Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall addressed the media Friday morning at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Voorhees, New Jersey.
Here are five takeaways from Friday's press conference:
1. Hextall was blindsided by firing
"I didn't see this coming in any way. I certainly didn't feel any warnings, so I was shocked that I was done," Hextall said. "The only thing [Flyers president Paul Holmgren] said is that 'your vision, my vision aren't the same.'"
Holmgren said Tuesday that he didn't give Hextall any notice because, as Holmgren said, "If you're going to do that … what's the sense?"
Most of us were caught off-guard by Hextall's firing, and we heard it from the man himself. He was blindsided by it, and rightfully so. We didn't see it coming, and neither did he.
2. Hexy didn't believe the Flyers were at 'go time'
Hextall explained his vision as a three-stage plan. The first was cleaning up the salary cap, the second was the in-between of implementing young players and the third was "go time."
"I didn't feel right now that we were at 'go time,'" Hextall said. "I did feel like we were getting close. But I didn't feel like we were there yet. Some of the growing pains that we're going through this year with the younger kids, the defense — that's a young defense.
"It's hard to win a Stanley Cup with a defense that age. Again, I wasn't willing to trade a young player or prospect for a guy in his mid-30s that might help us this year, might clog us up down the road and his game is dropping. Philosophically, that's where I was at."
Some items to unpack: Hextall is right that the Flyers aren't ready to compete with the NHL's elite. He also mentioned there have been more growing pains than anticipated with the young players, specifically on the blue line, and he's right there.
We also received some insight into the philosophical differences between him and Holmgren and there was some minor shade thrown by Hexy — about trading for a declining player in his mid-30s (see story).
One other note, Hextall's comments about the defense is that he was in a position to fill it out with better veteran complements than what's here. He very well could have.
3. 'I don't run a country club'
Hextall basically laughed about the speculation that he controlled what players ate.
"I controlled the food and stuff?" Hextall said. "What?"
He said the team hired a dietician and between her and Flyers director of sports science Ben Peterson, healthy eating habits were constructed.
"The only thing I met up front, I said we want to be healthy," Hextall said. "After games, we want to eat anti-inflammatory food versus pizza, which is the opposite. So, yeah, we did change a few things like that.
"But I see some of the [rumors] coming out … ay-yai-yai."
Hextall also touched on his locker room principles.
"The locker room — I don't run a country club, I don't believe in it. I don't believe you win that way," Hextall said. "Watching out in L.A. how we did it, how [Bob Clarke] did it, I believe in having tight doors, I believe in the sanctity of the locker room, I believe when the players are in the locker room, it should be the players — that's when that team bonding [is built].
"After games and practice days, I did close the locker room to people — fathers and kids could come in, obviously, and brothers. But one day I walked in and a guy had four of his buddies in our lounge on a practice day. And I was like, 'This is a place of work.' Like, you guys go to work and don't bring your four buddies to work, right?
"So there were some things that went on that I didn't like and we changed some things as a result. But I like structure, I'm a structured guy, I believe in structure."
4. Proud of the groundwork
Hextall said he was "disappointed as hell" this season started the way it did but believes the Flyers as a whole are "poised to do something great."
"Quite honestly, I'm proud of my four and a quarter years here," Hextall said. "We worked hard — scouting staff, management team, minor-league coaches, all the players — we worked hard and I feel like we accomplished a lot.
"We created an analytics department, we created a sports science department, we had the gym built, we had the development area built. We accomplished a lot of things and a lot of those things don't show above the water.
"I feel like some of the results are starting to show themselves."
What Hextall did to sort of restart the Flyers, build a foundation and change their way of thinking was impressive (see story). But half the battle is finishing — knowing when to take it to the next level, which was the big dilemma within this whole situation (see story).
5. Why address the media?
Not many fired general managers hold media availability after being axed.
Hextall was classy enough to do it. It wasn't to vent or anything.
He said he wanted to do it because he felt he owed it to the media members, the fans and selfishly, for some closure.
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