Flyers

Flyers

Dave Hakstol has to walk a fine line between winning and development.

When it comes to Ron Hextall's organizational blueprint, those two concepts intertwine. While the future is important, so is being competitive in the present.

There is no tanking, nor is there a disregard for tomorrow.

As the head coach overseeing the day-to-day operations of such a model, Hakstol finds himself in a daily conundrum of sorts, trying to strike that balance between Hextall's two all-important objectives.

Lately, though, Hakstol has probably been more focused on winning the day than he's ever been, compared to worrying about a year, month or even a week down the road.

And can you blame him?

Less than a week ago, fans were calling for his firing, almost coming together like an angry mob outside the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were mired in a losing streak that bottomed out at 10 games and had Hakstol's boss being peppered with repeated questions surrounding the head coach's job status.

So, yeah, in this current climate, Hakstol is in the business to win hockey games, no matter what the cost — and it showed during the team's three-game resurgence in Western Canada.

As the Flyers tallied off three straight wins and outscored the opposition, 13-5, the organization's young building blocks quietly saw their ice times dip considerably. Nolan Patrick played an average of 8:55 over the three games, down from 12:31 prior, while Travis Konecny averaged 9:54, down from 14:07, and Travis Sanheim 11:47, down from 16:08. 

 

All three players are foundation pieces. All three first-round picks. All three no older than 21 years old, but here because they belong and are in the NHL phase of their development.

The minutes don't exactly jive with development. Many would like to see Patrick, Konecny and even Sanheim provide more offense in greater ice time.

But the tactic of shortening his bench a bit to close out games and place more experience on the ice has worked for Hakstol.

With an increased role, Michael Raffl has five goals in his last eight games after playing just 10:55 a night the previous 21 contests. The 29-year-old Austrian put up four points (three goals, one assist) in the past three games on the Flyers' new second line, alongside Jakub Voracek and Valtteri Filppula. Voracek went off for seven assists over that stretch, while the 33-year-old Filppula totaled four points (one goal, three assists) of his own playing 19-plus minutes a game.

On defense, 31-year-old veteran Andrew MacDonald played heavy minutes (22:51), as did Ivan Provorov (25:25), lightening the load on the rookie Sanheim.

None of this is to say Hakstol is forgetting the long game, which Hextall values so greatly. Before the Flyers staggered into desperation mode of try anything and everything, Hakstol actually allowed for the youth to play bigger roles.

Patrick, Konecny and Sanheim have all seen opportunity throughout the Flyers' first 29 games, and Hakstol will have to understand the importance of finding them more as this season chugs forward.

Because with Hextall, the future is always in sight.

As for Hakstol, discovering a happy medium becomes the challenge ... in a season full of them.