most recent decisive losses to the Sharks and Bruins, suggest perhaps Dave Hakstol’s message isn’t getting through.
“I thought the other night was a tired hockey game for us,” the coach said referring to last Tuesday’s 3-1 loss at home to San Jose a day after losing in overtime in Pittsburgh. “Once we get into the third instead of having that injection of life that our bench needed at that point with a late power play goal, we gotta come in and try to climb out of a 3-nothing hole and we couldn’t do that tonight.”
The result, of course, was a 3-0 loss to Boston Saturday. With the Flyers heading on the road for three games in Canada against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks in just four days, the pressure on general manager Ron Hextall to consider making a change in the locker room could start to mount.
A win on the road is required to save Hakstol’s job.
Last week Hextall held an impromptu press conference to address the team’s then eight-game skid. While he made sure to point out that he is not giving up on the playoffs this season, he didn’t give an indication one way or another as to whether he was willing to stick with his head coach should the slide continue.
“We’re all in this together. Nobody’s jumping off any ship here. We’re in it together,” the GM said. “Right now it’s hard to find a positive. I think one of the impressive things is this group hasn’t started pointing fingers at each other. That’s a sign of strong character. It’s a sign that we’re going to come out of this.”
If the Flyers streak of losses expands to 13 before they return home again on Dec. 12, it could be with a new head coach.
According to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi, a longtime beat writer following the team, there are already candidates being murmored about for the potential opening.
It would take a lot for Hextall to part ways with the man he hired, but if this losing streak grows he might be backed into a corner. Because of Hextall’s past connection to Los Angeles, the rumor mill keeps churning ex-Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s name as a possible replacement. Dave Tippett, who has 14 years of NHL head-coaching experience, is also among the numerous candidates. Phantoms coach Scott Gordon makes more sense. If Hakstol is dismissed, give Gordon the rest of the season as an interim coach before deciding about next year. Gordon has had great success developing young players who are now with the Flyers. Most of those young players have not progressed under Hakstol’s watch.