Flyers

Did Ron Hextall take the fall for Dave Hakstol?

Did Ron Hextall take the fall for Dave Hakstol?

Did the Flyers fire the wrong guy? Or was Ron Hextall relieved of his duties as general manager precisely because he wouldn’t dismiss Dave Hakstol as head coach?

There were no clear reasons given for Hextall’s removal in the club’s 89-word statement released Monday, but if you read between the lines, Flyers president Paul Holmgren may have dropped a hint.

“We thank Ron for his many significant contributions, but it has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team,” Holmgren said. “In light of these differences, we feel it's in the organization's best interests to make a change, effective immediately.”

Hextall’s vision was aligned enough with the Flyers’ to lead the team through the NHL draft in June and free agency in July. What changed over the last four months?

Nothing. Hextall hasn’t made any notable changes amid the Flyers’ 10-11-2 start, which has the team in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. And seeing as November isn’t a particularly busy period for franchise-altering trades, there was only one obvious move to make.

Fire the coach — an action Hextall had staunchly refused to take on numerous occasions.

Hextall has been fiercely loyal to Hakstol since the hire in 2015. Much was made about what it took to lure the surprise candidate to so much as an interview, let alone give up the comforts of coaching an established college program he created at North Dakota. Hakstol’s decision to take the job sounded like it boiled down to job security; a promise he would have an opportunity to see the rebuilding process through, not ousted at the first sign of trouble.

Of course, this is Hakstol’s fourth season with the Flyers, and the team’s slow start is far from the first sign of trouble. Yet, Hextall was continuing to stand by Hakstol amid calls for the coach to get the ax.

Did Hextall get the call from Holmgren, or possibly Flyers ownership? And did the former GM choose to defy the order out of loyalty to Hakstol, even if it would result in his own termination?

That would be incredibly noble of Hextall, if true.

It’s also possible, perhaps even likely that what got Hextall fired was the team's continued mediocrity five seasons into his plan. Maybe Flyers brass doesn’t blame the head coach for young talent not developing into superstars, for the overall lack of success.

Maybe the Flyers simply grew tired of the pace at which Hextall’s rebuild is moving. Maybe it is the fault of the GM for not giving Hakstol the right players. When they speak on Tuesday, maybe Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor CEO and chairman Dave Scott will be honest and open about the thought process behind Hextall’s departure while Hakstol remains.

Yet, given the timing — after a pitiful 6-0 Flyers loss — the cries for Hakstol’s firing and Hextall’s constant defense of his hand-picked leader, it’s hard to believe this sudden decision wasn’t related.

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Flyers brought back to earth by Coyotes, suffer a first since Oct. 19

Flyers brought back to earth by Coyotes, suffer a first since Oct. 19

BOX SCORE

Despite putting up 21 goals over their five-game winning streak, the Flyers had a propensity to score them in bunches when an opponent started derailing.

On Thursday night, the Flyers never got going and were pulled back to earth in a 3-1 loss to the Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center.

Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper was the biggest difference. The 6-foot-5 netminder who brought an NHL-best 1.97 goals-against average and .936 save percentage to Philly stopped 28 shots.

With 4:43 left, Matt Niskanen scored the Flyers' lone goal and it ricocheted off a Coyote. Arizona iced the game with an empty-netter (see highlights).

The Flyers (16-8-5) suffered just their second regulation loss at home (9-2-4). The last time they failed to pick up a point at home was Oct. 19 when they lost to the Stars, 4-1.

Thursday night's defeat halted the Flyers' winning streak at five games and their point streak at seven. The Flyers had earned at least a point in 18 of their previous 22 games.

The Coyotes (17-9-4), who were allowing the NHL's second-fewest goals per game at 2.31, improved to 10-3-3 on the road.

• The Flyers went on two power plays in the final six minutes of the second period but could not solve Kuemper.

During those two man advantage opportunities, the Flyers put five shots on Kuemper and also misfired three times.

James van Riemsdyk found Morgan Frost with a slick backhanded pass from behind the net but the 20-year-old missed wide.

• Speaking of Frost, he had a tough game. The rookie had a turnover and some difficulty making plays.

He has gone scoreless over his last seven games following his loud start in which he scored three points in his first two games.

Maybe head coach Alain Vigneault takes him off the first line to relieve some pressure.

"Young player, in my estimation, has got a lot of confidence in himself, which is real good," Vigneault said postgame. "Tonight, there were a couple of plays with the puck, like some of our other guys, that the execution might have been a little bit off. But I think overall, the young man is working hard and trying to get better."

Will he stay on the top line?

"I'm going to watch the game and make [changes], if I have some changes to make, [Friday]," Vigneault said. "I like what the young man can bring to the game."

• Vigneault opted to play seven defensemen instead of slotting call-up Mikhail Vorobyev in at fourth-line center.

It's not a bad approach when you have seven healthy blueliners playing well. It also could mean the Flyers aren't ready to trust Vorobyev on the fourth line again.

The Senators game on Saturday looks like a better matchup for Vorobyev, who is in his fifth stint with the club since the start of last season.

• Brian Elliott hadn't lost in regulation since Oct. 29. The Flyers' backup goalie finished with 15 saves.

He allowed a first-period power play goal to Phil Kessel after Claude Giroux was whistled for a ticky-tacky slashing penalty. He then yielded a backbreaking third-period goal to Conor Garland with 7:03 left in the game.

The goalie was not the problem, though.

Sean Couturier was not a problem, either.

• The Flyers wrap up their three-game homestand Saturday when they welcome the Senators (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Next week, the team opens a three-game road trip, which features matchups with the Avalanche on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Jets on Sunday (5 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

 

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'Tis the season for ... Jawnaments? Jawnaments!

'Tis the season for ... Jawnaments? Jawnaments!

If you live in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, it's safe to say there's at least one ornament on your tree representing the city — whether it be a memento from a previous championship Philly has seen, famous landmarks or even the skyline, you're repping one way or another.

Throw everything you thought you knew about Philly ornaments out the window and make way for Jawnaments ... yes, you read that correctly.

Jawnaments. I swear, there is no place like Philadelphia.

Jawnaments is an Etsy shop that has been around since 2017 but they recently released a ton of non-traditional Philadelphia-inspired ornaments. And they're a thing of beauty.

Can you only function throughout the week because of the daily coffee you grab at Wawa and want to highlight that on your tree this year? They've got you covered.

Haven't received a parking ticket in the city in a while and just miss the stress and anxiety they bring with them? Yup, they've got that covered too.

The Tastykake Krimpet and Kandy Kake ornaments look good enough to eat ... even a classic soft pretzel with yellow mustard is an option.

And since Gritty is just about everywhere in the world ... it he. On an ornament. Oh sorry, *Jawnament.

Trust me, there are a ton of other options but you're just going to have to check out the full shop to see the beauty of it all.

You might even have to get a mini tree that's dedicated to the city you know and love. Heck, keep it up all year!

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