Ed Snider hints at changes to Flyers' front office

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Ed Snider hints at changes to Flyers' front office

Updated: 7:42 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Will Ron Hextall replace Paul Holmgren as general manager of the Flyers next season?

Club chairman Ed Snider said on Friday afternoon that whatever happens between now and next fall when training camp opens, Holmgren will be part of the decision-making process, but that job titles in the hockey ops department could change.

Holmgren said later in the afternoon he wants to return as GM next season.

Snider said he would meet with Holmgren, who has one year left on his contract, soon to discuss his future role.

“Of course Paul will be back,” Snider said Friday at Skate Zone. “Basically, he's the head of our hockey operations. The job he did I think was excellent. Not too many guys would have guts enough to fire a coach after three games.”

When pressed specifically about what role Holmgren will have next year, Snider said the Flyers' front office is in the process of “analyzing everybody's title” and that Holmgren will “be the head of hockey operations” before offering a wry smile.

Snider did concede that assistant general manager Ron Hextall was brought in to one day succeed Holmgren as GM.

“Paul brought in Hextall. ... That's why he was brought in [to become GM]. He didn't come in to stay assistant GM forever, but that doesn't mean tomorrow. But I've got to sit down with Paul.

“I expect our operation to be solid, good hockey men. We have a lot of people that are analyzing this entire situation.”

It’s Holmgren's call ... so long as he and Snider agree.

“It’s really Paul’s call. All I have to do is endorse it,” Snider said. “If I don’t agree with him, then we have a behind-closed-door discussion.”

There have been several general manager openings this season, and even this past week, that Hextall would have been a logical candidate for.

Yet his name has not and does not come up. Why? Sources inside and outside the Flyers say it’s because Hextall is going to be the next GM in Philly and it could happen this summer.

Asked if he wanted to remain GM, Holmgren said, “Yes. I’m the one who brought Hexy back. He’s an excellent resource in our organization, a tremendous hockey man.

“I have no question he is ready to be a general manager at any point. We’ll see how it goes. I’m certainly not in any position today to change chairs.”

Snider was observing Holmgren’s remarks from the back of the room at Skate Zone where the new conferences took place.

If Vancouver or Washington called and asked to speak to Hextall, would the Flyers allow it?

“I don’t have to if I don’t want to,” Holmgren said. “If that were the case, for me, you do the right thing. Is that the right thing? Yeah.”

Ironically, Hextall’s other title is exactly as Snider called Holmgren: director of hockey operations.

If a change is made, it’s entirely possible the two men switch titles, with Holmgren also taking on the vacant title of “club president.”

Peter Luukko, who left Comcast-Spectacor this past winter, was the previous club president.

Snider said he thought Holmgren did an “excellent” job with the Flyers this season.

In assessing the Flyers' current roster, Snider gave the team a "B" and stated that he was pleased with the team's core but does believe the team needs some “several tweaks.”

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games last season, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

Astutely, he did.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, he can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdomen, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).