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Flyers fire Hextall

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 26

The Flyers aren’t going in the right direction, so Ron Hextall is going in a different direction.

Citing a difference in philosophy regarding the direction of the team, the Flyers fired Hextall, who was one of the franchise’s most beloved players, during his fifth season as general manager.

In a statement released by the Flyers, team president Paul Holmgren said, “We thank Ron for his many significant contributions, but it has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team. In light of these differences, we feel it’s in the organization’s best interest to make a change, effective immediately.”

More details regarding the differences may be revealed Tuesday when Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott meet with the media. Until that time, Holmgren’s statement is open to interpretation and speculation.

Hextall’s “significant contributions” certainly would include restocking the organization with prospects and relieving the salary cap jam that was created when Holmgren was general manager. Where there hasn’t been enough achievement, however, is on the ice.

The Flyers haven’t won a playoff series during Hextall’s tenure, losing in the first round both times they reached the postseason. It’s only one-fourth of the way through this season, but it doesn’t appear as if the Flyers are headed for a better fate. They are 10-11-2 and in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. They have the third-worst goals-allowed average (3.57) in the NHL.

The Flyers are 1-4-1 in their past six games. In their last three defeats, they have fallen behind by four goals, including losses to the Sabres and Maple Leafs in which they fell behind 4-0 in the first period. You can bet that if the 5-2 loss to the Sabres last Wednesday or the 6-0 embarrassment against the Leafs on Saturday had occurred at Wells Fargo Center, the “Fire Hakstol!” chants would have reverberated throughout the building.

There is speculation that part of the differences in “philosophical approach” may have included a desire within the organization to fire head coach Dave Hakstol. Hextall has stood by Hakstol, the coach he hired out of the University of North Dakota even though he never played or coached in the NHL, despite mounting criticism. Perhaps important people in the organization wanted to fire Hakstol – a proven winner such as  Joel Quenneville became available earlier this month when the Blackhawks fired him –  but Hextall wouldn’t oblige.

Even Hextall’s long-time ties to the Flyers organization weren’t enough to save his job. He played 11 of his 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers, spent seven seasons in the front office as a scout and director of player personnel, and then, after winning a Stanley Cup with the Kings as an assistant general manager, returned to the Flyers as assistant general manager. He was promoted to general manager in May 2014.

Now that Hextall is gone, what will the Flyers do next? Holmgren said that he has already started the process of selecting a new general manager. It would be expected that the new general manager would have the freedom to hire his own coach.

Hextall’s firing comes at a time when the Flyers have a break in their schedule. They only have two games in 11 days, so this would be a good time to make a change at general manager or behind the bench.

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