5 takeaways from former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's press conference

5 takeaways from former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall's press conference

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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Could this be the end of the road for Dave Hakstol as Flyers head coach?

Could this be the end of the road for Dave Hakstol as Flyers head coach?

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Dave Hakstol coached his 277th game behind the Flyers' bench Saturday night, and quite possibly his last one.

The third-longest tenured coach in franchise history is well aware of what’s being whispered and what’s flying around on social media and message boards after losing the final four games of this road trip. 

Now it appears Hakstol’s time in Philadelphia is coming to the end of the road.

“I know everything that is out there,” Hakstol said before the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Canucks (see observations). “You know me well enough by now. I know everything in terms of the rumors and what’s going on out there. My only concern is what we do, and the rest, I have no real comment on.”

Sportsnet Canada’s Chris Johnston reported on Hockey Night in Canada, “With the Flyers wrapping up their road trip in Vancouver, it could be one where Chuck Fletcher is forced to make a change.”

Fletcher is at a crossroads. He turned down media requests and wouldn’t comment on any rumors regarding the status of his head coach, but the pressure to make moves only intensifies.

The week started with speculation that Fletcher was looking to upgrade the roster before the holiday freeze that goes into effect next week (see story), but that doesn’t address a more immediate concern.

Even if upper management feels as if Hakstol isn’t to blame for the myriad of problems, most notably the revolving door of injuries surrounding the goaltenders, how can you put the same coach behind the bench when the Flyers return home Tuesday against the Red Wings and face a passionate fan base demanding changes?

It’s a scene and situation that could turn ugly rather quickly.

“I have no control over that,” Scott Laughton, who scored the Flyers' only goal, said. “We’ve got to focus on what we can do to bring this locker room together and help our team win. It’s a sh---y feeling. That’s not my decision or anything to do with me. We've got to get back home and fix this quickly.”

“I’m not the one to judge,” Radko Gudas said. “We let our goalies down, we let our fans down, we let everybody down. It’s not on [Hakstol’s] shoulders entirely. It’s the fault of ours.” 

There’s faulty defense for starters. From the final 30 minutes in Winnipeg to the final 90 seconds in Calgary to the opening 12 minutes in Vancouver. The Flyers have seen games unravel in various forms lately.

“I don’t know what hockey gods we pissed off, but we’re getting some tough bounces and some untimely situations,” Jordan Weal said. “It’s tough sledding right now and we’re going to have to stick together.”

Which has been the oft-repeated message from the head coach. 

At this stage, how can you not find a new messenger?

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Canucks 5, Flyers 1: Could this be the end for Dave Hakstol?

Canucks 5, Flyers 1: Could this be the end for Dave Hakstol?


VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A year after the Flyers turned around their season in Western Canada, this trip may have cost Dave Hakstol his job (see story).

The Flyers turned in another dreadful effort Saturday night in a 5-1 loss to the Canucks at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Canucks scored three times in the first 11-plus minutes.

The Flyers were swept in Western Canada, losing three games in four days.

Can you believe the Flyers lost yet another goalie to an injury and what should we make of Hakstol’s line combinations?

• I’m not sure what Hakstol’s thought process was with these new-look lines. Nolan Patrick goes from fourth-line checking center back to the second line, where he has just one point in his last 13 games. Jordan Weal and Jori Lehtera, two healthy scratches for the majority of this trip, are your third- and-fourth-line centers. James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny on a third line. It’s as if the coach threw darts on a dartboard. That third line was a big head-scratcher with no real defensive presence and very little time in the offensive zone.

• The Flyers had some real jump in the first three minutes but all of that was zapped once the Canucks scored the opening goal. As Shayne Gostisbehere stated after the Oilers' loss, the Flyers get “down on themselves” when trailing and they turn into a “negative bunch.”

• Somehow, the Flyers made Chris Tanev look like the next coming of Erik Karlsson as he took the puck from just inside the blue line and weaved his way through the Flyers' defense from the high slot and roofed a backhand shot over the shoulder of Anthony Stolarz. Tanev hadn’t scored a goal in his first 29 games, and yet Wayne Simmonds simply can’t allow that play to happen and his feeble attempt at defense was unacceptable.

• The Flyers pulled Stolarz after allowing two goals on four shots. Loui Eriksson’s goal was one Stolarz should have stopped as he was slow to react, perhaps the result of an injury. However, there were breakdowns galore leading up to that point. Gostisbehere was busy chasing and skating in circles during that entire sequence with the puck in the Flyers' zone and Weal completely overskated the rebound. 

• As for Weal, he could have had both loose puck opportunities on the Canucks' second and third goals. On the 2-0 goal, it appeared Weal completely overskated the puck and ran into Gostisbehere. On the 3-0 goal, Weal took a bad angle and wasn’t positioned between the puck and Josh Leivo, who fired a sharp-angled shot that certainly Alex Lyon should have stopped. Right now, there are very few forwards I trust to do their job in the defensive end of the ice.

• Apparently, Stolarz suffered some type of lower-body injury and was not on the bench for the Flyers to begin the second period. The Flyers resorted to having Rylan Toth on standby, an emergency backup goaltender supplied by Vancouver’s hockey ops department. The 22-year-old Toth plays for the University of British Columbia and was only on hand in the event something happened to Lyon.

• As for Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings, right now it appears Michal Neuvirth is in line to make the start after leaving Thursday to be with his wife, who’s expecting the birth of their child.

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