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Fletcher to assess future of Hakstol on Flyers road trip

GM will evaluate coach, possible moves over next five games

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Chuck Fletcher said he plans on using the upcoming five-game road trip to start evaluating potential moves as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Fletcher who was hired Monday to replace Ron Hextall, said that includes coach Dave Hakstol and his staff.

The Flyers play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-O, NHL.TV) before beginning a five-game road trip with back-to-back games at the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. They then play the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks in a four-day span.

 

[RELATED: Mailbag: Thoughts on the Fletcher hiring]

 

"I think you have to give people a chance to show how they're going to work with you," Fletcher said Wednesday. "It's easy to have an opinion on the outside. When you're talking about making a decision on the future of a coaching staff I think you better have a little more specific information than I have right now. I want it to work. I want to be successful with this group. It's not threats or anything, but if we don't have solutions in-house we'll look outside. There's no timetable for any of that other than we want to get better, want to make the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs this year, want to win the Stanley Cup as soon as we can. Every decision we make will be towards that goal."

Hakstol said he's already had a few conversations with Fletcher and said those talks have been positive.

"We've been able to have some discussions," Hakstol said. "His approach in the coach's room with all the guys, and myself inclusive, has been a good one. He communicates very clearly. It's early in the process and he's got an awful lot on his plate, but we've had a few pretty good and productive discussions together."

Hakstol is 133-98-40 in 271 games with the Flyers and has not gotten out of the first round in two playoff appearances. His staff now includes assistant Rick Wilson, who was hired Tuesday to oversee the defensemen.

Video: Carchidi on Flyers hiring Fletcher, goalie prospects

Defense and goaltending also are areas Fletcher will evaluate during the road trip.

The Flyers (11-12-2), who are in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 15th place in the Eastern Conference, have used five starting goalies in their first 25 games and have allowed the third-most goals-per game (3.52) in the NHL after the Ottawa Senators (4.07) and Chicago Blackhawks (3.68).

Brian Elliott, expected to be the No. 1 goalie, is week to week with a lower-body injury sustained Nov. 15. Michal Neuvirth, expected to push Elliott for ice time, has been limited to one game because of a lower-body injury but dressed as the backup to Anthony Stolarz during a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Alex Lyon has made one start, and Calvin Pickard made 11 starts before he was claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 29.

"That's not all performance related," Fletcher said of the goaltending. "There's been some injuries, some tough breaks, some performance issues. There's been some instability in goal. If we can get some guys healthy perhaps that can be an antidote to that, or we can get that consistency back.

"I think looking at some of the metrics, the quality of shots we're giving up is not bad. But we're giving up too many goals. That's not all on the goaltenders, it takes everybody on the ice to give up a goal. I think we need to look at finding a way to reduce goals-against. That's first and foremost. That's not a crazy statement to make; you usually need to be in the top-half of the League in goals-against to make the playoffs."

Video: Discussing the future for Dave Hakstol

The 51-year-old general manager said the road trip will give him a better handle on his roster and what changes or improvements are needed.

"The first order of business is to look for in-house solutions," Fletcher said. "I think you have to give people a chance -- players, staff, everybody. If we can get this thing going the right direction maybe we don't have to go out and be aggressive. But if things aren't working or we're not getting traction, then I think you have to look at every angle."

Philadelphia is five points behind the third-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan, but Fletcher believes there is enough in place to reach the postseason.

"We have a lot of runway left here," he said. "We have an opportunity, this group, these coaches, these players ... to find a way to push and make the playoffs. That has to be our goal. We're right there, we're a few points back, but we're as strong as any of the teams right around us. Hopefully we can find a way to become a very good team as the season moves on." 

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