Hextall to be named new Flyers GM
By David Strehle (@DStrehleTFP)
It was a given that Ron Hextall was brought back to Philadelphia to one day become the general manager of the Flyers, the question has always been when the right time would be to make the move.
Ed Snider apparently feels that time is now.
The Flyers have called an 11:30 press conference Wednesday morning, and Holmgren will be promoted to club president and Hextall will be introduced as the seventh GM in franchise history.
Whether or not that decision was made jointly between Snider and Holmgren is unknown at this time, but Friday Holmgren sure sounded as if he was not in any hurry to kick himself upstairs.
When asked Friday during the team’s locker clean-out day if Hextall was about to have the ‘Assistant’ taken off the front of his current title, Holmgren seemed almost surprised.
“I’m the one who brought Hexy back,” Holmgren said during his press availability Friday. “He’s an excellent resource in our organization. He’s a tremendous hockey man and I have no question that he’s ready to be a general manager at any point. We’ll see where that goes, but I’m certainly not in any position today where I want to change chairs.”
“Do you think I look 70?”, Holmgren quipped. “I still feel pretty good.”
Holmgren may have had a change of heart after meeting with Snider, but he genuinely appeared as though he expected that he had a longer tenure to the position he’s held since his good friend and mentor Bob Clarke was fired early on in the disaster that was the 2006/07 campaign.
It’s been an up-and-down time during Holmgren’s rule of the roost. He brought in current Flyers Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, and Scott Hartnell within his first year, and made several other shrewd moves in order to ensure Philly’s time out of the postseason was indeed brief.
But his time was also spent walking a tightrope along the salary cap limit, attempting to acquire every high-priced free agent and then having to move salary as a consequence. The result was an ever-changing roster — especially when it came to young forwards, where the likes of Joffrey Lupul, Scottie Upshall, R.J. Umberger, and James van Riemsdyk were dealt after brief stints for varying reasons — and the faceless team had difficulty establishing a true identity.
The constantly revolving door also created new holes to fill, and consequently the necessity for more trades to be completed.
This season has been different, as Holmgren held onto his young assets — including his core group of roster players, as well as a number of burgeoning prospects coming up the ranks — and avoided the temptation of moving them in hopes of a ‘quick fix’, a trademark of Clarke’s time, also.
In Hextall the Flyers have a chance to get a differing viewpoint as to what is needed to get the team to that next level, and one that was prominent in helping the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup championship in recent years.
With a solid core of youthful forwards led by Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier and goaltending not being one of the most-pressing needs for what seems like the first time in years with Steve Mason having taken the reigns, Hextall’s biggest concern right off the bat will be that of rebuilding a crumbling back line.
39-year-old Timonen is taking the next few weeks to decide whether or not he will return for another season or retire, so there is that immediate issue.
Hextall may need to replace Timonen’s top-pairing minutes, but it’s likely he will need to do so even if the Finn returns. When I asked Craig Berube Friday if he felt Timonen would be better-suited to a role of lesser ice time, the coach thought that would be best.
“I guess that’s something you’ve got to consider,” he said. “If he comes back, that’ll be something we discuss with him, about playing time and the situations and stuff like that. Being the most penalized team in the league and he’s killing penalties, that’s a lot of hard minutes for a guy like that.”
Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Coburn are locks to return barring trades, and RFA Erik Gustafsson could be a key contributor if an older defenseman with more mileage on his body ends up being moved.
And that’s not to mention Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, and Shayne Gostibesphere, of whom Snider made this comment Friday: “I like to call him ‘got-to-be-here,’ however you pronounce it, but he’s got to be here. I think this kid has tremendous potential. Young defensemen are doing wonderful things all over the league. You saw what happened in Montreal last night with P.K. Subban (overtime goal to beat Boston). There’s a lot of young defensemen doing wonderful things in this league. There’s no reason for us to think that this kid can’t come in and help us. To be a plus-7 in a championship game when there’s seven goals scored and four against is pretty amazing.”
Expect Hextall to be active in the weeks leading up to the NHL draft, which will be held in Philadelphia late next month.
The Ron Hextall era as a player was something to behold, and he took the team as close as they had been to winning a third championship since 1975. His time is about to begin as GM and with it comes another chance to complete the mission he had embarked upon previously, and that is to bring Lord Stanley back to the City of Brotherly Love.