Flyers

Ron Hextall: Dave Hakstol's 'our coach and he's going to remain our coach'

Ron Hextall: Dave Hakstol's 'our coach and he's going to remain our coach'

Throughout the Flyers' lifeless 3-1 loss Tuesday night to the San Jose Sharks — their ninth straight defeat — there were audible chants filling the Wells Fargo Center.

Flyers fans made it clear: They had enough of third-year head coach Dave Hakstol.

Fans chanted, "Fire Hakstol." On Twitter, #FireHakstol was the No. 3 trend in Philadelphia.

After the loss, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall stood in the locker room and said the Flyers "are not playing poorly." He said all the things he had to say as the GM — even if it didn't please the fanbase or the media.

And on Wednesday afternoon, in an interview on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk, Hextall not only doubled down on that thought process but also threw cold water on any indication that Hakstol's job is in danger.

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

Here are some of the highlights of the interview in Q&A form.

Q: How would you assess Hakstol's job?

A: "Hak, first of all, is a very good coach. He's as hard a working person as I've ever seen in the game. His staff works hard. Hak, if you look at our young players — (Ivan) Provorov, (Travis) Konecny, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton. Nolan Patrick's getting his feet wet.

"Hak's done a good job with those young kids. There have been lessons to learn along the way. Shayne Gostisbehere — throw him in there. There've been lessons to learn along the way and there always is with young players.

"So, whether they get a couple minutes taken away, Hak does a lot of things behind the scenes for young players, older players that help them improve not only short term but also long term. You get a 19-year-old kid in your line. You have a lot of work to do as a human being.

"I remember myself, as a 19-year-old or, again, some of the kids we have coming up. These are really young people and they've got a lot to learn about being a pro. When you put a 19-year-old in your lineup like Provy last year, Konecny last year, Nolan this year, there's a lot for those kids to learn. Hak's done a good job with these guys.

"Have they stumbled a little bit? Of course, they have. They're young people, they're young players but they're getting better every day."

Q: What are the positives you've seen during the nine-game losing streak?

A: "A nine-game winless streak isn't acceptable probably in most franchises but certainly not in this franchise. Let's start off with that. My job, and the coaches' job to some degree, too, is to evaluate how well we're playing, not just the results.

"If I didn't know the results of the last nine games, I wouldn't have an issue with the way we're playing because I would probably guess we're 5-4 or somewhere in there, which isn't great but we'd still be in a pretty good spot.

"So our evaluations aren't how well our team plays. If we were playing to an 0-9 level right now, that's different than being 0-9 and playing better than that. Again, we're not happy with what's going on. Our players are going through a lot right now. Our coaches are going through a lot, management's going through a lot.

"Obviously, our fanbase is going through a lot. It's a tough time for everyone involved, and we're going to rectify it. We're going to find a way to battle through this. No one is jumping ship and I think you just asked me the positive, I would say this.

"Our players haven't started pointing fingers. Our players have stuck together and trust me, I've been in some locker rooms where you go 0-9, guys start to blame other people and get frustrated, and our guys have stuck together and that's a credit to them."

Q: You can have a winless streak and come back. Last season, you had a 10-game winning streak …

A: "That's a great analogy, too, because our 10-game win streak, we probably could have lost three or four of those games. But everybody's excited, we win 10 games, as we were. The results were there. Were we playing to a 10-game winning streak? 

"Trust me, I don't just look at this and go, 0-9, we're playing better. I looked at it back then, 10-0 and we're not playing 10-0. You do have to keep a balance, a realistic view of your club. Again, a positive of our guys sticking together, the positives — the kids. Our kids have played pretty well.

"Andrew MacDonald out, Radko Gudas out, [the kids are] probably playing more minutes than they should play, a little higher in the lineup than they should play and they've done a pretty good job. Last year, obviously, [Provorov and Konecny] come in and do a good job. And this year, the kids that we have in our lineup currently.

"(Danick) Martel has been in our lineup, (Samuel) Morin has been in our lineup. I think I looked a few days ago with Gudy and Mac out, our defense corp — 20, 21, two 22-year-olds and a 24-year-old. Five of our six, I don't know if I've ever seen that before.

"I know Carolina's defense is pretty young this year, but that's a young defense and for them to hold their own, [it's] a good sign. That's part of the future moving forward.

"We're in the present right now. We're trying to win hockey games. We're not going to dwell that we have a young defense. We need to win hockey games."

Q: When will the Flyers transition into being a winner?

A: "Well, you know what, I've always said, 'Talk is cheap.' It does take time. I think if you look at Chicago and L.A. and do the timeline when they built it, it takes time.

"In saying that, we can be competitive right now. The first eight games, everybody was excited. I thought it was a little bit of an overreaction. It's a small sample size. We did play well. Our record was good — could have even been better.

"I think we gave one game away there. Right now, again, we're not as bad as 0-9, which, thank goodness for that. And we need to find a way to win. Three of four games, we've found ways to lose — critical mistake at a critical time, we have to knock those off."

Q: Do you still think it's a playoff team?

A: "I think we're six points out. Now, six points are more than you think, don't get me wrong, because you have to catch up to the team in the eight spot or the wild-card spot, plus you've got to jump the teams over. We have our work cut out for us.

"We understand that, but two years ago, we did it, I think, in the last 20 or 30 games. We have a lot of hockey left and we've got to start playing the way we're capable of playing."

Q: The Sixers are now through the hard part of their rebuild. Do you have a timetable for being a Stanley Cup contender?

A: "Basketball's a little different because we've got 20 players on the ice every night, or 19 with the backup goalie. It's a little different building a hockey team than a basketball team, so you certainly can't follow that timeline.

"But again, I think I looked after 20 games, we were the same we've been the last four years in terms of points after 20 games. But I believe we were the 28th oldest in the league and we're now around seventh youngest in the league.

"As much as right now — things aren't real positive — we don't feel real positive about things right now, the way they've gone recently. There are some positives and again, we're a competitive team.

"We're a young team, we have a lot of young kids coming and we're going to get better. We're going to play better than we're currently playing."

Q: So a couple of years?

A: "I'm not … talk's cheap. Talk's cheap, right? We're going to get better every year. We're going to get younger every year and we're going to be competitive and we're going to get there."

Q: Can you give us some insight on Wayne Simmonds' struggles?

A: "Simmer's history is a little bit of a streaky player. He'll score a bunch of goals and then he'll go quiet for a few games and then he'll score a bunch of goals again, so that part doesn't surprise me that much. And at the start of this — I think he went 14 games without a goal — but at the start of that, he was pretty banged up.

"He had three things going on with his body and to his credit, he played through it. People don't see that and he's not producing, so all of a sudden, he plays a few games banged up and all of a sudden, he gets healthy but he's not feeling great because he got banged up. Now, he's not scoring so it just snowballs a little bit. The last guy we're worried about right now is Wayne Simmonds."

Q: Has Brian Elliott performed up to your expectations?

A: "Brian's met our expectations. He's a good goalie. He's been around a long time. I think one of the things we liked about him is, he played in a tandem and when we've asked him to play, he's done a real good job for us.

"He's a very competitive guy. He works hard every day. Teammates like to play for him because he works hard every day, competes hard for screened shots and rebounds and tips. He's done a good job for us. Certainly held up his end of the bargain."

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”