Respected writer applauds Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol

Respected writer applauds Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol

Remember those "Fire Hakstol" chants?

They were belted out by some fans at the Wells Fargo Center during the Flyers' ninth straight loss, a miserable 3-1 finish to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

What felt like the real low of this season so far forced general manager Ron Hextall to issue a state of the union address for his hockey club less than an hour after those chants were spouted into the air.

Including that moment, Hextall ever since has firmly defended and endorsed his head coach Dave Hakstol.

Hextall, a man of immense patience and a stay-the-course mentality, was not about to waver because of a group of disgruntled fans.

“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly,’" Hextall said that night. "I would be. We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no."

A day later, on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk, Hextall made himself especially clear regarding Hakstol's job security.

"He's the guy," Hextall said. "Dave Hakstol is our coach and he's going to remain our coach."

Maybe it wasn't what some fans wanted to hear, but Hextall didn't care.

And one well-respected writer, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, has been impressed with how both Hextall and Hakstol have responded. Here's what Friedman had to write Monday in his 31 Thoughts, a popular read among hockey people:

You’re always curious to learn how a new GM will react to a difficult situation, but I really liked the way both Ron Hextall (and Dave Hakstol) handled the “Fire Hakstol” chants and pressure in Philadelphia.

That organization has a historically short leash for coaches, but Hextall made it clear he wants to change that. He showed up in the dressing room to defend his coach, and, days later, passionately informed the media Hakstol wasn’t going anywhere. (The only thing missing from that burst was Hextall chopping down reporters with a goalie stick.)

Hakstol said he knows what he signed up for. The Flyers don’t admit it, but privately, word is they feel one year away from a true assessment of how good they are. Second, Hextall worked hard to convince Hakstol to leave North Dakota three summers ago, luring him to Pennsylvania with what is believed to be a six-year contract. He’s invested in his coach.

The Flyers fired Peter Laviolette three games into the 2013-14 season. They axed John Stevens 25 games into the 2009-10 campaign. And they got rid of Ken Hitchcock eight games into the 2006-07 slate.

There's definitely a history of short leashes, as Friedman mentioned.

But Hextall is not a guy that gets easily rattled by outside pressures. It probably makes him trust his evaluation and gut even more.

After the losing streak hit 10 games, the Flyers won three straight by sweeping their Western Canada road trip. Now they're back at the Wells Fargo Center for five games in a row, starting Tuesday.

A little more pressure at home sweet home.

h/t to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Tom Dougherty.

In current state, Dave Hakstol has tricky job with Flyers

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USA Today Images

In current state, Dave Hakstol has tricky job with Flyers

Dave Hakstol has to walk a fine line between winning and development.

When it comes to Ron Hextall's organizational blueprint, those two concepts intertwine. While the future is important, so is being competitive in the present.

There is no tanking, nor is there a disregard for tomorrow.

As the head coach overseeing the day-to-day operations of such a model, Hakstol finds himself in a daily conundrum of sorts, trying to strike that balance between Hextall's two all-important objectives.

Lately, though, Hakstol has probably been more focused on winning the day than he's ever been, compared to worrying about a year, month or even a week down the road.

And can you blame him?

Less than a week ago, fans were calling for his firing, almost coming together like an angry mob outside the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were mired in a losing streak that bottomed out at 10 games and had Hakstol's boss being peppered with repeated questions surrounding the head coach's job status.

So, yeah, in this current climate, Hakstol is in the business to win hockey games, no matter what the cost — and it showed during the team's three-game resurgence in Western Canada.

As the Flyers tallied off three straight wins and outscored the opposition, 13-5, the organization's young building blocks quietly saw their ice times dip considerably. Nolan Patrick played an average of 8:55 over the three games, down from 12:31 prior, while Travis Konecny averaged 9:54, down from 14:07, and Travis Sanheim 11:47, down from 16:08. 

All three players are foundation pieces. All three first-round picks. All three no older than 21 years old, but here because they belong and are in the NHL phase of their development.

The minutes don't exactly jive with development. Many would like to see Patrick, Konecny and even Sanheim provide more offense in greater ice time.

But the tactic of shortening his bench a bit to close out games and place more experience on the ice has worked for Hakstol.

With an increased role, Michael Raffl has five goals in his last eight games after playing just 10:55 a night the previous 21 contests. The 29-year-old Austrian put up four points (three goals, one assist) in the past three games on the Flyers' new second line, alongside Jakub Voracek and Valtteri Filppula. Voracek went off for seven assists over that stretch, while the 33-year-old Filppula totaled four points (one goal, three assists) of his own playing 19-plus minutes a game.

On defense, 31-year-old veteran Andrew MacDonald played heavy minutes (22:51), as did Ivan Provorov (25:25), lightening the load on the rookie Sanheim.

None of this is to say Hakstol is forgetting the long game, which Hextall values so greatly. Before the Flyers staggered into desperation mode of try anything and everything, Hakstol actually allowed for the youth to play bigger roles.

Patrick, Konecny and Sanheim have all seen opportunity throughout the Flyers' first 29 games, and Hakstol will have to understand the importance of finding them more as this season chugs forward.

Because with Hextall, the future is always in sight.

As for Hakstol, discovering a happy medium becomes the challenge ... in a season full of them.

Young cancer patients pump up Flyers by announcing lineup before game

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Young cancer patients pump up Flyers by announcing lineup before game

In sports, sometimes we need a reminder that there are bigger things than wins and losses.

Providing smiles for two youngsters battling cancer is a beautiful example.

Dave Hakstol and the Flyers helped make those special memories possible on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Maddie Swenson, 10, and DJ Allen, 12, both fighting cancer, were welcomed into the Flyers' locker room to offer some pregame motivation before the team hit the ice against the Sharks.

Swenson and Allen pumped up the guys by announcing the Flyers' starting lineup.

It was an awesome moment.

(Pictures courtesy of Flyers PR guru Zack Hill.)

Just four days ago, Swenson finished her final chemotherapy treatment. On Tuesday, she celebrated her 10th birthday. And last week, she met the Flyers after practice.

This is in conjunction with the NHL's #HockeyFightsCancer initiative.

Bravo to the Flyers and all those who push the cause forward — and, most notably, to those who continue to fight.