The Philadelphia Flyers continued the NHL's recent trend of putting former players in positions of front office power by promoting Ron Hextall to general manager.
The team made an official announcement Wednesday:
The Philadelphia Flyers today named Paul Holmgren President and Ron Hextall General Manager.
In his new role, Holmgren will oversee both the business and hockey operations of the Flyers and will report directly to Flyers Chairman Ed Snider. Hextall will become responsible for the day-to-day management of the Flyers’ hockey operations and will report to Holmgren. Both appointments are effective immediately.
Chairman Ed Snider spoke about Hextall and the team's decision:
Over the past eight seasons, Paul has done an outstanding job. He picked up the pieces of our disastrous season in 2006 and immediately made changes that took us to the Conference Finals the very next year, and we have consistently been in contention ever since. He’s been a Flyer for 35 years and has earned the opportunity to run our entire organization.
Ron is one of the league’s bright young stars on the management side, and we’re very fortunate to have him. He’s had success in Los Angeles and will now put that experience to work for us as General Manager. We all remember the enthusiasm, work ethic and personality he had as a player, and we’re excited to watch him bring those qualities to building a team that will contend for the Stanley Cup.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Holmgren talked about the process that brought Hextall in and how much power he will have in the role (via Broad Street Hockey and Randy Miller of NJ.com):
Holmgren: "All hockey decisions fall on Ron’s lap. No question. Full authority and autonomy."— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) May 7, 2014
Homer says he first went to Hextall in December about GM job and went to Snider in January.— Randy Miller (@RandyJMiller) May 7, 2014
Hextall also talked about coming back to the Flyers and his strategy going forward(via Broad Street Hockey, Dave Isaac of CPSJ.com, Collin Mehalick of Broad Street Hockey and Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News):
Hextall: “I’ve got my dream job. I’ve got a special feeling about this organization. I’m extremely honored to be here."— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) May 7, 2014
Hextall: "I like young players and I like draft picks." Says he doesn't like the idea of trading young players for older developed ones.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) May 7, 2014
hextall: "this is a model franchise. they're doing something right."— Collin Mehalick (@collinmehalick) May 7, 2014
Hextall on analytics: "That's where we're going. It's going to be a huge part of what we do going forward."— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) May 7, 2014
In conjunction with that maneuver, incumbent GM Paul Holmgren has been promoted to team president. Holmgren will likely still have a major influence over personnel decisions, but Hextall has now been thrust into the spotlight.
The 50-year-old Hextall is a popular figure in Philadelphia as the former goaltender spent 11 of his 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1986-87.
Hextall has been involved in front office operations with both the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings, so he has experience and appears ready to take on more responsibilities. Hextall is viewed as an excellent hockey mind, and Daniel Friedman of WFAN applauded the Flyers for the move:
Well-deserved promotion for Hextall. Has paid his dues, smart guy. The right choice for GM. #Flyers— Daniel Friedman (@DFriedmanOnNYI) May 7, 2014
While Hextall has been tabbed as a potential candidate to take on the general manager role for the Flyers in recent weeks, it was far from a sure thing. Per Sean McCullen of NHL.com, Holmgren seemed somewhat apprehensive about relinquishing his spot just days ago:
I'm the one who brought (Hextall) back. He's an excellent resource in our organization. He's a tremendous hockey man, and I have no question that he's ready to be a general manager at any point. We'll see where that goes, but I'm certainly not in any position today where I want to change chairs.
Clearly the Flyers decided organizationally that this new power structure is best for the franchise moving forward, so Holmgren will have to adjust to his new position. Holmgren did a lot of good things as general manager since 2006, including building a Stanley Cup Final team in 2009-10, but it was time to shake things up.
Is Hextall a good hire for the Flyers?
Philly hasn't advanced past the second round of the playoffs over the past four seasons despite a seemingly talented roster. Goaltending and defense have been big issues, so it makes sense to put a former netminder at the controls.
The Flyers have the offensive pieces to contend, with players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell and Brayden Schenn on the roster. Someone needs to tie up all the loose ends, though, and Hextall could be that guy.
Things tend to get stagnant and complacent when one person is in power for too long. Holmgren has done a good job in terms of compiling talent, but it is time for a new set of eyes to assess the situation.
Hextall is a fan favorite in Philadelphia and a man who is qualified for the job, so Flyers management deserves credit for making what looks to be a great hire.
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