Colleagues say Hextall a 'natural fit' with Flyers

071613_ron-hextall.jpg

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: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 after blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston outshot Washington 34-20. The Capitals have won two straight following a three-game losing skid (see full recap).

Staal scores on Leafs again in Wild win
TORONTO -- Eric Staal scored yet another goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

Staal has 47 points in 43 career games against Toronto, and three of his six goals this season have come against the Leafs.

Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild, who wrapped a five-game trip 2-1-2.

Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, who dropped to 8-4-0 at Air Canada Centre.

Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves for Minnesota and Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots for Toronto (see full recap).

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.