Colleagues say Hextall a 'natural fit' with Flyers

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Colleagues say Hextall a 'natural fit' with Flyers

Jack Ferreira has been in the game of hockey for 41 years. For the last seven of them, he’s been Ron Hextall’s tag-team partner with the Los Angeles Kings -- Hextall as the assistant general manager to Dean Lombardi, Ferreira as the club’s special assistant to both.
 
Spend seven years around someone, and you get to know them pretty well.
 
“I’ve been in this business a long time, and there isn’t anyone that I have worked with that is more prepared to run a franchise than Ron Hextall,” Ferreira said. “There isn’t a phase of this game that he doesn’t work at. Anything he felt that the Kings lacked in, his work ethic was such that he just attacked that area. His work ethic is unsurpassed.
 
“He was involved in everything. Long-range planning, contracts, negotiations, minor league. The only thing he was not directly involved in was the amateur draft. He was Dean’s right-hand man.”
 
And now, the first goalie in NHL history to score a goal is Paul Holmgren’s right-hand man as the Flyers' new assistant GM and director of hockey operations.
 
Hextall’s work with the Flyers begins in August. He was named to his new position on Monday.
 
“He went to L.A., paid his dues, worked hard and now he is committed to his craft,” said former teammate Mark Howe, a scout with Detroit. “He’s a valuable asset. It’s a great move. Whatever Ron does, he does it at 100 percent. He had lot of success in L.A. in putting that program together.
 
“It’s a great, natural fit. He would have been a benefit to any club, but more to the Flyers because people love him.”
 
Flyers fans have been clamoring all summer for the club to hire Hextall. This move places him at the front of the line as the guy who will someday succeed Holmgren just as Holmgren succeeded Bob Clarke.
 
Hextall, 49, was a scout and hockey personnel executive for seven years with the Flyers after he retired in 1999. He then spent an equal number of years toiling under Lombardi, who was a successful GM in San Jose before going to Los Angeles.
 
The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. It was the first Cup ring Hextall ever earned.
 
Many people feel the ring was long owed to Hextall for those gutsy Flyers squads he stood behind in the late 1980s that felt short to Edmonton in 1987.

“We built a very good team out here in L.A.,” Hextall said on Monday. “I’m proud of what we’ve done. But there’s something telling me this is the right move. I’m going with it and not looking back.”
 
Ex-teammate Brian Propp said it didn’t seem as if Hextall was gone seven years with the Kings.
 
“That experience alone and winning a Cup, setting up a team and getting the right type of people really taught him a lot,” Propp said. “He was very hands-on with Dean Lombardi. It was a good move for him. I believe for Paul Holmgren to bring him back now is great because he has a lot of experience now.
 
“Hexy knows the Western Conference. You’ve got contrasting styles with the East and that can add a lot of value to really evaluating players and seeing what works.”
 
A large part of Hextall’s job now will be to revitalize the Flyers' scouting, drafting and player development aspects of the organization. Outside of the first round, the club has had a poor drafting and developing ratio for almost two decades.
 
Put it this way: When the last “generational” defenseman the organization can point to as its very own is Chris Therien -- drafted in 1990 -- you know its got some work to do.
 
“He’s going to add to it,” Howe said. “Part of what Ron will be doing is addressing that issue (organizational depth). In L.A., he was heavily involved in what kind of players he wanted to bring into Manchester as part of the scouting detail. He will be out watching players here, too. He paid a lot of dues in L.A. and learned a lot in the process. He’s a better asset now to the Flyers than when he left. He has a broader base of what the job takes.”

Ferreira said there won’t be one aspect of the Flyers' organizational depth chart that Hextall will not have thoroughly examined trying to figure out how to make it better.
 
And much like Bill Barber, one of the organization’s more outspoken scouts, everyone will know where Hextall stands on issues.
 
He had a fiery temperament as a goalie and won’t hold back as an assistant GM, either.
 
“Hexy has always been one to say what he feels and what he sees and that is part of what makes Hexy … Hexy,” Howe said.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.