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Hextall’s goal as GM: bring Cup back to Philly

Posted by Eric Fisher On May 7

Ron Hextall becoming Flyers general manager isn’t a surprise.

The surprise was the timing.

Just last week, then-Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he planned to return in that position next season. So what changed between last week and Wednesday when the Flyers announced that Holmgren was the new team president and Hextall was promoted from assistant general manager to general manager?

A few possibilities to consider:

  • Perhaps Flyers chairman Ed Snider gave Holmgren a nudge and suggested it was time to let someone else do the job.
  • Perhaps one of the teams with a vacancy at GM asked the Flyers’ permission to speak with Hextall, speeding up the planned passing of the GM torch.
  • Maybe this was the plan all along and, as Holmgren said Wednesday, last week “was not the time” to discuss it.

Perhaps it was a combination of all three reasons. Holmgren and Flyers chairman Ed Snider both said Holmgren approached Snider in January about the possibility of filling the president vacancy created when Peter Luukko resigned in December. That may have been the plan all along, with either of the first two reasons cited above moving up the timetable.

Regardless of the reasons, Hextall is the general manager. Technically, he will report to the team president, Holmgren, but Holmgren and Hextall both made it clear that Hextall will be in charge of all hockey decisions.

“Not only did I reach my goal of being a general manager, but I got my dream job,” Hextall said. “I’ve got a special feeling about this organization, and I am absolutely honored and thrilled today to be sitting here.”

Hextall is the latest in a string of players viewed as lifetime Flyers – even when they moved on to other organizations – to be Flyers general manager. Holmgren, a physical right wing for the Flyers during the late 1970s and early ‘80s, was preceded as general manager by Flyers legend Bob Clarke.

Hextall was a popular player during two stints as Flyers goalie. After retiring, he worked as a professional scout and director of player personnel with the Flyers. He then worked as assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings before making a lateral move last summer to take the same position with the Flyers.

When asked about the Flyers’ culture Wednesday, a simmering topic since it was raised when the Flyers promoted former Flyers wing Craig Berube to be head coach after three games of the past season, Hextall embraced it. He said that when he arrived in Los Angeles, the organization needed to build a winning culture. With the Flyers, the winning culture already exists.

When Hextall rejoined the Flyers, it was assumed he was being groomed to be Holmgren’s replacement. Not that he’s become general manager, Hextall will have decisions to make on which players to re-sign or let go, how to improve the defense and on which players to select in the NHL Draft, which will be held at Wells Fargo Center on June 27-28.

The draft will be an important part of Hextall’s focus. He spoke Wednesday of the importance of building the team from within rather than trying to build by acquiring players from other organizations.

“I like young players and I like draft picks,” Hextall said. “I think my vision is to build this team and continue to make this team better through the draft.”

That doesn’t mean the Flyers won’t ever trade draft picks or prospects, but Hextall said the best way to build a championship team is by holding on to prospects and helping them develop.

Hextall’s goal is simple: to build a championship team.

“I’ll do the best job I can do,” Hextall said. “I’ll work hard to reach the ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia.”

If he accomplishes his goal, Hextall will see his popularity – already at a high level – increase exponentially.

(Photo of Ron Hextall by Eric Fisher of PhillyPhanatics.com. Please credit photo if you choose to use it.)

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