The Philadelphia Flyers announced Monday that they were firing head coach Dave Hakstol, ending his run in the position after more than three years.
Hakstol had joined the Flyers for the 2015-16 season after spending 11 seasons coaching the University of North Dakota.
Flyers Clean House After Disappointing Start
Under Hakstol’s leadership, Philadelphia had made the playoffs two of the past three seasons. But the team never advanced past the first round of the postseason, putting pressure on the 50-year-old coach heading into the 2018-19 campaign.
The Flyers came into the year expecting to compete for a playoff spot again, but quickly stumbled out of the gate. That led to the firing of general manager Ron Hextall last month and sparked rumors that Hakstol could be the next one out the door.
Incoming general manager Chuck Fletcher said he wanted to take time to evaluate Hakstol before making a decision on the coach’s future. But just two weeks later, with the Flyers in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-15-4 record, there were rumblings that Hakstol was on his way out. And while the Flyers denied those rumors over the weekend, Monday saw the news become official.
“After meeting this morning with Dave Hakstol and thoughtful consideration, I have decided to relieve him of his duties as head coach,” Fletcher said in a news release. “As I continue to assess the team, I feel that this is the best course of action for our group moving forward.”
Flyers Call Up Hart Due to Goaltending Woes
The move comes after a four-game losing streak in which the Flyers have given up 22 goals. Goaltending has been a serious weakness for Philadelphia all season long, with Flyers goaltenders having a league-low .874 save percentage this season – well below the league average of .902.
The Flyers have tried five different goalies so far this year, and may soon put a sixth in the net. Just before Hakstol was fired, the team called up 20-year-old goaltending prospect Carter Hart from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, which makes him the youngest goaltender in the NHL by more than two years.
That’s an unusual move, as even elite goaltenders typically spend significant time in minor league hockey before coming up to try their hand in the NHL. Hart led Canada to a gold medal in the 2018 World Juniors, and twice won the Goaltender of the Year award in the junior-level Canadian Hockey League.
That makes Hart a tantalizing prospect, even if there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether bringing him up to the NHL this early could stunt his growth as a goaltender.
“You never know for sure what the risk is,” Phantoms coach Scott Gordon told reporters last week, responding to discussion over whether Hart should move up to the Flyers. “There’s nobody that’s suffered by playing in the American Hockey League. It can only make you better.”
Gordon, who previously coached the New York Islanders from 2008 to 2010, will now serve as the interim head coach of the Flyers.
Despite a horrid start, Philadelphia is only eight points out of a playoff spot at the moment with 50 games left to play this season, meaning they are far from out of contention. But bookmakers aren’t giving the Flyers much of a chance to turn things around: William Hill lists Philadelphia as an 80/1 longshot to win the Stanley Cup this season, among the worst odds in the league.