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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Is Claude Giroux's playoff history telling of what's to come for the captain?

Is Claude Giroux's playoff history telling of what's to come for the captain?

As the NHL playoffs get closer and closer (which sounds weird to say during this time of year), the analysis of potential playoff matchups and the key factors for the Flyers is well underway. Regardless of the matchup, a few things are certain for the Flyers. One of those is that they need their captain to be on top of his game when the playoffs begin to have success.

Claude Giroux’s playoff history can best be described as a long and winding road. We’ve seen examples in all sports where young players reach the pinnacle of their sport early in their career and never getting back to that peak again. In the NFL, Dan Marino reached the Super Bowl in his rookie season and never made it back. In somewhat similar fashion, Giroux in his first full season in the NHL reached the Stanley Cup Finals for a Flyers team with a leadership group that included Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger. Giroux was dynamic in those playoffs with 21 points in 23 playoff games — that included 10 goals, 11 assists and an overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The two years following that Cup Final run, Giroux continued to be a great player in the playoffs. In 2010-11, Giroux had 11 points in 10 playoff games. Then, in the 2011-12 playoffs, Giroux was perhaps his most dominant. Giroux had 17 points in 11 playoff games and was a force in the opening round against the Penguins. In Game 1 of that series, Giroux told his teammates, “Watch my first shift.” 

What his teammates saw was the captain put a huge hit on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and then score a goal to give the Flyers the lead. They never looked back, dispatching their cross-state rivals in 6 games. That playoff run ended with a 4-1 series loss to the Devils in the second round, a game in which Giroux was suspended after a hit on Dainus Zubrus in game 4 of that series. 

Since 2011-12, the playoffs haven’t been exactly kind to number 28 — with first round losses in 2014, 2016 and 2018. In those years combined, in 19 playoff games, Giroux scored just 3 goals and registered only 7 assists for a total of 10 points. In the Flyers last playoff appearance against the Penguins in 2018, Giroux had a -10 rating in 6 games.

The past few seasons have been a little different for Giroux with moving to the wing, while still assuming some of the center’s defensive responsibilities at times. Could that change in position allow Giroux to be that dominant force on the offensive end again? Possibly. Of course, playing with Sean Couturier in the middle is never a bad thing and that’s likely where Giroux will find himself when this year’s playoffs begin and the captain looks to regain his early career offensive playoff magic.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Philippe Myers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Philippe Myers

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Philippe Myers.

Destra

Normally an injury as severe as a fractured patella would cause a player to be out for a significant amount of time to recover. Luckily for Myers, he missed only a single game because just days after his injury, the NHL season was officially suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

This could be viewed as a silver lining — considering Myers will now be ready to roll come the round robin and playoffs that will follow. Before his injury, we were able to see significant growth in the 23-year-old’s game — which made the thought of losing him for the remainder of the regular season much more difficult. 

It took just under a month before Myers was called up to the big club to start his season with the Flyers, and it made for an interesting dynamic, given how busy things were at the blue line. The Flyers went from having a couple solid defensemen, to having too much talent from top to bottom … it’s a good problem to have. 

If Myers continues to control the reins instead of attempting to be too flashy, he’s in for a bright future in the NHL.

Myers gets a B for 2019-20 — and expectations are definitely high for next season. 

Fordyce 

I think when Myers first came up in the '18-19 season, he did some things that caused people to put the cart before the horse with this young defenseman. During this season, Myers had some really bright spots, but also would get into stretches when it seemed he couldn’t get out of his own way. 

Myers played 50 of the Flyers' 69 games. The key number that stands out when looking at Myers' season is that he was a plus-17, good for second on the team behind only Sean Couturier and the best in terms of defensemen on the Flyers. There are several factors that go into that rating and while it’s a great rating, Myers still has some work to do. He showed promise this season, and with even or better ratings in eight of his last 10 games, Myers’ future could be bright. 

B for Myers.

Hall

There was a lot of excitement about Myers entering the 2019-20 season and understandably so. The 23-year-old defenseman has an NHL build at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, he’s a fluid skater with offensive skill, he was ranked a top-50 prospect by the NHL Network the previous season and looked primed for a full-time impact.

While Myers had a so-so training camp and preseason, missing the team’s season-opening roster, he made it back to the big club and showed plenty of promise. With time, he started looking more comfortable and like a regular. The undrafted product recorded 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) and a plus-17 rating in 50 games.

Myers has said he’s at his best when playing a composed game and not trying to do too much, which leads to his impressiveness offensively and making things happen. At times, he would press and be hard on himself, but that’s common for any young player who cares.

All in all, a solid B for Myers, who looks like a fixture on the team’s blue line.

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