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."

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

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Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans can't wait to see this at the NHL level.

Last weekend, Lindblom potted a goal in three straight games for the Phantoms, giving him 16 on the season through 54 contests. All three tallies came within close range as the Swedish winger's scoring IQ continues to grow during his first AHL season.

Since going scoreless in his first six games, the 2014 fifth-round pick hasn't gone more than four straight games without a point.

Lindblom surprised many with his vast development leading up to the 2017-18 season. While some were disappointed he didn't make the Flyers' roster out of training camp, a 20-goal campaign at Lehigh Valley will be a nice accomplishment along his path to Philly.

Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/199, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Just how much of a difference-maker is Sanheim? The Phantoms are 9-1-2 since the 2014 first-round pick joined them after he was sent down by the Flyers.

Over Lehigh Valley's 3-0-1 week, Sanheim extended his point streak to seven games with five more assists, putting him at 12 helpers in as many games.

Seeing plenty of minutes and responsibility, Sanheim has collected 13 points to go with a plus-11 rating.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 21, 5-11/187, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Aube-Kubel is another Phantom worth noting here.

The 2014 second-round pick put up five points (one goal, four assists) in four games last week, continuing his surge in Year 2 of his AHL development. He now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games.

After a feeling-out process last season, Aube-Kubel is coming on strong in 2017-18, as he's a plus-20 and third on Lehigh Valley with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).

Quick hits
• Ho-hum for Morgan Frost, who had a six-point week through three games. At 94 points, Frost is six away from 100, while his plus-54 rating remains best in the OHL.

Here's a glimpse into his vision and skill:

• Goalie Carter Hart picked up a win and a shootout loss over the weekend. In total, he made 60 saves on 65 shots.

Maksim Sushko tallied two goals (including this one below) and two assists through three games last week. A 2017 fourth-round pick, the 19-year-old has 48 points in 47 games for Owen Sound.

• Wingers Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, also 2017 draft picks, recorded three points each in a pair of games.

• Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, German Rubtsov returned from an undisclosed injury to notch an assist over three games last week. The Flyers' 2016 first-round pick has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 27 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• In Michigan's two-game sweep of top-ranked Notre Dame, Cooper Marody tacked on three more assists, giving 26 overall, which is tied for most in the Big Ten.

Here's his primary helper from Sunday's 1-0 win:

Anthony Salinitri pushed his point streak to seven games with an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. The 2016 sixth-round pick has 25 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

• During the four-game week for the Phantoms, Mike Vecchione scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, while adding an assist.

Philippe Myers had an assist Tuesday for his first point since Jan. 26, while Samuel Morin (undisclosed injury), who hasn't played since Jan. 20, remains out.

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)