Ron Hextall

Ron Hextall discusses mixed feelings on Flyers' success, future

Ron Hextall discusses mixed feelings on Flyers' success, future

Ron Hextall never lost track of his vision for the Flyers.

The overarching goal was to be competitive in the present while setting up a long and prosperous future.

The best of both worlds in theory.

In 2018-19, his fifth year as general manager of the Flyers, Hextall was fired. He had meticulously and tirelessly rebuilt the club's future but the present wasn't coming together quickly enough for the organization's liking. When he was relieved of his duties, the Flyers were 10-11-2 and in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for the second straight season.

Hextall believed the organization was unified in staying the course. In a video interview last Thursday with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark, Hextall discussed the apparent disconnect.

I think it’s more of an understanding of kind of everybody being on the same page and buying in. Hey, I didn’t like the last month and a half, the October and November there before I got let go, I didn’t like the way we were playing, something had to change and we were certainly working hard to try and change something. But what I wasn’t going to do was what I said all along — I wasn’t going to trade young players for older players to try to win a round of the playoffs or to try to make the playoffs.

I knew it was going to take some time. Quite honestly, I still say the same thing, I was surprised when things went down like they did. I felt like people in the organization were on the same page; obviously I found out different.

Hextall can be proud of his work in the GM seat of his former team. As the 2019-20 club has enjoyed success and looks poised for multiple runs in the future, Hextall can take solace in the fact that he played a big role in constructing the team's window to contend.

“I can say I wasn’t surprised, we built it for four and a quarter years there and kind of what we planned on building is what’s in place right now and hopefully is in place for the next 10 years," Hextall said.

“You start adding these kids to the mix of [Jakub Voracek] and [Claude Giroux] and those guys, it’s a pretty good formula there for success. Last year, at the start of the year, we weren’t getting the production and the performance out some of the kids that we thought we would get and we probably should have got — they got a little bit better as the year went on but they really popped this year. It takes time with young players, it just does, it’s history.

“I hope they have success; there’s certainly a lot of people in the organization that I’m extremely fond of, the players that were either drafted under my tenure or signed under my tenure, I wish nothing but good for those people. I think they’re set up for a long time so I’m not at all surprised by the success that they’ve had. They’ve got good players, but they’re also good people. Typically when you have good people that are, as well, good hockey players, in the end, they’re going to be a pretty good team. [Chuck Fletcher has] done a good job, as well.”

Now a part-time advisor to hockey operations for the Kings, where he won a Stanley Cup as an assistant general manager, Hextall said any future success for the Flyers will bring him mixed emotions. He would have loved to see his process through with the organization for which he played 11 years.

"I got drafted by Philadelphia when I was 18 years old, I started playing my first year when I was 22, and the only thing I wanted to do was be a part of bringing a Stanley Cup to Philadelphia," Hextall said. "Obviously we came up a little bit short as a player. To get the opportunity as a general manager, my sole focus was not building a real good team, the sole focus was building a team that was capable of winning the Stanley Cup.

"It’s so hard to win, we went through it in L.A. there. You’ve got to have a lot of breaks, you’ve got to be healthy, your goaltender has got to be great — everything has just got to go the right way because of the parity in the league now.

“They’ve got a good group there and I’m happy for all those kids. Does it sting a little? Yeah, of course it does.”

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Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall finds new job with Los Angeles Kings

Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has found a new job in the NHL. 

Hextall has been hired as a part-time advisor to hockey operations for the Los Angeles Kings, the team announced Wednesday.

Fired by the Flyers in November after a poor start to the 2018-19 season, Hextall, a former goalie who played 489 games with the Flyers, served as general manager for four-plus seasons.

At the time, then-president Paul Holmgren said, "it has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team."

The Flyers did not win a playoff series under Hextall, going 165-128-58 and losing twice in the first round.

The team relieved head coach Dave Hakstol of his duties in December. Chuck Fletcher took over Hextall's position, and he hired Alain Vigneault in April as head coach.

Hextall said in November he was "proud" of the groundwork he built as general manager, and that he believes the team is "poised to do something great." 

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Back to the old ways? Flyers say look at us now

Back to the old ways? Flyers say look at us now

When Paul Holmgren made the call to relieve Ron Hextall of his duties as general manager, there was a common refrain among fans fearing of win-now, shortsighted decisions.

Here we go, the Flyers are headed back to their old ways.

Well, in reality, the Flyers weren't a whole lot different to begin with. Hextall deserves credit. He did many positive things. He changed the Flyers' way of thinking and operating. He fixed a troubling salary cap situation and built up the farm system.

But in the business of winning, the Flyers very much stayed the same. In Year 5 of Hextall's process, the Flyers were in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for a second straight season. Twice they had missed the playoffs and twice they had lost in the first round after squeaking into the tournament.

Less than five and a half months following Hextall's firing in late November, the Flyers, an organization often criticized for a reluctance to steer from the past, look awfully different, fueled by outside perspective and experience.

Did you ever think two coaches with a winning pedigree from days with the hated rival Penguins would be brought in with open arms as assistants?

Here we are.

How about hiring a head coach who was working in the division just over a year ago and beating the Flyers in a huge Game 7 during the 2014 playoffs?

Here we are.

The hiring of Chuck Fletcher as general manager created a trickle-down effect of change, with fresh faces and potentially new ways to drive a team into contention.

Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr come from a background with the Wild in Minnesota, where they rekindled a buzz in a passionate hockey market.

Alain Vigneault is now the head coach. He arrived to the Flyers with two Stanley Cup Final appearances, three Presidents' Trophy winners and a Jack Adams Award (top coach).

Fletcher and Vigneault hired two assistants Monday with notable track records. Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo have a combined 1,296 games of NHL head coaching experience. Therrien led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, while Yeo won a ring with Pittsburgh in 2009 as an assistant.

Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott spearheaded this outside perspective. All along, it may have been a part of their vision when they hired Fletcher. No, the team hasn't made wholesale changes and Fletcher isn't looking to do so (or at least not yet), but the Flyers are different.

On April 18, the day of his introduction as head coach, Vigneault said he was aware of the frustration among Flyers fans with the state of the team.

"I understand people's disappointment, but I would say that's all behind us," he said. "Chuck is here, he's new. I'm here, I'm new. Nothing I can do about what happened in the past. I can focus on the present and hopefully make the future what we all want it to be. I'm going to be on high alert, I'm going to work my butt off to get this done and I'm very confident that it's going to work out."

Fletcher knows the Flyers' past.

"For me coming in from the outside," Fletcher said, "I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League.

"It has happened long before I got here, but the Flyers have always done things the right way and we'll continue to do that."

With new, outside point of views from Fletcher, Flahr, Vigneault, Therrien and Yeo.

Yes, the Flyers are hungry to win again, sooner rather than later. But you can't say they're back to their old ways.

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