A nine-game losing streak.
A players-only closed-door meeting.
Fans calling for your head coach’s firing.
So how are things, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall?
“Actually, from the start of the year I’m pretty good with the way our team’s played, pretty good with the way our team’s played the last nine games,” he said after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to San Jose. “I think tonight we ran out of a little bit of energy. Obviously, results lately are not very good. We deserved better but we haven’t gotten better. Obviously, we’ve got to find a way.”
Maybe Hextall is looking at the fact that his team has lost five of these nine games in overtime or the shootout, where a single bounce could have earned them the extra point. Or maybe he’s looking at those back-to-back shutouts at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, where nothing was going to get by Devan Dubnyk, who stopped all 62 shots he faced in the two games. Or hey, those possession numbers are OK (51 percent), per Corsica, and some of the top guys like Jakub Voracek (9 points), Claude Giroux (8), Sean Couturier (7) and Ivan Provorov (5) are contributing offensively as Wayne Simmonds (3) struggles.
What Hextall might not be looking at are the blown leads. During this nine-game skid, the Flyers have scored to take or extend leads 15 times. There’s also a penalty kill stumbling along at 70.3 percent and a team that’s been shorthanded 37 times, which is the most in the NHL since Nov. 11. You also have had a very young defense that’s allowed the fourth-most even strength shots (227, via Corsica) over that span. That’s why he was very happy to see the recent returns of Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald to the lineup.
But Hextall didn’t meet with the media after a ninth-straight loss to back the fans’ calls to fire Dave Hakstol or rip his players and threaten major changes. He believes the Flyers have been playing better than what the standings show and in his mind that’s a realistic view of the situation at the moment.
“If we were playing poorly, I would be the first to say we were playing poorly. I would be,” Hextall said. “We are not playing poorly. To look at objectively at our team right now, and to say we’re playing poorly, no. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot at times? Yes, we are. Critical mistakes at critical times, yes. It’s kind of what happens when the snowball starts to go the wrong way and you start doing things that are a little bit unpredictable. But you look at our effort and at times our execution, if you took the score away the last nine games that I’ve seen and tell me we’re 0-9, I’d be like, ‘come on.’
“So the point is we have to find ways to win. Nobody is looking for excuses around here We are going to battle through this. We are going to get through it.”
There’s only so much time left to start digging yourself out of self-created holes. The Flyers are six points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday. How much longer will Hextall allow his head coach and players to “battle through this” before a hammer needs to drop?