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Hextall holds head high after being fired as Flyers GM

Says Philadelphia 'poised to do something great'

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Ron Hextall believes the Philadelphia Flyers have a bright future, even if he won't be part of it.

Hextall was fired as Flyers general manager Monday, 24 games into his fifth season. Philadelphia has not put a timetable on when a new GM will be named.

"I think this team is poised to do something great and I'm sure the next guy will come in and make good moves and they'll win the Stanley Cup," he said during a press conference Friday at a hotel across the street from the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees, New Jersey.

 

[RELATED: Flyers' next general manager to decide Hakstol's fate, president says]

 

The Flyers (10-12-2) visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-PT, NBCSP, NHL.TV). They are 1-5-1 in their past seven games and are last in the Eastern Conference.

President Paul Holmgren cited philosophical differences as the reason Hextall was fired. Hextall said he felt he and Holmgren had the goal of winning a Stanley Cup in mind but that he believed a different path was needed to get them there.

"I think we were both after the same thing," Hextall said. "Maybe we both felt we'd get there a different way. I don't know all the philosophical differences. He mentioned the other day he's very aggressive and I'm somewhere in the middle when you look at the other managers. There's three stages: Clean the (NHL Salary) Cap up and gather assets, and secondly development and implement young players and continue on. The third stage, we're close so if we have to sell the farm we'll sell the farm. But I didn't feel we were at that stage."

With the exception of two seasons as a player and seven seasons as assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings (2006-13), Hextall had been part of the Flyers as a player and staff memeber since he was selected by Philadelphia in the sixth round (No. 119) of the 1982 NHL Draft.

He said his meeting with Holmgren on Monday lasted 20 seconds.

"I didn't see this coming in any way," he said. "I certainly didn't feel any warnings. I was shocked."

The Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice in Hextall's four seasons but lost in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games each time, against the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and the Washington Capitals in 2016.

Expectations were raised during the offseason when forward James van Riemsdyk signed a five-year contract to join a core that included forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds, and defenseman Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. 

Video: John Boruk on GM and coaching situation for Flyers

But van Riemsdyk sustained a lower-body injury in the second game of the season and missed six weeks. The power play (26th, 15.7 percent) and penalty kill (30th, 70.9 percent) are among the worst in the NHL. They're allowing 3.58 goals per game, third-most in the League, and have started five goaltenders, an NHL high.

And younger players expected to take the next step in their development, among them forwards Travis Konecny, 21, and Nolan Patrick, 20, and defensemen Provorov, 21, and Travis Sanheim, 22, have been inconsistent.

"The goaltending didn't go as well as I hoped, the special teams didn't go as well as I hoped, the young players didn't take a step as I hoped," Hextall said.

Though Holmgren and Dave Scott, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns the Flyers, lauded Hextall for the job he did building a large base of prospects, Hextall's unwillingness to trade those future assets for help in the present was one of the philosophical differences.

"That was a big question," Scott said Tuesday. "What can we do now, today, to make the team better now, not two years or three years from now?"

Video: Friedman on Flyers GM search, players on waivers

Hextall insisted if the right opportunity to improve the Flyers came up, he would have had no problem trading a younger player. 

"Did I want to speed things up? Absolutely," he said. "If something made sense for us short term and long term we would have done it.

"I wasn't willing to trade a young player and/or a prospect for a guy in his mid-30s who might help us this year and might clog us up down the road when his game was dropping … I was adamant about that."

Despite the way things ended, Hextall said he was proud of what he and his staff built.

"I'm proud of my 4 1/4 years here," he said. "We worked hard, scouting staff, management team, minor league coaches, all the players. We worked hard and I felt like we accomplished a lot. We created an analytics department, we created a sports science department, we had the gym built, we had the development area built (each at the practice facility). 

"I'm proud of what we accomplished. Lot of those things don't show above the water; it's like a duck, the feet are paddling like crazy but you don't see the results. But I feel the results are starting to show with the young players. I'm proud of what we accomplished in building the team and building the foundation and I think they're in a great place."

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