Are Flyers just underachievers? GM Ron Hextall doesn't think so

Are Flyers just underachievers? GM Ron Hextall doesn't think so

To look at the Flyers and where they are in the playoff picture -- only three players are plus this season -- it seems safe to say this team has underachieved under Dave Hakstol.

They're not a great hockey club. They're not as skilled or as deep as Chicago or Pittsburgh or Washington.

Only a few players have had good or very good seasons, and they're minus players as well -- Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.

So on the eve of a four-game road trip that should tip the wild card one way or the other, how does general manager Ron Hextall square up with that assessment?

"I don't know if that's fair to say," Hextall said on Monday after the Flyers' team photo session at the Wells Fargo Center.

"Did we underachieve last night [against Carolina]? No. We're sitting there at 2-2 and we're outshooting them 2-1 and outplaying them, out-chancing them. Dominating the game essentially. A little bit of a microcosm the way our year has gone so far.

"So last night we scored more goals. Why don't we score more goals? Tough question to answer. We're getting to the net, our net-front presence is good. We're getting there for rebounds, we're doing a lot of the things we should do.

"There are some nights when it seems like it is puck luck. You can look at the whole year and say it's puck luck. We're focused again now on the stretch run and doing our part. We need a lot of help here but we're focused on doing our part."

Hakstol didn't get much offseason help. The Flyers' only two free-agent signings among AHL/NHL players were Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon. Gordon is now a Phantom.

Weise? He has four goals and eight points. Two goals in his last three games since coming back after being a healthy scratch for six games.

"When you sign guys, we signed Dale Weise, I assume that is what you are talking about, to a four-year deal," Hextall said. "If you are evaluating right now, you say, 'It hasn't exactly been ... he hasn't put up the type of numbers we hope.'

"He's playing pretty well lately. He is certainly a better player than he has shown over the course of the year. At the time, we added depth to our lineup. We expect 12 to 15 goals and he is nowhere near that. So, in a nutshell, we know Dale can play better."

Could Hextall have done something to help Hakstol earlier rather than waiting until the NHL trade deadline to acquire Valtteri Filppula?

Essentially, the only moves Hakstol has been able to make this season involve shifting personnel around in the lineup.

"Yeah, that's the game today," Hextall said. "We're in a cap world. There's 30 teams. There's not a lot of players, players sitting out there that are going to come in at a low number. That's the game today and that is why I believe in building an organization through draft and development and bring your players up.

"Have your depth players be your young players. You get two or three injuries, your young players come up and fill in and hopefully, you don't lose anything and that is the direction we are headed. That is where we are right now. The Taylor Leiers of the world. If a defenseman, God forbid, gets hurt, we have our young guys coming up."

As things now stand, the Flyers won't have anyone coming up for these final 11 games. Hextall wants to see how his young Phantoms do in the AHL playoffs. He wants to evaluate them there, not here.

"It's very important to let your kids develop in a winning atmosphere," Hextall said. "It's important. The other side of that is you want your kids to have a big chunk of the pie and that's how it is in Allentown. We've got a good team, but there's quite a few kids down there with a big chunk of the pie.

"They're playing regular shifts, power play, penalty kill. That's important. You don't want to overload too much with veterans so that the kids get pushed down and don't get in roles. There's that fine line with handing it to them and making them earn it.

"Scotty (Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon) has done a great job down there and they've really hit it well with the kids being a big part of it and still being a competitive team. The Phantoms are in a good spot."

Hextall was asked about his own self-evaluation of the job he's done as GM.

"I let other people talk about stuff like that," Hextall replied. "At the end of the year, I'll sit down and look at everybody, including myself. If I'm not evaluating myself, I'm not doing a very good job."

Since club chairman Ed Snider's death, there is no Comcast executive with a broad hockey background to oversee Hextall.

Snider was notorious for calling or -- in later years -- texting his GMs during games, after games, in the middle of the night, to rant or inquire about what he liked and didn't like about his team.

There is no one like that within the organization, even allowing for Comcast president Dave Scott.

"It's not a lot different," Hextall said. "Mr. Snider, he was very understanding with where we were and where we were headed. He asked great questions.

"I talk to Homer (club president Paul Holmgren) on a regular basis and I talk to [Scott] on a fairly regular basis and we all know where we're headed. We're not very excited about the spot we're in right now but going to keep battling and do what we can do on our part.

"I can tell you that [Scott] is very into it. He watches all the games, sends texts after the game, whatever. He's latched onto it. He's engaged. We meet on an every other week basis and talk about the team. He's been great.

"Obviously, Mr. Snider had 50 years of experience and [Scott] doesn't have that. But [Scott's] a very sharp guy and he's doing a good job."

Loose pucks
It was unclear whether Nick Cousins was making the trip. He did not practice. He took a high hit during the Pittsburgh game and remains under concussion watch.

NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

NHL Notes: Marc-Andre Fleury leads expansion draft selections

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights finally have some players to put on the desert ice this fall.

Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin, 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault and forwards David Perron and James Neal are among the veterans selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday night.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee announced their choices during the NHL's annual postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, where Vegas will begin play in the fall.

Fleury took the stage in a Golden Knights jersey to wild cheers from his new home fans. The three-time Cup winner lost his starting job with the back-to-back champion Penguins, but he'll get to start over in the desert with two years on his contract.

The picks included defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brayden McNabb, forward Oscar Lindberg.

The Golden Knights also announced additional acquisitions of a handful of veterans and free agents, including Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore and Florida forward Reilly Smith.

The NHL wrote its draft rules to give the Golden Knights more opportunities to compete early in their existence, and their expansion draft choices certainly appear to form a solid core that could make noise in the Pacific Division.

"They're way past getting off the ground," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "I think this is by far the best expansion team ever" (see full story).

Oilers: 20-year-old McDavid wins Hart Trophy
LAS VEGAS -- Connor McDavid has won his first Hart Trophy. Hardly anybody in hockey believes it will be his last.

The Edmonton captain claimed the award as the NHL's most valuable player Wednesday night at the league's postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, the new home of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

The league also revealed the results of the Golden Knights' expansion draft to an arena filled with new fans of the NHL's 31st franchise.

McDavid also won the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league's most outstanding performer in a vote of his fellow players.

The honors capped a remarkable sophomore season for the 20-year-old center, who won the scoring title and led the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after an 11-year absence. The former No. 1 pick beat out fellow finalists Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"I'm so proud to be in Edmonton," McDavid said. "I'm so proud to be an Oiler, and so proud to play with the guys."

McDavid is the third-youngest player to win the award. Only Crosby and Wayne Gretzky claimed the Hart as teenagers (see full story).

NHL: Home openers announced; Golden Knights’ 1st game in Dallas
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will make their regular-season debut on the road in Dallas on Oct. 6 and host the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 10 in the first home game in franchise history.

NHL teams announced their home openers Wednesday with the full, 1,271-game schedule for the 2017-18 season set to be released Thursday.

Vegas will play its first two games on the road, visiting Arizona on Oct. 7 before the second leg of an early back-to-back for coach Gerard Gallant's club.

The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will raise another banner and begin their quest for a three-peat Oct. 4 against the St. Louis Blues. The Penguins visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5 in a matchup of the only teams to win the Cup three times in the salary-cap era.

The Western Conference-champion Nashville Predators open the season Oct. 5 at Boston. Nashville celebrates the longest playoff run in franchise history at home Oct. 10 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia opens Oct. 4 at the San Jose Sharks, who have the longest active season-opener winning streak at seven. The first night of the season also includes the Calgary Flames at the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Winnipeg Jets, a matchup of the top two picks in the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews against Patrik Laine.

The Detroit Red Wings host Minnesota on Oct. 5 in the first NHL regular-season game at the new Little Caesars Arena.

The back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals open their season at Ottawa on Oct. 5 and host the Montreal Canadiens in their home opener Oct. 7

Vegas selects Flyers' Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in expansion draft

Vegas selects Flyers' Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in expansion draft

Updated: 9:15 p.m.

The Frenchman has left the building.
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, the first player from the city of Paris to ever play for the Flyers, was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft on Wednesday night.
 
The 32-year-old centerman was left unprotected by the Flyers last weekend.

Among the potential candidates on the Flyers' unprotected list, Bellemare and Michael Raffl were the most attractive forwards left exposed at very reasonable salaries.

Bellemare received a new two-year contract last March and was named an alternate captain after Mark Streit was traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline.

He was one of coach Dave Hakstol's favorite players.

What makes Bellemare attractive to Vegas is his ability to play throughout the lineup, his solid work as a penalty-killer and especially his $1.45 million cap hit for this season and 2018-19.

That's bargain money for a player who averages 13 minutes a night as a fourth-line center. Bellemare was expected to move to left wing this fall after the Flyers signed college prospect Mike Vecchione in the spring with the intention of using him as a fourth-line center.

Bellemare signed as free agent in June of 2014. He had 17 goals and 34 points in 237 games over three seasons with the club.

He was among the most affable, likeable players on the Flyers' roster, a consummate gentleman on and off the ice.

With Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal, Vecchione and either draft prospects Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, and perhaps Scott Laughton, Bellemare's departure opens up a roster spot and ice time for other, much younger players in need of such.

Now that Bellemare is gone, the Flyers can't lose another player.

The really good news there is they won't lose veteran goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was left exposed so the Flyers could protect prospect Anthony Stolarz.

Weal update
J.P. Barry's discussions with Las Vegas apparently have piqued his interest in waiting a little longer on the Flyers and talking to more teams.

"There are too many variables but the Flyers are still a strong option," Barry said of Jordan Weal's re-signing here.

The last thing general manager Ron Hextall wants is for Weal to go into free agency and have this become a bidding war. Bellemare's selection by Vegas may prompt Hextall to sweeten his offer and end this before FA begins.