Flyers

Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

Ron Hextall, Flyers dumbfounded by NHL's explanation for no-goal calls

TORONTO — If the NHL rulebook had any more shades of gray to it, the league could probably rebrand it as a romance novel.

Thursday night in Ottawa only added another layer of depth to its confusing text when Sean Couturier scored what clearly appeared to be the game-tying goal (watch the goal here), as he pushed the puck across the line and into Craig Anderson’s glove (see story).

Friday, the NHL defended its controversial ruling but stating “the play was not reviewable,” which begs the obvious question, why would the on-ice officials send the play to the NHL’s situation room in Toronto for a review if the rule states it’s not a reviewable play? Perhaps, the guys in stripes, like many of us, aren’t completely sure how the rulebook reads.

“They’re obviously going to defend it. They have to, right?” Wayne Simmonds said. “They can’t say they’re wrong. There’s lot of pride (in the league office), and no one willing to swallow it.”

The NHL already had a lump in their collective throats from admitting just a week ago that officials and the situation room erred in a game between the Avalanche and the Blues when video review incorrectly nullified Colorado’s late goal. It was the first instance since coaching challenges were introduced in 2015-16 that the league admitted a mistake was made on an offside review.

With that in mind, there was no way Gary Bettman and associates were about to fess up to a decision that can be attributed to a convoluted set of rules. 

In the case of Couturier’s goal, there’s Rule 78.5 section (xii): Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing the whistle. 

Which seems to be contradicted by Rule 38.4 (viii): The video review process shall be permitted to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of ALL potential goals. … This would also include situations whereby the referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses the goal line.

You can see how rule 78.5 and rule 38.4 are playing this jurisdictional tug-of-war.

Prior to that, the Flyers were victimized by rule 69.3 — Contact Inside the Goal Crease which says (in part): If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with the attacking player who is in the goal crease and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

Such was the case when Anderson grazed Jordan Weal, nullifying what would have been a goal that brought the Flyers to a 4-3 deficit. The key word in that rule is “impairment.” How much impairment is required to disallow a goal? Just over the past few years, we’ve seen that particular call go either way.  

“For me, there’s so many changes from year to year and what they’re calling from goalie interference and things like that, where I don’t even know the rules,” goalie Brian Elliott said. “I don’t even know when a guy bumps me. You have time to reset, but you’re not on your angle, and he scores, is that interference? Yes, but I don’t know. There are so many things that you go out there and you complain that you got interfered with and see what happens.” 

The video review process and the technology that comes with a multitude of camera angles was intended to fix all of this. Instead, it has seemed to only add an additional layer of confusion.   

“It's supposed to have no mistakes, right?” Simmonds said. “What’s the point of having the video if you can’t get it right?” 

And a rulebook should be written much like a set of laws, and those who are asked to follow those rules and laws should have a clear understanding of its context.

“I guess you look back and say, ‘What didn’t we learn?’ I’m not sure,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “We don’t agree with either call. I’ve talked to some people, but those are confidential conversations. There’s no sense getting into it. We’re not going to get the goal back.”

A comprehensive rulebook is now the subject of subjectivity in which layers of protection have given those who make the rules a necessary “out clause” when needed. When asked what’s fair or what’s not in today’s game, Hextall probed just a little deeper.

“It’s society, right? Those of us who lived 30 years ago, we know differently," Hextall said. "That’s where we’re at. It’s not changing. The game is different. The game has changed with society.”  

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.

More on the Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development."

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

More on the Flyers