Fletcher is the first Flyers general manager in nearly three decades to not have had any prior ties to the organization. Ron Hextall served as assistant to predecessor Paul Holmgren, who Holmgren served as assistant to predecessor Bobby Clarke. All three general managers were former Flyers players.
One of Fletcher’s most important jobs will be to bring back a winning culture to the Flyers organization that has not had a consistent winning team since the pre-lockout era. The team has made two Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final since the lockout of 2004-05. However, the team is consistently a lower-seed in the playoffs and fails to play consistently for long stretches of time. Flyers fans have become accustomed to winning-streaks followed by losing-streaks and stretches of lethargic and uninspired hockey.
The definition of culture as per the Merriam Webster Dictionary are as follows:
“The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”
Philadelphia has historically been known as a hard-working and gritty team ever since the Broad Street Bullies won back to back Stanley Cups in the 1970s. The Flyers have always had a culture of winning and “heart”. Rocky Balboa’s heart captures the essence of what Philadelphia Sports fans expect from their teams.
Hard work and passion are valued over pure talent in Philadelphia. The Orange and Black were never a team to be pushed around and never one to be outworked. This was the Flyers culture. A team that wouldn’t accept defeat and that would never get pushed around. That would translate into a winning culture.
Fans have grown frustrated with quotes from players following the games stating that the team just didn’t “have it” or they “flipped the switch in the third period but need to put forth a full 60-minute effort”. This is the antithesis of what Philadelphia sports fans expect from their team. This has finally affected the bottom line of the team as tickets can be found on stubhub.com for a mere $10 dollars. The lower level of the arena is far from filled at home games, this is not something that Flyers fans are used to seeing. It comes down to putting forth a winning effort for a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis.
The pre-lockout Flyers teams had a leadership core of Keith Primeau, John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi and Eric Desjardins. Eric Lindros and Rod Brind’Amour were leaders before and didn’t tolerate bad practice habits.
With the 2006-2007 team, a team that had the worst season in Flyers history, nearly two-thirds of the pre-lockout team had been replaced. With the leaders gone and an almost fully turned over roster, it appears as though the Flyers culture changed.
General manager Bobby Clarke resigned shortly into the season, future Hall of Fame coach Ken Hitchcock was replaced with John Stevens shortly into the season after a 9-1 loss to Buffalo and a 1-7 start to the season.
“That loss pretty much put us into the tailspin,” Mike Knuble said.”We started to lose the confidence, and when you play without confidence you’re not a good hockey player, and when you do it as a team, the results are disastrous,” Sami Kapanen noted. “I never saw anything like this coming,” Derian Hatcher confessed. “You always hope that we were going to turn it around. I did, anyway. We never regrouped. It’s the toughest season I have ever been through mentally just with the losing.”
Flyers fans of today have recently seen similar post-game quotes stating a lack of confidence amongst the team.
During the 2007-2008 season, the Flyers started the season 7-3 and even had a 9–3–1 run in the month of January. Philadelphia at one point in time could be found near the top of both their division and their conference. The Flyers would then have a 10 game losing streak in the month of February. The Flyers would then have an 8–3–4 run in March and would make the playoffs during the last weekend of the season.
This is similar to what Flyers fans have grown accustomed to seeing the last decade. A team that can put forth a 10-game winning streak only to lose 10 games in a row. Up and down results where a team that is good enough to go on a 10 game point streak somehow is also capable of going 10 games without earning a point.
The pre-lockout Flyers teams were always in contention for division titles. The same cannot be said of the Flyers teams of the last decade.
The Flyers of the last 10 years do not come to play every game. The Flyers players themselves will tell you this. They don’t have their foot on the throttle for a full 60 minutes. Flyers fans have read endless quotes from the team acknowledging that they were playing flat.
Fletcher’s top priority should be installing a winning culture, It’s where the team is able to put forth a 60-minute effort on a long-term basis. Hextall addressed the media after his firing and alluded to an effort to prevent a “country club” type of environment within the locker. room. “The locker room — I don’t run a country club, I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe you win that way,” Hextall said. “Watching out in L.A. how we did it, how [Bob Clarke] did it, I believe in having tight doors, I believe in the sanctity of the locker room, I believe when the players are in the locker room, it should be the players — that’s when that team bonding [is built]. “
“After games and practice days, I did close the locker room to people — fathers and kids could come in, obviously, and brothers. But one day I walked in and a guy had four of his buddies in our lounge on a practice day. And I was like, ‘This is a place of work.’ Like, you guys go to work and don’t bring your four buddies to work, right? “So there were some things that went on that I didn’t like and we changed some things as a result. But I like structure, I’m a structured guy, I believe in structure.”
Fletcher has his work to do to bring a Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia. That all starts with a change in culture. The Flyers fans have spoken. They want Rocky Balboa back.
TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 09: Chuck Fletcher walks the red carpet prior to the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Brookfield Place on November 9, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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