Sunday, October 27, 2013

Armchair GM

First let me say my intention back in July was to shut this off completely.  I rethought that and am keeping this up and open.  I have a secondary blog that will cover broader topics but we are going to keep this strictly the place for me for hockey.

I had a little road trip on Saturday.  I went to Hershey, PA to see the Wolf Pack take on the Bears.  If you would like to look at the pictures they are here.

On my little road trip this weekend the discussion with my fellow trippers was what would we do to fix the Flyers.  This topic is the inspiration for my post.  Yes, I have not nor will I ever be a professional hockey player.  I may never work in hockey either.  What I do have is years in business and tons of hockey watching experiences.  I know a few weeks ago When Mr Snider was asked if a culture change was needed he said that the Flyers did not need a culture change.  I would agree.  Not a culture but a philosophy change.

Hockey today as we all know is big business.  It is important in business to have a plan.  Not just one plan but many and the plan needs to have room for changes in market conditions.

I think that is where the Flyers have gone astray.  They did not calculate for changes in market conditions.  Both financial markets and hockey markets.  Flyers have always spent generously on their teams.  They have also always employed former Flyers.  I have no problem with the taking care of your own practice.  I think it is commendable and one of the reasons hockey differentiates itself from other sports.

What the Flyers need is plans not just for this season but 3, 5 and 10 years from now.  In this salary cap environment you are not always going to be able to trade for the pieces you want when you want them.  Flyers need to look at what the team will need to look like 5-10 years from now and draft for that future.  Not just draft for that future but be willing to take time and money to develop that future.  This means greater resources for scouting and player development.  I think the Flyers have taken steps towards this but it needs to look more concrete than it does now.  Have succession plans in place for every position.  Let these pieces grow together in the AHL have time to become a team and learn to win together.  It is about chemistry and time.  If a piece is not working as well fix that in the AHL do not wait until he is supposed to be in your starting NHL lineup.

The Flyers need to stop chasing the current Stanley Cup Champions style.  They need to create their own identity and stick with that plan.  This is our style this is our way of playing.  Yes you will have to make minor adjustments based on your opponent but keep one style.  Either be finesse or be the bullies. To me the Flyers have always been blue collar work ethic.  When you scout players to sign and draft players need to echo that blue collar attitude when they come to play.  They need to "be happy to be here".  Blue collar work ethics to me also include grit and toughness.  Or as a coined phrase of a famous GM "Truculence".

Toughness does not mean oh you want the bullies.  No I want the guy who plays for the guy next to him and has his back when it counts.  If that means I have to throw down then so be it.  I need to be able to go to war for these guys that are here with me.

Now that Blue Collar thing that is not limited to a certain play style.  You could have all kinds of players that meet that standard.  You just need to find the type of system that works the best in today's NHL.  Something with crisp passing and constant movement seems to be the answer.

Going back to drafting you are going to need more scouts.  Scouts will need to go where other scouts are not going to look for those hidden gems.  I think there are more Matt Read's out there waiting to be happened upon.  The nice thing about players like that is you can sign them with out drafting.  This may need to be done for some time until you regain some of the picks that have been given away so often in the past.

I think scouting needs to be a combination of stats and intangible things.  You need stats to identify who you want to see in person.  Are they the real deal?  Just because they have stats does not mean they have that blue collar effort you are seeking.  You are going to have to meet with the player and those around them to find out for sure.

I also feel the NHL and hockey in general would benefit from trying to find more players overall.  Make hockey more affordable to more kids to give you a larger sample size to pull future talent from.  Invest in the future of hockey.  Some of that takes place in bits and pieces but could you imagine if team grew their players from pee wee?  Years and years together with the same message and system.  Could be an amazing experience.  

That is my take on the armchair GM.  Sorry for the manifesto approach I am just tired of seeing the same mess year in and year out.  Yes the Flyers are competitive.  The goal is to win a Stanley Cup.  If you do not have a crafted blue print for now and the future that dream will always be just that a dream.