The Philadelphia Flyers held a players-only meeting following Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the San Jose Sharks that resulted in the crowd at Wells Fargo Center booing their team off the ice and chanting for head coach Dave Hakstol to be fired.
The Flyers began the season with a respectable 8-6-2 record but have since lost nine in a row and have the sixth-worst points percentage in the NHL.
“We get booed every once in a while but when we’re getting booed the whole game, it’s pretty embarrassing,” forward Wayne Simmonds told reporters after the game.
The Flyers’ effort, or lack thereof, against the Sharks was more concerning than the 3-1 final score and was among the reasons “Fire Hakstol!” chants rang throughout the arena.
“They can chant whatever they want. We’re in this together. We’re all in the same boat here,’’ Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “It’s not on him. It’s on everybody.”
Added defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere: “It’s the players. We know it’s us. He doesn’t play the game. We do. We know that. Quite frankly, I feel sorry [for him]. We’re the ones out there playing the game. We’re the ones out there putting the effort in and it’s not good enough.”
Philadelphia went 60-37-17 in Hakstol’s first 114 games as Flyers coach after he joined the team from the University of North Dakota for the 2015-16 season, but as Chuck Gormley pointed out on Twitter the team has gone just 28-33-13 in the past 74 games.
This type of slump can quickly put a coach on the hot seat, yet Flyers general manager Ron Hextall doesn’t appear to be on the verge of axing Hakstol, and doesn’t even seem too worried that his team’s losing streak could reach double digits if they can’t get by the Boston Bruins Saturday afternoon.
“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly.’ I would be,” Hextall said. “We’re not playing poorly. To look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot at times? Yes, we are. Critical mistakes at critical times, yes. It’s kind of what happens when the snowball starts to go the wrong way.”
Hextall’s silver lining outlook isn’t without some merit. The Flyers have registered five points during the streak thanks to four overtime losses and one shootout defeat, have only been outscored 33-20 and haven’t lost any of the nine games by more than three goals.
“If you took the score away the last nine games that I’ve seen and tell me we’re 0-9, I’d be like ‘come on,’” Hextall continued. “If we were playing really poorly or we thought we were a really poor team, that’s totally different. Losing nine games in a row is unacceptable, let’s be real. That’s not acceptable for many franchises, but certainly not ours. In saying that, as a manager I have to be realistic with how our team’s playing and right now we’re playing well enough to—let’s say the last nine games we were .500, 5-4, somewhere in there, all right, it’s not great, but it’s not bad. It’s what we deserve.”
Hextall, mostly due to the effort he sees from his players, believes his group remains a playoff team.
“If we weren’t battling right now, we’d have a problem,” he added.