Flyers

Flyers GM Ron Hextall says there's plenty of blame to go around

Flyers GM Ron Hextall says there's plenty of blame to go around

Peter Laviolette took the Flyers to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012 with a Flyers roster that incurred 275 man games lost due to injury.

That's a significant number of injuries the Flyers overcame to go two rounds into the postseason.

This season, under Dave Hakstol, the Flyers were relatively healthy -- 197 man games lost. Key personnel was healthy in the stretch run too.

Yet the Flyers didn't make the playoffs.

"First and foremost, we're disappointed," general manager Ron Hextall said this week. "We had a good hockey team, certainly a good enough hockey team to make the playoffs, and we didn't make the playoffs.

"So, there's a part of me that, there's some failure there. Now, to be successful, sometimes you have to fail. We're going to learn a lot from this year."

Who get's the lion's share of blame for the failure?

"Every one of us," Hextall replied. "It starts with me and trickles down. We all have culpability here. We all need to be better. So, in saying that, there's other teams that probably feel the same way. On paper, they had a good enough team to make the playoffs."

Hextall said it was his fault for burdening the club with eight defensemen, causing problems on the back end and limiting how many forwards Hakstol could carry.

"It's not a good situation for anybody," Hextall said. "There were times where we only had seven because of injury but that’s a tough situation for the coaches, tough situation for the defensemen, and quite frankly for the team. I look back at what I could have done different, that's one of the things."

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz have already acknowledged their contracts won't be renewed. That leaves the Flyers with five defensemen returning. (Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent, will obviously be re-signed.)

The Flyers have room for two younger players -- Sam Morin and likely Robert Hagg, depending upon how things unfold in training camp.

"Just looking at it on paper right now, I don't know the two kids or the one kid that's going to be in our lineup next year, but they're going to dictate that," Hextall said. "But I like the pieces we have surrounding them."

He lauded the play of both Morin and Hagg in their small sample of games here.

Don't look for the Flyers to be active in free agency this summer, outside of seeking a short-term rental in goal for one to three years or a trade in that area. It's obvious Steve Mason won't be back and Hextall doesn't feel any of his goalie prospects are NHL backup ready just yet.

"I don't want to say whether we will or won't be active in free agency because I don't know the answer right now," he said. "As we've always done, if we can get better July 1 and it ties into what we're doing and doesn't inhibit us in other areas, we'll look at everything."

While the Flyers could use a sniper on the wing -- that's been an issue for years -- Hextall said his goal remain to fill holes from within the organization with prospects.

Hextall said the acquisition of Valterri Filppula upgraded his top nine forwards and had an immediate impact on balancing out the lines and making it harder for teams to match up against the Flyers on the road.

Look for Swedish prospect Oskar Lindblom to make the team out of training camp.

"Oskar, he's had a great year," Hextall said. "He's come a long way since his draft year. World juniors and the Swedish Elite League is a very good league and he's done a good job ... I hope he's here in September fighting for a spot along with a number of other guys."

Chris VandeVelde won't be re-signed. That opens an immediate spot for Lindblom.

Jordan Weal will be re-signed. He's shown versatility, innate skill and competitiveness whenever he was placed in the lineup.

One thing that has to change next season is Hakstol needs to be more receptive to allowing his younger, skilled player to be more creative and play that way without worry of being benched. Hextall said Hakstol's concern was "turnovers."

"Hak is a smart guy," Hextall said. "He knows what's going on. I think if you look late in the year we started playing really well. The one thing any coach, I don't care, and I've been around a lot of them, they hate turnovers.

"Turnovers are a huge thing in a hockey game. Your players are all going north and all of a sudden there's a turnover and you're not set up defensively. That's when a lot of goals are scored, quick breaks, 3-on-2s."

Nearly the entire roster -- at one point this season it was the entire roster -- was "minus," an indication of how turnovers wrecked the Flyers, especially during 5-on-5 play where they were ranked in the bottom third of the league in goal differential.

"It's risk-reward," Hextall said. "There are times when players have to recognize the risk versus reward. If it's a 40 percent chance you're going to make a play for a scoring chance and 60 percent chance it's going to go back the other way, it's probably not a real good risk to take. If its 90-10, a good risk to take.

"We want our players to be creative. We want [Travis] Konecny, [Claude] Giroux, [Jakub] Voracek, we want them to make plays. We want them to set up scoring chances.

"We want them to score goals. What we don't want them to do is turn pucks over, come back our way and end up minus-20, minus-25. It has to stop."

Voracek was minus-24; Giroux minus-15; Konecny minus-2; Wayne Simmonds minus-18 and Shayne Gostisbehere minus-21.

Hextall also cautioned that from where the Flyers pick in the NHL Draft (13th this year), they're severely challenged to get a Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews-type of player.

"Do we have a McDavid? No," Hextall said. "But do we have some good players coming? Absolutely."

Ed Snider statue a special reminder for Flyers and so many more

Ed Snider statue a special reminder for Flyers and so many more

Boldly, Ed Snider will forever stand stoic and distinguished overlooking the empire he created — an iconic portrayal of a pioneer entrepreneur who exuded authority and resolve.

A statue commemorating the late Flyers founder and Comcast Spectacor chairman was unveiled Thursday, facing the southwest corner of Broad Street between the Wells Fargo Center and the previous location of The Spectrum, his two homes away from home.

“Not just the likeness but the character of Dad is so incredibly real in this sculpture that it’s almost scary,” Snider's oldest daughter Lindy Snider said. “You can see his focused and determined look and that drive in him, and we kids always called it ‘The Eye.’ And believe me, it was very scary.”  

The ceremony was attended by an impressive list of dignitaries, including a long list of "Broad Street Bullies," Hockey Hall of Famers and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“He was a consummate ball of energy,” Bettman said. “Ironically, his memory will stand here idly for us all to see and to remember because he was a man who was constantly, constantly in motion, and that’s how I will always think of him and remember him.”

Philadelphia will now remember him always in the perfect spot.

“Ed Snider was a visionary,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “What a fitting place for the Mr. Snider statue to be on this piece of property where he can overlook his building here, The Spectrum was behind him, and this area he envisioned — that he built for all of us.” 

For the city of Philadelphia, it has an equivalency to the Blarney Stone. Snider's family requested the inclusion of a Stanley Cup ring on Snider’s finger so fans could pay tribute to the legendary owner by rubbing the ring as a good luck charm.  

Unintentionally, but certainly symbolic, Snider has his back turned to the direction of New York, home to the Rangers team he and so many of the players despised for decades.

“We all hated the Rangers in those days, probably still do,” Bob Clarke said with a laugh. “It’s a beautiful statue. It represents him so well, everything that he stood for and accomplished."

From Clarke to Bernie Parent hoisting the Stanley Cup, to Gary Dornhoefer’s legendary goal in the 1973 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Kate Smith singing “God Bless America,” all of those statues located throughout the sports complex wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Snider’s dogged determination to bring the game of hockey to the Delaware Valley in the 1960s. 

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania’s Chad Fisher commissioned the 1,300-pound bronze statue that stands on a three-foot granite base, and over the last seven weeks it became a labor of love, working endlessly seven days a week, 12 hours a day to ensure the project’s completion.

“You’re closing in and everything needs to be solidified and you've got to look over everything,” Fisher said. “It gets very intense in the end.” 

Three and a half years ago, the 34-year-old Fisher unveiled his meticulous representation of former Flyers head coach Fred “The Fog” Shero located just outside XFINITY Live! right off Ed Snider Way. One man called upon to create a likeness of the two most influential figures in the 51-year history of the Flyers franchise. 

“We had a chance to meet with Mr. Snider during the Fred Shero unveiling, and he was so gracious to my family and I, especially my kids,” Fisher said. “This was more than just a statue. It was really a chance to do this for someone who meant something, not only to this city, but to me and my family. He really gave us our start.”

For then general managers Clarke and Holmgren, who strived to bring “one more cup” to Snider, they know the chairman would be proud of the team current GM Ron Hextall has assembled behind an organizational approach that has been radically amended over the past few years. 

“It’s not only a terrific honor, but it’s fitting and somehow it’s comforting,” Lindy Snider said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s been watching over us all along anyway, and Paul, especially you. He wants a Stanley Cup, and the pressure’s on and you’re not off the hook.”

And now there’s a likeness of Mr. Snider that will forever serve as that constant reminder.

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

BOX SCORE

Nine days after an electrifying and yet controversial finish at Bridgestone Arena, the Flyers and Predators left all the offensive fireworks back in Nashville.

The Wells Fargo Center crowd Thursday was treated to a ho-hum defensive duel that saw the Predators prevail, 1-0, to sweep the season series.

Third-line center Colton Sissons, who did not play in the first game between these two teams, fired a slap shot that beat Michal Neuvirth far post during the third period.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 28 shots for his second win over the Flyers this season.

• Sissons' goal was the result of a multitude of breakdowns. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald got tied up on the play. Wayne Simmonds, who was playing back, whiffed as he tried to play the puck on Kevin Fiala, and from there the Flyers were in disarray. Valtteri Filppula couldn’t keep up with Sissons, who loaded the shot that beat Neuvirth.

• Neuvirth has one win in his three starts. Then again, victories are hard to come by when the Flyers are shut out in two of those games. The other occasion was was Oct. 5 in Los Angeles, a 2-0 loss to the Kings.

• Dave Hakstol did quite a bit of mixing and matching in the third period. He paired Scott Laughton with Simmonds and Filppula, Simmonds with Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, and a Laughton-Konecny-Patrick combo.

• Overall, this was Travis Sanheim’s best effort through four NHL games. While he proved to be turnover-prone at times, he recovered nicely to minimize the damage.

• Simmonds left Tuesday’s game against Florida with a lower-body injury and was uncertain to play prior to the morning skate. “The Wayne Train” hadn’t missed a game since he suffered a leg injury at the end of the 2014-15 season. Whatever the ailment, and it appears to be midsection related, Simmonds clearly wasn’t himself and didn’t quite have the same tenacity he usually brings.

• Simmonds missed a shift early in the second and left the bench, only to return late in the period when he took a 15-second shift and came back off. If Simmonds doesn’t improve by Saturday afternoon’s game against the Oilers, we may see Matt Read for the first time this season.

• Predators defenseman P.K. Subban still receives a smattering of boos from the Wells Fargo Center crowd. With Nashville making just one trip to Philadelphia every season, you have to think the animosity toward Subban is a residual from his days with Montreal when his feistiness would conflict with former Flyer Chris Pronger. 

• He missed the first meeting at Bridgestone Arena nine days ago, but you can see what Roman Josi brings to the Predators’ blue line. Arguably Nashville’s top two-way defenseman (although I really like Mattias Ekholm), Josi led the Preds with four shots on goal after two periods, and has a real knack of finding the open seams in the defense. 

• I completely agreed with Hakstol’s decision to insert Jori Lehtera right into the spot occupied by Jordan Weal (see below). With the offensive balance we’ve seen over the past several games, why disrupt the flow and chemistry of the other three lines to accomomdate one player? 

Weal out, Read recalled
After taking the ice in the morning skate, Weal was not available for the game against the Predators. Weal suffered an upper-body injury and is considered day to day. The Flyers also recalled Read from Lehigh Valley in a move that brought the Flyers’ active roster to 23 players.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Brandon Manning, Matt Read, Jordan Weal.