When Ron Hextall played goaltender in the NHL, he was the king of aggressiveness. He ruled his crease with an enviable blend of fire and passion. He owned a volcanic temper and a molten competitiveness. He was driven to be the best at his position.
His style as an NHL general manager has been far different. He has been less impulsive, more calculating. He has favored long-term planning to quick fixes
The Flyers may have wanted him to be the Hextall of old to deal with the current struggles, and his unwillingness to do that probably cost him his job.
When a team starts poorly, the coach is usually the first to go. But Hextall hasn’t fired his coach or made a bold trade, and the Flyers decided he was the one who should go.
“It has become clear that we no longer share the same philosophical approach concerning the direction of the team,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said. “In light of these differences, we feel it’s in the organization’s best interests to make a change, effective immediately. I have already begun a process to identify and select our next general manager, which we hope to complete as soon as possible.”
That’s sports-speak for the organization didn’t appreciate Hextall’s low-key approach. We can conclude the Philadelphia brass expected Hextall to light a fire under an under-achieving team. He didn’t seem to have a match.
The Flyers were expected to be among the Metropolitan’s best teams. Instead, they are 10-11-2 with a -13 goal-differential. Their 3.57 goals-against average ranks 29th out of 31 NHL teams.
Hextall has been Philadelphia’s GM since May 7, 2014, and his most significant failing was an inability to correct a goaltending problem that has plagued the organization for years. The Flyers haven’t had a long-term goaltending solution since he was traded in 1992.
This season he opted to stay with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, both coming off injuries, and the Flyers have the NHL’s lowest save percentage (.880). Now both goalies are hurt.
Hextall’s time in Philadelphia’s has been marked by too much patience. This is not a city that appreciates a long-term plan. Hextall hasn’t made bold trades to make the team better immediately, and the team seems to be backsliding. Young Ivan Provorov, cast last season as a future Norris Trophy winner, isn’t the same player this season. Look at Shayne Gostisbehere’s plus-minus of -12 and Jakub Voracek’s -10 plus-minus. Something is wrong in Philadelphia
The Flyers were waiting for Hextall to do something, and he never did. Carter Hart is the Flyers’ hot goalie prospect. He’s 20 and not not ready to play in the NHL. But should Hextall have called him up for one game just to create a different energy around the team? We will never know. He should have done something, anything, even one thing.
Holmgren doesn’t have the same patience. He saw a team that has struggled mightily and is only four points out of a playoff spot. He felt if he acted boldly he might be able to salvage the season. That’s the way he operate.
Hextall didn’t act boldly. That’s not the way he operates. That’s why he is out of a job.