Dave Hakstol has been the whipping boy of the Flyers faithful for nearly two years. He’s often been criticized for his poor handling of key players and the abundance of ice time he gives to the unreliable ones.
The criticism is fair, considering they missed the playoffs last year and the Flyers weak fourth line of Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Roman Lyubimov was often a “go-to” for Hakstol.
But he’s done a lot of good in his three years.
Not many remember, but when Mark Streit went down in 2015-16 with an injury and Gostisbehere was called up, Hakstol had confidence in him and allowed him to step into a big role on the power play and figure things out.
Last season, we witnessed Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny for the first time. While Konecny was a healthy scratch for a handful of games, Hakstol never doubted Provorov’s abilities and the number of minutes he could handle. He played him without hesitation and easily could have buried him after his horrendous game against Chicago early in the year. If he decided not to play Provorov, would his development have been halted a tad?
Hakstol has made mistakes, especially when it comes to lines and ice time management, but he’s often made up for those mistakes one way or another.
If he had been canned after one bad year, Flyers fans might have never seen a Giroux-Couturier duo, bet the fans who wanted to give up on Couturier are feeling foolish now. Now in the latter stage of the season, we’re witnessing Konecny blossom into a good top-6 forward, a nice balanced lineup that can put up numbers and a deadly pairing on the blue line.
Nolan Patrick, who was sheltered early in the season by Hakstol, has now taken the reigns of the second line and is slowly coming into his own, gaining confidence by the game. Gostisbehere, who was scratched several times last year, is now a legitimate threat for Norris contention, is it possible the scratches from Hakstol last year gave him a boost, in addition to him being healthy?
Hakstol takes a lot of heat, but he’s proven he can be successful throughout his career.He coached his NCAA squad to the Frozen Four four times and later became the first head coach in over 35 years to go from an NCAA head coaching job to an NHL one. Hextall has a ton of confidence in Hakstol and doesn’t seem willing to part ways with him anytime soon, especially during the tear the Flyers have been on. People need to understand that a coach will make mistakes, and instead of wanting him fired, they should hope he learns from his mistakes, just like players in the NHL do.
Obviously, there is a ton of work to do. The constant need to play veterans like Andrew MacDonald and Valtteri Filppula can often get on peoples’ nerves, he cost the Flyers two points early in the season on a botched offside challenge, he’s played Manning over Sanheim in power play situations when Sanheim was on the team. These things add up and will ultimately be exposed in the playoffs, but it’s a process and Hakstol will hopefully get better and better.
Whether he’s a stud or a dud, you decide.