Hakstol Reflects on ‘Winnable’ Series for Flyers
The offseason may be four days old, but Dave Hakstol is still feeling the effects of Sunday’s Game 6 loss to the Penguins that ended the season for the Flyers.
Clearly, the coach thinks the Flyers should still be playing.
“We failed in the playoff series,” Hakstol said. “It doesn’t sit well, I hope, with anybody in our dressing room. Nobody’s walking away here with a good feeling in their stomach, in fact I feel sick about it because it was a winnable series.”
The reality is that the Flyers not only didn’t win the series, but got very little out of their veteran leaders. To some degree, any shortcomings fall on the coaching staff as well.
Hakstol has been scrutinized this season at different points. During a 10-game losing streak, fans chanted for the team to fire Hakstol. There was more chanting at Game 4 when the Flyers were dismantled 5-0 by the Penguins.
“I love being part of the Philadelphia Flyers,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got unbelievable fans. They are hard-working people. They’re honest. They’re passionate. That’s part of it. For me, I love being part of the Flyers. I’m here for a reason with a real goal in mind.”
For a lot of fans, it is Hakstol’s demeanor on the bench that irks them. After a soft goal, after a bad turnover or unnecessary penalty, Hakstol is often shown on camera rather emotionless. Hakstol had an answer for the critics.
“I felt like when I came here three years ago, I felt like there was some wasted emotion, some misdirected emotion. I felt that was one thing we needed to work at correcting early on,” Hakstol said. “I’m pretty guarded by nature. I know when the TV camera is on me and everything else. I’m not there to put on a show.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do what I think is right for our team and try to provide what is right for our team and it will never be for show or in front of a camera for anybody else.”
Hakstol further analyzed the playoff series against Pittsburgh and found a noticeable difference between this one and the one two years ago against Washington. In talking about the core, Hakstol said the core is an evolving group, not distinguishing between young players and veterans. In the end, it was on everyone to step up and play well in the playoffs.
“I look back to two years ago and the makeup of our team at that point. For us to win that series, Jake, G and a couple other guys might have had to have great series to get us over the hump and give us a chance. I’m a big believer that this last series against Pittsburgh was a winnable one and I think we just needed everybody to play well,” Hakstol said.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good players on this roster. It’s not just about two or three guys having to go out and play great. We need those guys to go out and play really well and just do their job. This team, in my opinion, had a really good chance to win this last series against Pittsburgh.”
GM Ron Hextall opened his exit day interview by saying the coaching staff would all return next season, though roles could change somewhat. Hextall is another who is aware of the constant cries from the Flyers faithful, and fired back at the critics.
“I know this. I know a lot more about our coaches than everybody else knows. Our coaches know a lot more about our players than everybody else knows,” Hextall said. “Our coaches study our players, they talk to our players, they see our players in practice every day. They got a really good grip on our players. I’m very satisfied with the job the coaches have done. Do we all have to get better? Absolutely.
“He’s not a showman. He’s not an actor. He’s real. He’s got to get more out of certain players. A coaching staff’s job is to get the most out of certain players. My job is to put the best players on the ice. Their job is to get the most out of every player.”
The road to getting better is underway. It is on Hextall to keep the build going. But it will be on Hakstol to improve as well to deliver the results that both he and the GM have for the team.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.