Ron Hextall previously spent seven years working for the Flyers as a scout. (AP)
Ron Hextall said it was a smooth transition, coming back to the Flyers after seven years as an assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings.
Why wouldn’t it be? Outside of Bernie Parent, Hextall is easily the next most popular goaltender in Flyers history.
Fans love him. Players love him. Ed Snider loves him.
That’s what 11 years in the Flyers' net, plus another seven in the scouting office, will do for a guy.
“It feels good,” Hextall said of his homecoming. “I know a lot of the people. I’m excited to get the season going here.”
While it’s easy to understand why the Flyers wanted him back -- he bleeds orange and black even after winning a Stanley Cup in L.A. -- it’s not easy to understand why Hextall left the West Coast.
Essentially, this was a lateral move when he was next in line to succeed Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi.
The answer requires thinking ahead.
Paul Holmgren has been the GM here since 2006. He received a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension on Jan. 18, 2011. That deal runs through the 2014-15 season.
At this point, the 49-year-old Hextall’s wait may not be very long.
Logically, there was no reason for Hextall to leave L.A. unless the Flyers indicated he’ll be in the big chair sooner here than if he had stayed with the Kings.
Hextall still hasn’t given specifics on why he came back other than to say the move “felt right.”
“I don’t necessarily have one decision why,” he said. “It just seemed the right decision at the right time. That’s about all I can say.”
Clearly, the road is fully paved for Hextall to advance.
“That’s not why I am here,” Hextall said. “It is my goal in the end to be a general manager. But when and where and how and if, who knows? Just one day at a time, to do my job and see where it goes.”
Hextall was the guy who pieced together a lot of those young faces in Los Angeles. The sounding board who advised Lombardi on trades -- Mike Richards, Jeff Carter -- and free-agent signings. He brings a different education, he says.
“Anybody you work for is educational,” Hextall said. “Clarkie (Bobby Clarke) and Homer and Dean Lombardi. Anybody you work for, it’s educational. You learn different ideas and different philosophies. To see the way another organization runs, it’s educational.”
When you’ve been in hockey a long time, then finally win a Cup as a member of management after being robbed of such at least once as a player, it’s easier to walk away to another organization.
Hextall felt he had achieved his goal with the Kings.
“Winning did make a difference in my decision,” he said. “When you spend seven years and build something, you want to see it through and I really did see it through. Was that a factor? Absolutely.
“If we would not have won it and you had built a team six or seven years, you kind of want to see it through. That played into my decision, for sure. Also, when you go outside an organization, you learn.”
The easy thing to say is Hextall is part of the Flyers' “old boys network.” True, the organization likes to keep as many former players as possible here in Philadelphia.
There’s more to it. The legacy the Flyers have can greatly influence the next generation of players.
Remember when Claude Giroux started here? Clarke worked with him on faceoffs. Having the legends around isn’t all that bad.
“When you establish an identity as a franchise, you have to grow with the times,” Hextall said. “But to have those guys around, it is invaluable to have Bob Clarke and Billy Barber and Bernie. There is something to it and something special to it.
“Now again, in saying that, we’re not in the '70 or '80s or '90s. So you have to move forward. You have to change. Philosophically, things have to change and you have to grow with the game or you’re old and have to be out.
“I think it is great for the young guys to see Clarkie and Billy. It’s special. In L.A., we tried to bring those guys around. There is something to it.”
Hextall has worked with just about everyone in the Flyers' organization. Some of the current media members -- including this reporter -- actually covered him in his prime as a player.
“Knowing philosophically where the organization is at, that makes the transition easy and I know the area and people,” he said. “The big team, I know a little bit. The minor team and young guys, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The only other former Flyers goalie who is a general manager in the NHL is Garth Snow with the Islanders. Do goalies see things differently?
“Everybody says as a goalie you kind of see the whole game, the whole ice,” Hextall replied. “I’m not sure. Everybody’s got their own preference. One of my preferences because I was a goalie, I really like a two-way defenseman. I really like 180-feet [red line to red line] players at all positions. I also think the way the game has evolved now, you have to play 180 feet. ... You don’t see anybody putting up 150 points anymore. You got to cover the whole sheet. Teams check so well.
“It really has changed from the 1980s to now. It’s a full-sheet game and those guys play both ends, both sides of the puck, are really important guys, especially when they are your top-end players.”
Hextall’s longtime agent, Steve Mountain, is still in business, still representing players. The two spoke this summer.
“I’m my own Steve Mountain now,” Hextall quipped.