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.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."