Trust the process and stick to the plan. As Flyers fans, we have had those words ingrained in our brains ever since Ron Hextall was appointed Philadelphia’s General Manager on May 7, 2014. For the most part, we have stuck by our beloved hockey, suffering through some brutal on-ice performances as the organization attempted to stock the cupboard full of prospects and shed awful salaries. Now, four years later, the Flyers appear to be in a good position with their youngsters continuing to demonstrate promise and over $ 20 million in cap space to play around with this offseason.
Due to the Paul Holmgren years, the flexibility the Flyers have due to an abundance of prospects, draft picks, and cap space has not only instilled excitement amongst the fanbase but hesitation and fear as well. When we ponder the idea of participating in a big trade or signing one of the more attractive names on the free agent market, we can’t help but revisit occurrences such as the Ilya Bryzgalov contract or the Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk trade. Then we revert to those words we have heard over and over again, trust the process and stick to the plan.
We convince ourselves that the right thing to do is just to stay patient, wait for the prospects to develop and the other ugly contracts to disappear. It may take a few more years before we are ready to contend for a Stanley Cup but we will get there. It is this train of thought that limits our expectation for what the Philadelphia Flyers can indeed accomplish. Instead of wanting the franchise to be aggressive and make moves to make this team a contender in 2018-19, we accept the idea of mediocrity because the unknown is frightening.
The truth, whether you want to accept it or not, is that the Flyers are ready for the next phase of the plan. This step requires Hextall to be an active participant in both the trade and free agent market. Now does that mean he should throw a bunch of money at players who are not worth it or gut the farm to acquire a player via trade? Not at all! However, it does mean that the franchise must evaluate all of their prospects and decide whose value is priceless and who they would be willing to part ways with to obtain a valuable asset. In regards to free agency, Hextall and company must take a look at the players they desire and come up with a price and term they are comfortable with dishing out for each person.
How the Flyers handle their future draft picks is an entirely different conversation altogether. Philadelphia has 17 picks in the next two drafts, including two in the first round this year. Now maybe that means they compile a few of them together to move up in the draft. However, unless it involves moving into a top-five position, those assets can be better utilized. As was mentioned before, the prospect pool is plentiful at this point, all thanks to Hextall’s magnificent work. They can now comfortably deal some of those 17 picks elsewhere for upgrades to the NHL roster.
At the end of the day, sticking with what we know and are familiar with is always the safest route. Patience and trusting the process will guarantee avoidance of the black hole that Holmgren put the Flyers franchise in at the end of his tenure. Unfortunately, ultimate success is rarely obtained through playing it safe. The time for Philadelphia to have an aggressive offseason is now.