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Hakstol fired as coach of Flyers

Gordon named replacement; Philadelphia eighth in Metropolitan Division

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Dave Hakstol was fired as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

The Flyers (12-15-4) lost the final four games of a five-game road trip (0-3-1) that ended with a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. They're last in the Metropolitan Division with 28 points, eight behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hakstol was not on the ice when practice began at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone on Monday, and his firing was announced a short time later. Scott Gordon, who had been coaching Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League, was named Hakstol's replacement.

The Flyers play the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, NBCSP, FS-D, NHL.TV).

"When I took this job my intention was certainly to take some time to get to know the team, to get to know Dave," said general manager Chuck Fletcher, who was hired Dec. 3, one week after Ron Hextall was fired. "Going on the road last week and having all that time to spend with him, watch the team, I came away tremendously impressed by Dave as a human being.

"But to my eyes there was a disconnect between what he was preaching and how the players were playing. And as the leader of the team that responsibility falls on him and I felt at this point we needed a new voice."

Fletcher said the Flyers' 6-5 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday showed him something had to change. Philadelphia led 5-3 in the third period but allowed two goals in the final 1:08 of the third period before Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau scored 35 seconds into overtime.

"We're playing hard, competing, two-goal lead, but the chances we continue to take, our puck management, our game management, the turnovers we committed ... we just found way to shoot ourselves in the foot and we made it really hard on ourselves," Fletcher said. "We've got to close that game out and that's mindset, that's attitude and the coaches aren't telling them to go out there and turn pucks over. To me we need a new voice, we need to ... have the coaching staff have the message to the players and hopefully have the players receive that message and that's why the decision was made today."

Video: Flyers relieve Hakstol of head coaching duties

Hakstol, 50, was 134-101-42 in four seasons. His 277 regular-season games are third among Philadelphia coaches behind Fred Shero (554) and Mike Keenan (320).

Gordon, 55, is expected to be the coach for the remainder of the season.

"I've been very up front with him," Fletcher said. "I'm going to begin a process to identity what I think the qualities the next coach of the Philadelphia Flyers needs. ... I know how the players skate and their skill level, but I'm trying to identify what characteristics we need in a head coach to make this team successful, and in all honesty I'm not sure how long that will take. Until I know what I'm looking for I can't find it. So at this point everybody's a candidate going forward."

Fletcher said what made Gordon appealing was his experience as a coach in the NHL and AHL, and his track record for developing players. 

"People I respect rave about his character, his preparation, his intellect," Fletcher said. "The fact that he's been in the organization will allow him to get up to speed quicker than somebody from the outside, yet he wasn't here on a daily basis so there's some distance. ... It should allow him a better chance to get caught up to speed, which is what we need right now for our organization as we try to climb back into the playoff race."

Gordon was in his fourth season with Lehigh Valley. He was 64-94-23 in 181 games as coach of the New York Islanders from Aug. 12, 2008 through Nov. 15, 2010. Gordon also was an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2011-14 and for the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"He liked to play with pace," said defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who played his first two seasons with the Islanders under Gordon. "He's got some different ways of thinking about things, some unique styles, kind of creative ways to play. He's pretty fiery, he can get going behind the bench. It's a situation where he's coming in mid-season, he's had some success with Lehigh (Valley). For us as players it's a fresh start for everyone and hopefully he can turn things around."

Video: John Boruk on Flyers' coaching change, Carter Hart

Hakstol had coached the University of North Dakota the previous 11 seasons and was the third person to go from coaching college hockey to coaching in the NHL without previous experience in the League as a player or coach. Bob Johnson was hired by the Calgary Flames from the University of Wisconsin in 1981 and Ned Harkness went from Cornell University to the Red Wings in 1970.

The Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice in Hakstol's first three seasons but were eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games each time. They were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and the Washington Capitals in 2016.

Hakstol is the fifth NHL coach fired this season after no coaches were fired during the 2017-18 season. The others are John Stevens by the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 4, Joel Quenneville by the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov 6, and Mike Yeo by the St. Louis Blues and Todd McLellan by the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 20.

"We are where we are right now," MacDonald said. "[Hakstol] is a good coach, good guy. Obviously our shortcomings are [what led to] him being dismissed. We know we have the talent in here to be a good team and we're not getting it done and unfortunately he took the fall for it."

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