Flyers

Flyers let down Ron Hextall just as much as he did them

Flyers let down Ron Hextall just as much as he did them

It's wild how crazily and quickly it can all change.

When Ron Hextall was given the reins to the Flyers in May 2014, he started working his magic, implementing his own master plan of building up the organization. 

The vision — pristine and precise — seemed too good to be true. Hextall wanted to be competitive in the present while putting a laser-sharp focus on the future. He wasn't fond of the word "rebuild" because the competitiveness that ran through the Flyers' veins would never succumb to defeat.

Make no mistake, though, Hextall shifted the organizational philosophy.

These were the new Flyers.

As Hextall began reviving the franchise from a futureless entombment, the general manager looked infallible. With each move — all of them meaningful in the grand scheme — fans would have bowed at his feet if they had the chance. 

Here was a beloved franchise figure giving the Flyers the best of both worlds in his managerial motives.

If only the worlds came together.

Players and the handpicked coach felt accountable for Hextall's fate as the GM's process ended Monday with his firing.

And they should.

"I feel a responsibility for what happened today," Dave Hakstol said.

"Any time a coach or GM gets fired," Claude Giroux said, "obviously as players you feel responsible. If we win games, that doesn't happen."

The attempt to blend the future with the present in perfect harmony was let down not just by Hextall, but also the players and coaches in which he gave the opportunity to drive things forward.

Hextall kept the core intact and trusted the group by supplementing it with talented youth. Over time, he tirelessly created financial flexibility and restocked the farm system. When you look at the groundwork, it's impressive.

Consider some of these key moments:

• Trading 39-year-old Kimmo Timonen to the Blackhawks for draft picks in 2015.

• Shedding Chris Pronger's cap hit in a 2015 trade with the Coyotes.

• Sending 30-year-old Braydon Coburn to the Lightning in 2015 for draft picks and Radko Gudas.

• Trading Vinny Lecavalier and his big contract to the Kings in 2016. 

• Accumulating draft picks in a number of these deals and others to replenish the prospect pool.

• Drafting and developing with selections such as Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, Carter Hart, German Rubtsov, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Jay O'Brien, to name a handful.

"As I said when I took the job, we want to win the Stanley Cup," Hextall said in April 2016. "We don't just want to make the playoffs, we want to win the Stanley Cup. And to do that, you've got to build for years to give yourself multiple shots."

Not go for the gusto just once, but multiple times — a mindset Flyers fans certainly got on board with as they craved a perennial Cup contender.

Hextall was meticulous and to a fault. Near the end, faith felt lost in the GM as inaction, across the board, seemed to turn off even some of his most devoted supporters.

The clock truly defeated Hextall's process.

And he shouldn't be the only one to blame for that.

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Flyers trade T.J. Brennan to Blackhawks for Nathan Noel

Flyers trade T.J. Brennan to Blackhawks for Nathan Noel

The Flyers made a minor trade to wrap up their deadline work Monday.

The team sent Phantoms defenseman T.J. Brennan to the Blackhawks in exchange for forward Nathan Noel.

Brennan, a South Jersey native, had apparently fallen out of favor with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. Brennan hadn't played a game for the Phantoms since Jan. 10, his fourth season with Lehigh Valley. In only 28 games this season, the 30-year-old blueliner had one goal and seven assists.

During his career, Brennan never appeared in a game for the Flyers. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Noel, who will report to ECHL affiliate Reading, was a 2016 fourth-round draft pick of Chicago. The 22-year-old center had six goals and 11 assists for the ECHL's Indy Fuel this season and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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