Flyers Make a Move, But Was It the Right One?
After another embarrassing loss on Saturday, there was no doubt a change needed to be made. And on Monday, the Flyers made one.
It was not an expected one though.
The Flyers fired GM Ron Hextall as the first domino to fall in what could be a long line of changes. The move was met with shock and the thought that the organization let the wrong guy go.
Making a change at any spot in the organization wasn't wrong, whether through a player trade, a coaching change, or even the GM. But if the GM is the only change the Flyers make, especially at this point in a season, it could prove to be the wrong move.
Hextall's tenure with the Flyers wasn't a lost era for the franchise. He built up a prospect pipeline, demonstrating patience that was seldom seem in the organization's 52-year history. That said, sometimes Hextall got too patient with the process.
It didn't make Hextall's process or blueprint wrong. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings had built contenders the same way. It takes time to do it, and sometimes you have to sacrifice the results early for the process to reach the final destination.
There's two flaws to Hextall's process that were both out of his control. The Flyers hired Dave Hakstol to be the coach that could get the Flyers to the finish line as Hextall built a contender. The team Hakstol started with probably had no business making the playoffs, but they did. Playoff appearances will give off a false sense of hope, a sense that you are closer to the final prize and ultimate goal than you really are.
The Flyers folded in six games in both playoff appearances made under Hextall's time as GM. Progressively, the rosters got better. Hextall was doing his job in that regard, still stockpiling picks, still drafting with great reviews, still trying to rid the Flyers of albatross contracts.
Finally, this offseason, Hextall took a leap of faith in the free agent market, signing James van Riemsdyk. It was a step in the right direction for Hextall, who had remained passive in free agency in years past so as to not recreate the same problem that he had to work out of when he started as GM.
On the other hand, Hextall didn't make any other moves in free agency, other than sign Christian Folin. No backup to a goaltending situation destined to fail for health reasons. No aid to an already struggling penalty kill that has gotten worse.
The Flyers made the right move on Monday if Hextall's stubbornness to make a change to the coaching staff or roster got in the way. That would mean more is coming. That would mean this is only the beginning of the team trying to get back on track.
But if this is the only move, it's the wrong one. Hextall shouldn't be a mercy killing. He should be the start of even more changes to come. The coaching staff should be on thin ice, beings that Hextall hired all of them. The players should be on notice too, as a new GM and a new philosophy to build a winner can welcome changes.
The problem is that having a coaching staff on the edge and players not knowing their future can create a poisonous mentality. It's not going to improve what happens on the ice. It would essentially be a forfeiting of the season.
The timing of any change made perfect sense now. The Flyers play Tuesday night, then are off until Saturday, then have off until the following Thursday.
There will likely be no more changes through Tuesday night's game, but don't be surprised if things don't change quickly in the days that follow Tuesday's game or Saturday's in Pittsburgh.
At least that's what the Hextall dismissal would indicate. If that's the only change that is made, then the Flyers let go of the wrong guy to try to save this season.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.