Flyers

Ron Hextall's demise as Flyers general manager was likely the deals he didn't make

Ron Hextall's demise as Flyers general manager was likely the deals he didn't make

VOORHEES, N.J. — You could see it in Ron Hextall's eyes.

The sadness. The pain. The disappointment of one of the most exhausting, painful weeks of his professional life.

A moment that took all of 20 seconds for Paul Holmgren to walk into Hextall’s office and tell the legendary Flyers goaltender that his plan was no longer embraced by the organization.

Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said it boiled down to one question: “Do I think that we can do better as a team now, not two years or three years from now, but now? And I think that answer was yes.”

In answering that question, Hextall truly believed he was working toward a potential deal that would have improved the Flyers' current roster.

“In terms of the games and trying to make our team better, I was on the phone Sunday trying to make our team better,” Hextall said. “I can assure you I was being aggressive. We had some heavy conversations with other teams, and then the other teams went like this (wavered) and they'd back off; that's sort of the way it goes.”

Perhaps that wasn’t communicated with upper management as Hextall pointed out that he spoke with Holmgren in person about once a week on average. 

Hextall reiterated on several occasions, and not just Friday, that he wasn’t going to sacrifice the career of a player in his 20s for a more experienced player in his 30s who could help the team win now. Apparently, that was an issue that was debated throughout Hextall’s tenure.

“I’m not going to get into the details,” Hextall said. “I was very specific with you guys. A 34-, 35-, 36-year-old … yeah, I’m not trading a young prospect for that, that helps us now and the future would have happened under my watch.”

And yet, Hextall traded then-25-year-old Brayden Schenn for a pair of first-round draft picks and Jori Lehtera, now 30, who has simply taken up space on the Flyers' roster at $4.5 million. That particular deal irked people within the organization that viewed the Flyers taking a step back in their attempt to challenge the Penguins and Capitals in the Metropolitan Division.   

Hextall also acknowledged he was looking to improve the personnel of the team’s power play. He nearly signed 33-year-old Daniel Winnik but ultimately decided against it since the Flyers already had 14 forwards under contract. 

However, that was also part of the problem surrounding Hextall’s short-term plan. Signing players like Dale Weise coupled with the trade for Lehtera hampered how Hextall maneuvered through free agency. 

Surprisingly, adding speedy winger and penalty-kill specialist Michael Grabner wasn’t on Hextall’s radar either. Grabner opted to sign with the Coyotes on a three-year contract, and as a result, Arizona's penalty kill has improved from 19th last season to No. 1.

“The one thing I felt we needed with this team was a little more juice, a little more energy, a little more … a player or two that could grind it out and grit and piss people off,” Hextall said, "That was one of the things we were on the lookout for too, was a little more sandpaper.”

Antoine Roussel was the sandpaper-type of player Hextall had targeted, but a four-year contract was too much of a commitment. The Canucks ultimately gave Roussel what he was looking for.

As Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

Hextall could still very well be general manager of the Flyers had he taken a few of those shots and missed. 

Not even trying turned out to be the final nail in his coffin.

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Flyers' Carter Hart, Union provide heartwarming night with McCabe family

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_carter_hart_slide.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers' Carter Hart, Union provide heartwarming night with McCabe family

Carter Hart made plenty of big saves Wednesday night as he stopped 35 shots in the Flyers' 2-1 shootout loss to the NHL-leading Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.

Thanks to an awesome drawing, the beautiful memory of Lucy McCabe and the 21-year-old goalie, his most meaningful moment Wednesday night came after the game.

Through the Union's "Kick Childhood Cancer" initiative, Hart was connected with 6-year-old Molly McCabe, who lost her 3-year-old sister Lucy to cancer on Sept. 17.

Hart and the Flyers invited the McCabe family to Wednesday night's game. They all met and spent time together afterward.

It was just nice to go and say hi after the game," Hart said Thursday, via Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill. "It wasn’t the result we wanted in the game, but you know what, it was the daughter’s first NHL game, she went to her first hockey game, and she was very happy and smiling after. I mean, that’s what it’s about. You go in there after the game, you see them and how happy she is, how happy the family was to meet myself and then come in the locker room after — that just puts a smile on my face and I’m very happy to do that.

What an amazing job by everyone.

For more on the night, story and initiative, follow below:

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

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Why Flyers' shootout loss to Capitals was a major positive

Why Flyers' shootout loss to Capitals was a major positive

The Flyers missed out on a few accomplishments that could have been proudly placed in their back pocket as they left the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

A victory over the Capitals would have given the Flyers their longest winning streak (five games) in the opening two months of a season since 2010-11, when the club won six straight games from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6.

A win would have also improved the Flyers’ home record to 7-1-1, which would have marked the team’s best start on home ice since 2005-06, when it went 9-1-0.

Alas, the Flyers had to settle for a 2-1 shootout loss to Washington (see observations).

That result holds far greater meaning in the grand scheme of the 2019-20 season than some historical feats among past franchise teams. This season, the Flyers are aiming for a jump back into contention and relevancy among the NHL’s better clubs.

They want to show everyone they are not the 2018-19 team that fell well short of expectations and finished with 82 points, the organization’s fewest in a full season since 2006-07. The demoralization of last season is why Alain Vigneault is in Philadelphia this season, leading the charge of making this Flyers team different.

Wednesday represented an eye-opening indicator of how things have changed.

In 2018-19, the Flyers were manhandled by the Capitals, losing all four meetings to the tune of an 18-9 margin. The Flyers allowed Washington to put up 4.50 goals per game in the matchups. As shown by the outcomes, the Capitals had their way.

“For me, it’s a new season,” Vigneault said Thursday. “I’m new here, my staff is new, players are new to us. I’m really not interested or focused on what has happened in the past.

“It was about us going out last night, going out and trying to win a game against the best team at this time in the league. I thought our start wasn’t real good because we were a step behind and a second behind in making the plays that we needed to defensively. Got better in the second, got better in the third and we made a game out of it and were able to come back and get a point."

Entering Wednesday, the Capitals were still the Capitals. They were leading the NHL with 30 points, were scoring a league-high four goals per game, were on a 12-game point streak and were 8-1-1 on the road.

They came rolling into the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers held them to one goal through three periods and overtime. Washington had scored three or more goals in 16 straight games before the Flyers limited it to one in 65 minutes.

“Give them credit, I mean they came out hard and they proved in that first period there’s a reason why they’re first in the league right now,” Vigneault said Wednesday. “Their execution and their speed were very challenging. In the second period, we got better, made better decisions as far as giving them a little bit less space and time. We were able to make a couple plays with the puck and, in the third, we found a way to even it up.”

Over their last three games, the Flyers took five out of a possible six points and allowed only five goals against the Capitals, Bruins and Maple Leafs, who are a combined 34-12-12. Last season, the Flyers went a combined 3-7-0 against those three clubs and were outscored 43-27.

The Flyers are clearly a better team this season compared to last. 

They have proven that with hard evidence.

How much better compared to the rest of the league is a question to be answered when the games become bigger and the playoff race has truly begun.

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