CALGARY – Flyers general manager Ron Hextall strongly defended his coach before the Flyers tried to end a 10-game losing streak Monday night in Calgary.
“Dave Hakstol is our coach and he will remain our coach. Period,” Hextall said, forcefully. “I’ve said it over and over, and I’m not going to say it again.”
After winning five of their first eight games, the Flyers have fallen to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Hextall said. “….We’re in a rut. They happen throughout a year. You can’t value and judge your team on 10 games or 15 games or 20 games. It’s a long season and you’re going to have your ups and downs.”
Hextall said most teams go through losing streaks and “this isn’t uncommon.”
Only three times in franchise history, however, have the Flyers had longer winless streaks entering Monday.
“Somehow, I think people think there’s no urgency here and we’re OK with where we’re at,” Hextall added. “We’re not OK with where we’re at. We’ve lost 10 games in a row and we’re not happy as an organization. There is not one player who’s happy. There is not one coach that is happy, and certainly no one in management is happy.
“In saying that, we know there’s enough ability on this team right now to win hockey games.”
Asked if he thought the team had quit on Hakstol, Hextall bristled.
“Absolutely not!” he snapped. “Have you watched this team for the 10 games? Do you know how hard it is to go through a 10-game stretch and lose? It’s awful as an athlete; it’s the worst thing that can happen to you.”
In Saturday’s 3-0 home loss to Boston, the Bruins won a majority of the puck battles.
“Boston played very well. At that point, we had lost nine games [in a row],” Hextall said. “There’s a frustration level that comes into it. There’s a hell of a difference between frustration and quitting. This team has not quit.”
Since their 10-game winning streak ended last season, the Flyers had won 28 and lost 48 before Monday’s game.
In an attempt to end his team’s skid and spread out the scoring, Hakstol switched all four lines Monday.
Most noteworthy: The top line, which has produced the most even-strength goals of any unit in the NHL, had a different look. Right winger Jake Voracek dropped from the top line and was replaced by Wayne Simmonds, who has appeared healthier in the last few games and might be ready to break out of a slump.
“It’s the right time to do it,” Hakstol said after the morning skate at the Saddledome. “… It’s a little bit different look with a [new] guy on each line, and sometimes a fresh look is also a good thing.”
Simmonds, who was headed to a dentist Monday afternoon because a tooth was falling out, has been battling numerous injuries this season and had just one goal in his last 18 games.
“It happens. No big deal. It’s hockey,” he said of his injuries.
Couturier, who had a team-high 14 goals entering Monday, centered Claude Giroux and Simmonds.
“Obviously with 10 losses in a row, you want to switch things up a little bit,” said Couturier, whose team had averaged just 2.25 goals over its last 16 games. “It’s still a good line with Simmer jumping in with us. He creates space for us, and I think that’s what was our biggest quality as a line – creating time and space.”
The hope is that Voracek, the Flyers’ leader with 30 points in their first 26 games, will jump-start his new linemates, Val Filppula and Michael Raffl.
“I think it balances out the lines a little more,” Simmonds said. “Jakey’s a guy who can carry his own line. He usually has the puck.”
Nolan Patrick centered Dale Weise and Travis Konecny on the third line, and Scott Laughton was between Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal on the fourth line.
Leier had been a healthy scratch for three games, and he replaced Jori Lehtera.