There was an absolute disconnect between the decision to fire Ron Hextall and the reasons behind the move.
Reasons that weren’t made clear Tuesday morning.
Citing “philosophical differences” in a press release Monday, you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly what those differences were other than Hextall had his my-way-or-the-highway approach.
“I just felt in the best interest of the organization, it was time to look for a new voice with a different mindset that can push the team to the next level,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “Without getting specific, Ron was unyielding in his approach. Unyielding. He had his plans and he was sticking to them. You can slice and dice that any way you want.”
Of course, that’s not for us to dissect and surmise, but rather for the team executive to explain thoroughly. He made the move. He owed the fan base an explanation behind it. While Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott allowed Holmgren to do most of the talking, he offered up a brief insight into the managerial shake-up.
“For me, it sort of boiled it down to one question: Do I think we can do better as a team now, not two or three years, but now, and I think that answer is yes,” Scott said.
In the history of the team and organizational management, the “short-term” approach or “quick-fix" solution is firing the head coach. Plain and simple. A new general manager, with limited history and knowledge of the players in the organization, can’t turn around a team in-season that doesn’t involve firing the coach or massively shaking up the roster.
Holmgren was adamant that Hextall was never given an ultimatum to fire Dave Hakstol, but you have to believe the subject of the head coach’s job performance had been discussed on more than one occasion. After all, Holmgren never had reservations about cutting loose a coach who was underperforming. He did it twice during his GM tenure: In December 2009, Holmgren replaced John Stevens with Peter Laviolette, and again in October 2013, just three games into the season, Laviolette was sent packing for Craig Berube.
“Was he ever told to fire the coach? No. Was he ever told to make a trade? No. Why even bother having a GM if you have to have those conversations,” Holmgren said.
“I’ll just say, he was very confident in his plan and his vision and Paul said it, he wasn’t going to waver from that plan,” Scott said. “To me and to Paul, I mean, this is the fifth year and you guys look at the same data that we look at and we thought it was time for a change.”
Hextall’s plan was rather clear-cut. Draft picks and prospects need time to develop, the current goaltending situation was a bridge to Carter Hart, and Hextall had the utmost confidence in Hakstol as his coach. To a fault.
“My feeling right now is that under the circumstances with the injuries in particular to our goaltenders, you can question it if you want,” Holmgren said of a coaching change. “I think the coaching staff has done a decent job under the situations that they’re in.”
The divorcing of Hextall came swiftly and abruptly Monday morning, which also would explain the scramble-mode mentality of Tuesday’s press conference.
“It was a tough thing to go through yesterday,” Holmgren said. “Was he warned? No, not warned. I don’t know how Ron felt in the conversations we had.”
Holmgren could have fired the head coach on the same day he dismissed Hextall, similar to what the organization pulled in October 2007 when then-GM Bob Clarke stepped down and Stevens replaced Ken Hitchcock behind the bench.
But 11 years ago, the Flyers organization actually had a succession plan in place.
This time around, it couldn’t find the answers to the most basic questions.
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