Flyers

Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

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Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

Rob’s Rants have been an Eagle-free zone for the past 10 weeks and clearly, that isn’t changing anytime soon. Let’s hope we can keep this run going well beyond Super Bowl Sunday and into the offseason. But there is one Philadelphia team that has not escaped the wrath and it’s not the Sixers or Phillies.

Dave Hakstol
The Flyers have been mired in a serious funk of late. They lost their eighth straight Monday, another heartbreaker at the hands of the Penguins. Their inability to hang on to leads and their lack of scoring contributions from anyone not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier or Jakub Voracek is a major issue. Despite good goaltending from Brian Elliott, this team continues to disappoint.

But even more unacceptable than the lack of scoring balance and late-game collapses are the comments from head coach Dave Hakstol. Exhibit A comes after his club blew a two-goal lead at home on Black Friday versus the Islanders.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is," Hakstol said last Friday. "I think in seven of our last 10 we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

I’m not one who believes in flipping tables and calling players out after every loss, no matter how bad the defeat. That act grows old real quick with professionals in 2017. The days of Mike Keenan are gone. However, there is a fine line between setting fire to your dressing room and Hakstol’s postgame rationalizations. Publicly, he is a monotone, work-hard, muck-and-grind, generally-say-nothing type of coach. And that’s fine as long as he can motivate his players. Clearly, that’s not happening. In both losses to the Islanders, the Flyers were caught asleep in the defensive zone in the 3-on-3 overtime. It’s bad enough something like that happens once but the very next game? They are puck-watching while the other team scores the game-winner. That is discipline.   

Taking solace in getting seven points in your last 10 games is not just coachspeak, it’s irresponsible and sends a weak message to the players and the Flyers' devout fan base. Ron Hextall, a very patient man, went out on a limb when he hired Hakstol, who had no previous NHL coaching experience. So it will be interesting to see how much rope Hextall gives Hakstol if this continues. But as the old saying goes: It’s getting late early.  

NFL celebrations
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of touchdown celebrations with the number of times the Eagles have found the end zone this year. And ever since the NFL loosened up the reigns on post-touchdown fun, players and teams have gotten quite creative. Some love it, some hate it. This debate is pretty simple. If your team’s the one celebrating after a score, you love it. If it’s the opposition doing the choreography, you don’t.

Jim Harbaugh
For all the bluster, the Woody Hayes glasses, satellite camps, the bad khakis hiked up to his breasts and the thousand-yard stares, Jim Harbaugh has come up real small at Michigan. They’ve lost to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this year. All quality teams, but losing to all of them ain’t cutting it. In his three seasons in Ann Arbor, he’s 0-3 vs. Ohio State and 1-7 versus top-10 teams. Maybe lose all the antics and deliver a better offense.      

Young rookie
I’ve noticed several NFL broadcasters, but in particular, Troy Aikman use the term “young rookie.” With the exception of a Brandon Weeden, Chris Weinke or Drew Henson — who came back to football after failed baseball careers — aren’t all rookies young?

Christmas car gift
Christmas and holiday commercials are now in heavy rotation. There is one in particular that has driven me nuts for years. The husband or wife will come downstairs and be escorted outside, only to be presented with a brand new car with a bow on the hood. Maybe it’s me, I didn’t come from money, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s been given an extremely pricey, luxury car for Christmas. Who is this target audience?

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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