Flyers

For Flyers, it's not a popularity contest — and it shouldn't be

For Flyers, it's not a popularity contest — and it shouldn't be

While the Eastern and Western Conference Final series pick up, the Flyers will continue to outline their offseason plan as much as possible.

One thing that won't sneak into Ron Hextall's agenda is outside pressure.

If it did, he wouldn't be doing his job.

But Hextall is human. From the seat in which he sits and dissects decision after decision, he feels the daily stresses of general managing a hockey team with such a passionate following. Those fans haven't seen a playoff series victory since 2011-12 and a Stanley Cup championship since 1974-75.

That isn't lost on him.

"We all have pressure," Hextall said last month. "Pro sports is pressure. There's pressure on all of us. Now how you handle that pressure, you better handle it right. My philosophy is I do what I believe is right.

"I'm not going to do something to make me popular. I'm not going to do something that's going to take away from the success of our team to put a few more people in the stands."

Nor should he — that's not how you general manage.

Don't like him? Tough. 

Hate his patience? Sorry.

Hextall can't care about that — he made it clear he's not here to be liked. Even as the Philadelphia sports scene rises back into contention, Hextall will stay the course he carved out from the start and the one that ownership has faithfully backed.

"We're not going to change what we set out to do four years ago," Hextall said. "We put a plan in place. To go sideways now would be the wrong thing to do.

"It sort of took two years to get the wheels in motion and we're on plan. Are we happy where we're at right now? Hell no."

There's merit behind the Flyers' belief in their pace and path to an ultimate goal of contending for multiple Stanley Cups, not just one.

Dave Scott, the president and CEO of the team's ownership group, Comcast Spectacor, expressed no concern following last season in which the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third time over the past five campaigns. Despite the drop-off in 2016-17, Scott said it was "a terrific year from the business perspective."

"It was probably one of the best years we've ever had," Scott said in April 2017. "Ron's our guy. We believe in the system, we like the vision, we like the strategy, the pipeline. These young players coming up, there's a lot of excitement. From the business side, it's been terrific."

During the 2017-18 regular season, the Flyers were third among the NHL in average attendance at 19,517, according to multiple websites. They were sixth in 2016-17 with 19,644. This season, the roster also became younger and more competitive (trends that should continue), resulting in 42 wins and 98 points, both highs under Dave Hakstol, who will be entering his fourth year in 2018-19.

These are reasons why Hextall won't make reactionary moves this offseason.

He never does and won't start now just because the pressure gauge is ticking to new heights. If fans haven't yet comprehended the Flyers' motives, they'll have to start trying.

Or they can make their own decision, a power they've always possessed.

"If we're successful, the people are going to be in the seats," Hextall said. "If you look around the league, we’ve got very good attendance. That's a little bit harsh when you talk about attendance. Our attendance has been very good. Our fans are terrific.

"We're not going to make a change to appease people or because we are supposed to or for whatever reason. We're going to make changes to get better."

Popularity be damned.

Claude Giroux's final Hart Trophy voting unveiled — and it should hurt

Claude Giroux's final Hart Trophy voting unveiled — and it should hurt

When the Hart Memorial Trophy finalists were unveiled in late April and Claude Giroux's name was nowhere to be found, there was noticeable outrage across the Delaware Valley — and understandably so.

Giroux, in his age 30 season, tied for the league lead in assists at 68 and finished second in points with 102, behind only Connor McDavid (108). He also recorded a better plus/minus at plus-28 than the three finalists — Anze Kopitar (plus-21), Taylor Hall (plus-14) and Nathan MacKinnon (plus-11).

Not only that, Giroux also emphatically rebounded from one of his worst seasons as a pro with career bests across the board — again, at age 30.

2016-17: 82 games, 14 goals, 44 assists, 58 points, minus-15

2017-18: 82 games, 34 goals, 68 assists, 102 points, plus-28

So when Giroux was not voted a Hart Trophy finalist, it led to the burning and lingering question of how ridiculous was the omission?

Giroux was already considered snubbed, but imagine if the Flyers' captain finished outside, say, the top five or six of the final voting? All hell would have broken loose in Philadelphia.

Turns out, Giroux did get some respect, finishing fourth in the final tally, which was released Wednesday night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, where Hall won the Hart Trophy.

At least Giroux received his share of love, but in a way, it stings even more for his supporters given the fact he fell only five points shy of being a finalist.

Nonetheless, Giroux's 2017-18 season will never be forgotten, hardware or not. He punctuated the first 100-point campaign in Flyers history since Eric Lindros in 1995-96 by delivering a hat trick in Game 82 of the regular season to clinch the Flyers a playoff berth at the Wells Fargo Center.

Fans chanted MVP.

And that will have to do.

Other NHL Awards tidbits

• Shayne Gostisbehere finished 10th in the James Norris Memorial Trophy voting for best defenseman. Victor Hedman won the award.

• Ron Hextall came in eighth for General Manager of the Year while also notching a first-place vote. Dave Hakstol slotted in at 14th for the Jack Adams Award (NHL Coach of the Year). The Golden Knights swept the categories with GM George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant taking home the honors.

More on the Flyers

Was Couturier snubbed for Selke Trophy?

Simmonds narrowly misses out on Flyers history

Wayne Simmonds misses out on Mark Messier Leadership Award to Deryk Engelland

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Wayne Simmonds misses out on Mark Messier Leadership Award to Deryk Engelland

Wayne Simmonds narrowly missed out on becoming the first Flyer to win the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland took home the honors Wednesday night in Las Vegas. 

The award, chosen by Messier himself, is presented to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.

Simmonds was named a finalist through his extensive work in the community. The Flyers' forward has hosted a military unit in his private suite during every Flyers home game while also serving on the board of directors for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

Simmonds' philantropy also extends to his hometown of Scarborough, Ontario, where he has hosted Wayne's Road Hockey Warriors each summer over the past six years.

Engelland is the first player never to wear the ‘C’ to win the Mark Messier Leadership Award, which was first presented in 2007. Previous winners include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber.  

Engelland’s award marked a big night for the expansion Golden Knights franchise. Gerard Gallant took home the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year, William Karlsson claimed the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy recognizing the player who exhibits the highest standard of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, and George McPhee was named the GM of the Year.

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