Flyers

Flyers fire GM Ron Hextall

Flyers fire GM Ron Hextall

If Flyers fans wanted change, they got it right near the top.

Ron Hextall, the general manager many clamored for to make changes, was fired Monday morning.

"The Flyers organization has decided to relieve Ron Hextall of his duties as executive vice president and general manager," Flyers president Paul Holmgren said in a statement released by the team. "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. In light of these differences, we feel it’s in the organization's best interests to make a change, effective immediately. I have already begun a process to identify and select our next general manager, which we hope to complete as soon as possible."

Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott will be available to the media Tuesday at 11 a.m. 

Hextall was named the Flyers' general manager in May 2014. The Flyers went 165-128-58 in his tenure with a pair of first-round playoff exits.

Hextall made a bold and somewhat surprising move when he hired Dave Hakstol as head coach in May 2015. Hakstol came to the Flyers with no NHL experience out of the University of North Dakota.

While Hextall helped dig the Flyers out of salary cap hell and tirelessly restocked the farm system, the big club had to scrape and claw just to squeak into the playoffs during the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons.

This year, the Flyers started 10-11-2 and were in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for the second straight season.

"I'm a pretty patient guy, but things need to start going better here," Hextall said Oct. 23.

At this point, maybe a little too patient for the Flyers' liking.

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Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen's fine balance of saying hello and cutting the cord

Matt Niskanen will never forget his time with the Capitals.

When you give hundreds of thousands of fans a parade in a city craving a championship, it would be impossible to move on with no sentimental feelings for the past.

But Niskanen is now a Flyer and playing for a city that hasn't seen its hockey team win a Stanley Cup since 1975. Performing in orange and black is his focus, as hard as that is when facing his former teammates for the first time since being traded during June.

Niskanen won the 2018 Stanley Cup in Washington, the city's first major championship since 1992. The Capitals visited Philadelphia to play the Flyers Wednesday night and held a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 32-year-old defenseman hadn't yet caught up with his old buddies. Following the game might be a better time for Niskanen.

"There’s that kind of special connection that you get when you have that kind of success with a team," he said Wednesday morning.

"There’s a fine balance of wanting to say hi to these guys and also you’ve got to cut the cord a bit, too. My focus is playing well with the Flyers right now. But I’m not that far removed from playing with these guys, so if I see somebody, I’ll chat and say hi.”

Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, impacting the club's improved goal prevention, special teams units and young defensemen. Some of his new, younger teammates have asked him about winning a Stanley Cup.

"A bit," the unassuming Niskanen said. "It’s not something that comes up all the time, or usually not in front of a big group. I try not to bring it up too much. On occasion, a few times they have.”

Alain Vigneault knew about Niskanen from coaching against him in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers' head coach also heard from Scott Arniel — one of the Capitals' assistant coaches who was on Vigneault's staff in New York — about Niskanen.

“He told me that I was going to have a real solid leader, quiet leadership, but great role model and that’s exactly what we have," Vigneault said.

“Just by the way he conducts himself. If you watch him in practice, he’s always doing things the right way and he pays a lot of attention to details. When he talks to, whether it be a teammate or coaches, it’s soft-spoken but right to the point. We’ve got a great person there and we’ve got a defenseman that’s really helping us out.”

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Flyers vs. Capitals: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Capitals: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Two of the NHL's hottest teams clash Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

The Flyers (10-5-2) welcome the Capitals (13-2-4) for the first of four regular-season matchups between the Metropolitan Division clubs.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

• Flyers-Capitals games are always intense and this one will have a different feeling for Matt Niskanen, even though the defenseman was reserved Tuesday when talking about the matchup.

"I was aware of who we're playing," Niskanen said.

The 32-year-old played 390 games for Washington and won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Wednesday will be his first game against his former club since being traded to the Flyers in June (see story).

Niskanen put up 29 goals, 127 asssists and a plus-58 rating in Washington, where he played 70 playoff games.

"We had a good group in my time there, won a lot of games," he said. "Two years ago was pretty special. Good group. ... I’m guessing it’s going to feel weird once I see them on the other side in warmups. For now, try to win the game.”

Niskanen has been excellent for the Flyers, who are off to their best start since the 2011-12 season.

Was Niskanen a go-to guy in the Flyers' pre-scout of the Capitals?

"There are some things that aren't really a secret," Niskanen said. "How their power play runs, for example, I think everybody in the country knows what they're going to do. But there's a tip here or there maybe."

• The Flyers made a statement last weekend by sweeping a back-to-back road set against the Maple Leafs and Bruins.

Things do not get easier as they return home.

The Capitals lead the NHL with 30 points and are on a 12-game point streak (10-0-2) in which they've outscored the opposition 54-35.

Washington is scoring four goals per game, most in hockey, and is 8-1-1 on the road.

Head coach Alain Vigneault sounded excited to see how the Flyers stack up against the Capitals. Vigneault's team is playing well, too, as the Flyers are on a six-game point streak (5-0-1) and have gone 8-2-1 since Oct. 21.

"We talked to Nisky about them this morning and we’ve got quite a task ahead of us," Vigneault said Tuesday. "Not only are they playing extremely well, but they’re a team that knows how to win. I’m looking forward to this game. It’s going to be a good matchup for us, we’re playing some good hockey lately. We’ll be tested and I’m anxious to see how we’re going to respond.”

• At home, the Flyers are 6-1-1, scoring four goals per game and haven't allowed a power play goal since Oct. 21.

• Capitals defenseman John Carlson leads all NHL blueliners in points with 29 (eight goals, 21 assists).

Quotable

Great guy, great teammate. It’s going to be different playing against him. Obviously going to have to keep our head up, we know what he’s able to do.

- Sean Couturier on playing against former Flyer and current Capital Radko Gudas

Projected lineup

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Joel Farabee
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Carsen Twarynski-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek
Andy Andreoff-Michael Raffl-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Shayne Gostisbehere-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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