Hextall returns as Flyers' possible 'GM in waiting'

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Hextall returns as Flyers' possible 'GM in waiting'

Flyers president Peter Luukko promised the summer would be “crazy.”
 
His general manager, Paul Holmgren, said the same thing.
 
And it has been just that -- crazy.
 
First, the buyouts of Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov. Then, the unexpected signing of Vinny Lecavalier, followed by Ray Emery deciding to leave Chicago to return here.
 
And now this -- Ron Hextall’s surprising return to the Flyers as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations (see story).
 
Suddenly, the Flyers’ managerial future is just beyond Holmgren’s corner office at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
 
“A new set of eyes,” was how one person described it.
 
Indeed, Hexy’s 49-year-old eyes and unabashed opinions will again be heard, mostly within the confines of the organization -- not the general public.
 
Hextall’s predecessor, Chris Pryor, moves down from director of hockey operations to director of scouting; assistant coach John Paddock moves up to director of player personnel; Dave Brown becomes head scout.
 
Same people, new titles and new responsibilities.
 
Still, the bottom line is, as one NHL executive with a Stanley Cup to his name said, Hexy is now the “GM in waiting” for Holmgren’s job.
 
This isn’t, as fans perceive it, "Homer’s out and Hexy is in."
 
What it is, is Hextall being solidly in the No. 2 chair ready to assume Holmgren’s post. If the Flyers’ offseason moves don’t pan out after not making the playoffs, and club chairman Ed Snider decides that’s it, Hextall can immediately be slotted in as Holmgren’s successor without needing a search party.
 
That said, Holmgren’s moves have been pretty good this summer. There’s no reason why, on paper, they won’t work out.
 
Which means Hextall bides his time until he gets the tap on the shoulder.
 
Hextall was the No. 3 man in the Bob Clarke era. He left here when Holmgren succeeded Clarke. He was No. 2 behind GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles.
 
So why be No. 2 again? Hextall said his “gut” told him to do it.
 
Think about it. Hextall wouldn’t have left L.A. to be No. 2 again unless he knew his next promotion is closer to becoming a reality in Philly than Los Angeles.
 
More importantly, the Flyers are getting a fresh look at their entire scouting/drafting operation, which outside of the first round, has been sub-par for a long time now.
 
Hextall revitalized the Kings' hockey ops and gets a chance to do the same here. Not including this June’s past NHL draft, here's a breakdown of the Flyers' draft struggles:
 
• Last 13 prior drafts, going back to 2000, the Flyers have had 12 first-round picks. Ten of those picks have played or are playing in the NHL, of which only two -- Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier -- are currently Flyers
 
• Since 1995, the Flyers’ best second-round player who made it to the NHL has been Andreas Nodl, now playing for the Carolina Hurricanes
 
• Looking at the Flyers’ picks from the third round through the seventh, over the prior 13 drafts, they have just four drafted players who are active and playing regular minutes on some NHL roster, and just one player on their own roster -- Zac Rinaldo
 
• The Flyers are the only NHL team over that same span of time without a single active drafted/developed defenseman playing regular minutes for them -- not someone else -- every night
 
This is where Hextall gets to make his mark and help turn the Flyers’ future fortunes around behind the scenes. He cut his teeth in the scouting department after he retired in 1999.
 
His no-nonsense approach, coupled with an aggressive demeanor, also means he won’t tolerate continued failures by the organization to produce more NHL players.
 
Holmgren is impressed with Hextall's "knowledge of building teams from the ground up, which basically is what they did in L.A. when he went there,” Holmgren said.
 
“They were a team that wasn’t in real playoff shape and they build their team into Stanley Cup players. I think the things he learned in L.A. and was a part of in L.A. can be helpful to us moving forward.”
 
Hextall said a “gut feeling” told him this was the right job, the right place and the right time.
 
Lombardi will tell you he was a big part of the Kings’ organizational rise from the time he arrived in 2006 until now, which included winning the Stanley Cup in 2012.
 
Hextall was asked whether coming back here placed him a step closer to being a general manager.
 
“Every general manager at some point is going to step down, whether it’s Paul Holmgren or Dean Lombardi, or any of the 28 guys in the league and none of us know when or where that happens,” Hextall said.
 
“It’s just my gut. I’m going with my gut and will look back in two or three or five years and figure out whether it’s the right decision or not, but I feel strongly about it now. It was not an easy decision.”
 
Holmgren approached Hextall at the draft knowing the ex-Flyer goalie's contract with the Kings was expiring. Holmgren and Lombardi are close friends, former Flyers associates and board members with USA Hockey.
 
Lombardi obviously gave Hextall his blessing to move on.
 
“I’m certain that he’s got lot of different ideas, more different ideas than when he left here a number of years ago,” Holmgren said of Hextall.
 
“It’s a real big deal for the Flyers' organization.”

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Cam Talbot made 39 saves, Patrick Maroon scored a power-play goal and the Edmonton Oilers moved halfway to the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their second-round series Friday night.

Andrej Sekera scored an early goal for the Oilers, who took the first two games on Pacific Division champion Anaheim's home ice. Talbot was the difference in Game 2, making all manner of impressive saves while Anaheim dominated the last 30 minutes.

Jakob Silfverberg scored and John Gibson stopped 21 shots for the Ducks, who had gone 18 games without a regulation defeat before this series. Anaheim has never recovered from an 0-2 series deficit, losing all seven series after digging that early hole.

Game 3 is Sunday in Edmonton (see full recap).

Tarasenko scores twice as Blues beat Predators
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Friday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series.

Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots -- including 14 in the third period.

Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Predators, who had their franchise-high five-game postseason winning streak snapped. Pekka Rinne finished with 17 saves.

Game 3 is Sunday at Nashville, Tennessee.

Tarasenko's game-winner came on a lucky bounce. Jaden Schwartz led the rush and initially tried to pass it to Carl Gunnarsson, but the pass was off the mark and bounced off of Gunnarsson's foot right to Tarasenko's stick.

It was the first lead for St. Louis in 116:09 of the series (see full recap).

NHL Playoffs: Crosby, Bonino lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Caps

NHL Playoffs: Crosby, Bonino lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Caps

WASHINGTON -- Sidney Crosby scored two goals in 52 seconds, Nick Bonino had the winner in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series on Thursday night.

In a high-profile showdown of Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, Washington's captain also scored and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the goal that tied it in the third. But Marc-Andre Fleury made 15 of his 32 saves in the third period to help Pittsburgh to the win.

Crosby was a threat to score just about every time he touched the puck. He beat Braden Holtby with his first two shots of the second period.

Holtby stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced but allowed Bonino's goal with 7:24 left.

Game 2 is Saturday night (see full recap).

Karlsson helps Senators edge Rangers 2-1 in Game 1
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Erik Karlsson scored on a bad-angle shot with 4:11 left in the third period, sending the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers in the opener of their second-round playoff series on Thursday night.

The Senators captain beat fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist from just above the goal line. The shot pinged off Rangers center Derek Stepan before going into the net.

It was Karlsson's first goal and seventh point of the playoffs. The 26-year-old defenseman, who has been playing with a foot injury, also logged more than 28 minutes in the win.

Game 2 is Saturday.

Ryan McDonagh scored for New York, and Lundqvist finished with 41 saves.

Craig Anderson stopped 33 shots and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa, which eliminated Boston in six games in the first round (see full recap).