Paul Holmgren: Flyers' next GM will be from 'outside our organization'

Paul Holmgren: Flyers' next GM will be from 'outside our organization'

We can slice through the Flyers' mostly nothing press conference Tuesday morning addressing the firing of general manager Ron Hextall and come away from it wondering what exactly did we find out.

The "philosophical differences" in the initial statement were never clearly defined. Hextall was "unyielding" in his approach and wasn't going to "waver from that plan." That stubbornness ultimately cost Hextall his job.

Flyers management, like the fan base, grew tired of the stagnation, felt the current team was underperforming and wanted to do something that can "make the team better now, not two-three years from now," as Comcast Spectator Chairman and CEO Dave Scott put it.

Multiple times during the press conference Flyers president Paul Holmgren used the term "fresh" but never really expanded upon what "fresh" means. He said, "It was time to look for a new voice with a different mindset that can push the team to the next level."

Afterward, we received some clarity as to what Holmgren is looking for in the Flyers' next GM. When asked if it was fair to say if Dean Lombardi is a candidate, Holmgren adamantly responded with:

No, it's not fair to say that. I've talked to Dean, I don't believe Dean has interest. I think he's not at a point in his life where he wants to do that again right now. I have a short list. … Preferably, I would love to go outside our organization. In fact, I can probably guarantee that we'll go from outside our organization.

So, there's that. We can cross Lombardi off the list. Per Holmgren, Lombardi, the architect of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Kings, will remain with the team as a senior advisor.

One of the few things we can take away from this day is, the Flyers seek a fresh perspective, because, of course, they do. That's what happens when change is made without scandal. And a fresh outlook is a good thing, really.

Far too often does this organization reward old players and familiar faces with jobs. Loyalty is what the Flyers' brand is built upon. Even Hextall was a former player and front office face before he returned as GM, though by his managerial philosophy, you'd never know.

If the next GM hire came internally, it would go against everything Holmgren and Scott said Tuesday. It certainly wouldn't be the first time executives fibbed about business.

Holmgren said he has "a number of people that are interested" and that the team's GM position is a top job. A lot of that has to do with Hextall's "unyielding" approach.

We've already seen some names surface, including former GMs Chuck Fletcher and Ron Francis. Some interesting names to keep tabs on are Sabres AGM Steve Greeley and Kings AGM Michael Futa. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman mentioned Chris Drury, among others.

When asked what they're looking for in a new voice, Scott added, "I think we're looking for bright, energetic, strategic thinkers but also balancing that with a bias for action and really making some things happen."

Of course, "bright, energetic, strategic thinkers" is corporate speak. But the key part of Scott's statement is this: "Balancing that with a bias for action." Hextall wasn't capable of that. The next GM hopefully will be.

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Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series

Carter Hart provides early birthday gift as Flyers beat Canadiens in Game 1 of 1st-round NHL playoff series


Carter Hart will enjoy his birthday.

The young netminder delivered a big performance Wednesday night to help the Flyers earn a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

So far, so good (in fact, really good) for Hart in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ivan Provorov and Joel Farabee scored goals for the top-seeded Flyers, who are off to a 4-0-0 start in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

It was far from a picture-perfect performance but the Flyers did enough to grind it out, which they'll have to do at times against Montreal.

• In the first chapter of the Hart-Carey Price showdown, the youngster got the better of the veteran.

Hart, who turned 22 years old at midnight, has been so steady early in games. He had to make only five saves in the opening frame but he hasn't allowed a first-period goal in his last seven games.

He was a life saver with 16 second-period saves and finished with 27 stops on 28 shots.

Through three games in the tournament, Hart is 3-0-0 with 84 saves on 87 shots. Can't ask for a better start from him. A major positive.

Price made a save on Scott Laughton that you'll see all over ESPN's SportsCenter and denied 29 shots. The Flyers know he'll be a tough out.

• After playing well following his jump to the first line in the round-robin finale with Jakub Voracek (undisclosed issue) out, Farabee stayed with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in Game 1.

The 20-year-old rookie winger continued his productive response to the opportunity, scoring a massive goal 16 seconds after Shea Weber tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.

Farabee went to the net, deflected Travis Sanheim's shot and then pounded home the rebound — so timely given Montreal had totally swung the momentum in its favor, putting the Flyers on their heels.

Farabee should stay on that line until he gives the Flyers a reason to not keep him there. He has three points (two goals, one assist) over three games in the 24-team tournament.

• The Flyers delivered a pair of early positive signs:

The power play struck on its first opportunity after going 0 for 11 through the three-game round robin. Provorov, who led all NHL defensemen in man advantage goals during the regular season with seven, blasted home a shot from the point to hand the Flyers a 1-0 advantage.

The other positive was the ingredients to the goal. The Flyers went with a double screen on Price. Impeding the Montreal netminder's vision will be critical and the Flyers hammered home that point with Couturier and Voracek disrupting.

Not only is it an effective approach but it can also frustrate Price, who does not like being bumped or obstructed.

The power play finished 1 for 3 and missed out on a chance to provide insurance in the third period. It didn't cost the Flyers.

• The second period was troubling for the Flyers. They got a taste of their own medicine. Typically, the Flyers are a team that wants to wear down the opposition with its effort and north-south style. The Flyers are not the fasted team, but the way in which they play makes them tough to play against, which was a huge initiative entering their turnaround season.

Montreal completely took it to them in the middle stanza. At one point, the Flyers were pinned in their own end and had three failed attempts to clear the puck.

Leading up to the series opener, Vigneault warned that Montreal seldom slows down in its pace or energy, which can sneak up on teams if you let it.

"That’s a team with real good team speed, there’s no doubt that they work extremely hard," Vigneault said in a video interview before the game. "Those two areas, watching the four games in that Pittsburgh series, caught everybody’s attention. They were extremely quick and extremely hard-working."

Fortunately for the Flyers, Hart was strong and Farabee made his heads up play, allowing the Flyers to leave the second period with a 2-1 edge.

• Vigneault gave the Game 1 nod to Shayne Gostisbehere over Robert Hagg, who was the extra defenseman. Gostisbehere truly won his spot in the lineup with impressive work during camp, the exhibition game and one round-robin game.

He wasn't as impactful against the Canadiens as he was in the 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning and looked a little shaky in the second period, but so did the Flyers as a whole. Gostisbehere didn't play a ton later in third period as the Flyers shortened things up.

Not sure that's enough to sit him in Game 2 but the battle for the lineup will truly be a game-to-game situation. The playoffs are a game-to-game business.

• James van Riemsdyk was on the fourth line and played 11:40.

Nate Thompson, the former Canadien who centers the fourth line, missed a wide-open net late in the third period.

Overall, the Flyers didn't receive the depth efforts they got throughout the round robin, but the club's role players weren't awful, either.

The Flyers had a so-so game in general.

• The series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSP.

For the full series schedule, click here.

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Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

Flyers vs. Canadiens NHL playoffs: Game 1 live stream, storylines, more

For the first time since 2000, the Flyers will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

They kick off their first-round series Wednesday against the eighth-seeded Canadiens.

With the Flyers set to begin what feels and looks like their most credible chance at a Stanley Cup run since 2011 or 2012, let's look at five big storylines ahead of their matchup with Montreal:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The goaltending matchup is well-advertised: Carter Hart vs. Carey Price, youngster vs. idol. As Hart, who turns 22 years old on Thursday, started molding his game, he looked up to Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday.

"Any time you have a chance to play against somebody that you looked up to, it’s always exciting, and in the playoffs even more," Claude Giroux said Monday. "It's two good goaltenders; it’s going to be a treat to watch."

Everybody knows how Price can dictate an entire series by just his own ability between the pipes.

"I really believe everything’s been said about Price," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. "Obviously a premier goaltender in the league, gives the Canadiens a chance every game. I’m not sure there is much more I can add to where he is, how well he plays and what he does for that team."

A few interesting notes on both goalies:

Price has good career numbers against the Flyers, going 16-11-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 30 career regular-season matchups vs. the orange and black. He has been very good against them over the last two regular seasons: 3-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .959 save percentage.

There is a potential back-to-back scenario with Games 4 and 5. Despite Hart playing on no days rest only once this season (and it was in relief duty), expect him to play that back-to-back, especially given how big Game 5 could be, with the series either tied, the Flyers looking to clinch or trying to survive.

Meanwhile, Price was off his game on no days rest during the regular season, going 0-2-2 with a 3.76 goals-against average and .864 save percentage.

• The Flyers went 2-1-0 against Montreal in the regular season, with a 3-2 overtime win Nov. 7, a 4-3 overtime victory Nov. 30 and a 4-1 loss Jan. 16.

It's important to remember, though, that the Flyers got much better from early January and Hart faced the Canadiens only once (he beat them on Nov. 7). They also acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, with Thompson coming from Montreal.

Having Nate, a veteran player that is such a pro in the way he prepares himself, the way he competes, the way he is with his teammates, a real good teammate — that’s his first and foremost value with him, he comes to play and he plays hard. Obviously in our preparation for the Montreal Canadiens, we did pick his brain on what we saw in video. I’m not going to go into length in what he shared with us; obviously that stays internal. There’s no doubt that he’s been here a short amount of time, but he’s been a real valuable player as far as bringing his game to the table every night and helping our group. In this preparation for Montreal, there’s no doubt that we did ask him a few questions.

- Vigneault

• An X-factor in this series for the Flyers is James van Riemsdyk.

The Flyers went 0 for 11 on the power play during the round robin. JVR has a long résumé of power play production in his career and makes a living on disrupting goalies around the net, which is something the Flyers must do to beat Price.

On top of van Riemsdyk playing with a little bit more to prove after being scratched for the second game of the round robin, he also owns quality lifetime numbers against the Canadiens. In 39 career regular-season matchups with Montreal, van Riemsdyk has 16 goals and nine assists. He has scored more goals against only one other team: the Sabres with 17.

Vigneault will continue to look for more from van Riemsdyk and the big winger profiles well in this series.

• After missing the round-robin finale because of an undisclosed issue, Jakub Voracek has practiced the last two days and said he's good to go.

Voracek was one of the Flyers' best players when the club started finding its identity in November. He's important to the man advantage, as well.

We'll have to wait and see if he goes back on the Flyers' top line. It seems likely he will to at least start the series given the chemistry he has with Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could also see time on the third line if the Flyers elect to play Joel Farabee on the first unit, where the rookie's strengths become much more utilized.

Because of the team's depth in a system predicated on balance, Voracek played 17:03 minutes per game in the regular season, his fewest since 2011-12, his first year with the Flyers. As a result, he was more effective in all three zones with less pressure to constantly push the envelope offensively.

"Let’s be honest, I think this is the best team since I came to Philly in 2011," Voracek said Tuesday. "That first year we had a pretty good team, but we are really deep this year. I think we showed it before the stoppage, we showed it in the last four games (three round robin, one exhibition) that basically we are capable of beating anyone. Skating well, check them well.

"Let’s be honest, I think we are going into the playoffs as one of the favorites. That’s a good feeling and hopefully we are going to find a way to go all the way because we feel really comfortable with this group. That’s where we stand right now."

As for Michael Raffl, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the round robin, it's uncertain when the Flyers will see his return.

• During the playoffs, Vigneault is close to the vest with his lineups. For strategic purposes, the Flyers will keep all lineup decisions to themselves moving forward.

It's uncertain if Robert Hagg or Shayne Gostisbehere will be the Flyers' sixth defenseman for Game 1. Expect to see Hagg begin the series in the lineup and with Justin Braun, but Gostisbehere opened eyes in the Flyers' 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning to tighten the race for playing time.

If this first-round series doesn't start particularly well and the Flyers want to combat Montreal's quickness with Gostisbehere's elusiveness, they could look to call his number, as Vigneault has mentioned the importance of adjustments throughout a series.

"I’ve decided who I’m going to play for the first game, but that’s something that I’m not willing to share at this moment," Vigneault said Tuesday. "But there’s no doubt that Shayne did play his best game. You can see right now at this point that he's healthy, he’s confident about the surgery that he had on both his knees. He feels good about himself and feels energized. If we need him during the series, there’s no doubt that he'll be ready for us."

Projected lineup


Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Joel Farabee-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick


Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun


Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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