NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 11, 2023
The Panthers defeat the Blackhawks, the Ducks upset the Flames, the reaction to the Flyers firing general manager Chuck Fletcher, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Brandon Montour gave the Florida Panthers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists for the Panthers (33-27-6), who moved to within two points of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 72 points. Petr Mrazek made 39 saves for the 22-37-6 Blackhawks.
The Anaheim Ducks upset the Calgary Flames 3-1. Max Comtois had a goal and an assist while John Gibson stopped 36 shots for the 22-35-9 Ducks. Mikael Backlund scored for the Flames, who dropped to 29-24-13 and remain four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 71 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gibson surpassed Guy Hebert for the most saves (11,837) in franchise history.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Philadelphia Flyers fired general manager Chuck Fletcher on Friday. Fletcher is also out as president of hockey operations. Daniel Briere takes over as GM on an interim basis.
In his four-plus years on the job, Fletcher’s Flyers reached the playoffs once (2020). The last straw for ownership appeared to be his inability to trade pending free agent winger James van Riemsdyk before the March 3 trade deadline.
Fletcher also faced criticism for his draft record, his trades and free-agent signings, and difficulties in coping with injuries to key players like Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson.
Sam Carchidi speculates Ray Shero could be a candidate for the general manager or president of hockey ops position. The former GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils is currently a senior advisor with the Minnesota Wild.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall suggests Fletcher’s inability to suitably replace Matt Niskanen following the blueliner’s sudden retirement in 2020 may have been most fatal to his tenure as GM.
THE ATHLETIC: Charlie O’Connor believes firing Fletcher could be just the start of changes within the Flyers’ front office, citing the dysfunction of hockey operations under his tenure. There appeared to be a disconnection between the two sides of the organization, as well as between hockey ops and ownership.
In his statement announcing Fletcher’s firing, Flyers governor Dave Scott confirmed the roles of general manager and president of hockey ops would be separated. No longer will one person hold both positions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have been mediocre for over a decade now. Fletcher’s firing seemed inevitable even before the trade deadline debacle.
Fletcher wasn’t responsible for what happened under his predecessor but he deserves the burden of blame for the Flyers’ failure to improve under his watch. They were stubbornly resistant to a much-needed roster rebuild, ignoring a fan base eager to embrace change.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski cited multiple sources claiming the GM job is Briere’s to lose. Given that he’s taken over on an interim basis it’s apparent he’s the front-runner to take over on a full-time basis. He could have a hand in whoever is hired to fill the hockey ops role.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has taken a leave of absence to return to his native Latvia due to an illness in the family. The club has recalled Daniil Tarasov on an emergency basis.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Canadiens revealed yesterday that sidelined forward Kirby Dach remains sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Winger Brendan Gallagher remains with a lower-body injury for another three to four weeks. Defenseman Arber Xhekaj underwent successful shoulder surgery on March 1 and is expected to be fully recovered for the start of training camp in September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dach is also likely done for the season. Gallagher could return before the end of the regular season but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still sidelined by that point.
THE ATHLETIC: Two men were arrested this week and charged in the May carjacking involving Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner and his fiancee. Marner was glad to have closure to the incident. “It’s a moment you don’t want anyone to be a part of,” he said yesterday.