Here’s Why the Flyers Fired Ron Hextall Yesterday, and Not Later

I’m not sure we got a straight, honest answer as to why Ron Hextall was fired as the Flyers general manager.

But I spoke to a lot of people today, and it’s quite apparent that this was a multi-faceted decision that went all the way to the top with Comcast chairman Brian Roberts weighing in.

Was Hextall fired because the team has underperformed?

Yes, partially.

Was Hextall fired because he died on the hill about changing the coach?

Maybe. President Paul Holmgren said no, but CEO Dave Scott said there was some discussion about Joel Quenneville. So, if you’re talking about another coach, then it can’t be that everyone is happy with the current coach, right?

Was Hextall fired because of the growing apathy in the Flyers’ fanbase, as evidenced by decreasing attendance and television ratings?


Here’s what Scott said when I asked him that directly:

CB: Dave, just kind of piggybacking off of that. We’ve heard Paul talk about it from the hockey perspective and we’ve heard him mention talking to you and Brian Roberts. We also hear that you want to win now as opposed to two, three, four years from now. How much of this decision then is based on the business side of the organization? As opposed to the hockey side of the organization. When you see a reduction in attendance for example.

 “Yeah, I mean to me they go hand in hand. It’s all about winning whether it’s in business or in the hockey team and getting deep in the playoffs and winning the cup. I mean that’s what we’re all after. I personally feel our fans deserve better. I think we have great fans, and they’ve been patient. My vision is, we’ll invest everything we have to, and we’ll look at every opportunity to make it better. But this is about winning hockey games.”

But that wasn’t the main reason.

Nope, the main reason was something you didn’t really hear at the press conference.

Hextall was fired because his relationships with a lot of people in the organization soured and he was difficult to work with. He was a micromanager of the highest order. He refused input from others – including his bosses. He kept his cards close to the vest and everyone had a hard time penetrating his well-guarded castle for one.

Sure, you heard Holmgren use words like “unyielding” and “stubborn” to describe Hextall, and he qualified them in a positive light – saying that Hextall never wavered on what he thought was best for the team.

But, the underlying feeling is that his reign as general manager was oppressive – and it was felt that way from the locker room, to the coaches’ offices, to the management team, to the executive offices of the Wells Fargo Center, to the alumni, to the employees of the organization.

You name it, Hextall tried to control it. And eventually, that’s going to bring bad feelings.

Hextall wanted everyone to step in line, and if they didn’t, he was a bit surly with them. Rehabbing players were not allowed to talk to the media. Nor were assistant coaches.

Want to know what Ian Laperriere thinks about his terrible penalty kill or Kris Knoblauch thinks about his struggling power play? Sorry. You can’t ask.

All of this control would have been fine if there was a modicum of success on the ice or at the turnstiles.

But the Flyers were the most mediocre team and bereft of an identity throughout Hextall’s tenure. Finally, the impatient owners who are seeing less and less revenue and less and less interest had enough.

This is why Dave Scott was in the GM’s Box a couple times recently. It wasn’t just to stop by for pleasantries. And from what I’m told, there weren’t many pleasantries between the two. Hextall felt like Scott was meddling in hockey, something he knows nothing about.

And while Scott isn’t the most prolific expert of the sport, he was Hextall’s boss. Being a bit insubordinate is probably not a good play by the GM.

Simply put, whether he realized it or not – and more likely not because Hextall tends to be more insular, he was creating a toxic environment.

That toxic environment is what had to be eradicated.

Yeah, all those other things came into play – the team’s struggles, the coach’s future, the fan apathy – but Scott and Holmgren likely could have dealt with this a little longer if it wasn’t in such an iron-fisted environment created by the GM.

It’s why they were willing to make the change now, and not wait for a new GM to be in place. Likely, if Holmgren had the time to get a new GM locked up, we could have seen a major change that included the coach as well- a la Bob Clarke and Ken Hitchcock getting canned together in 2006.

But, Hextall had created such a Draconian environment, that there was no more time to wait.

So, the GM search begins. It won’t be anyone currently employed by the Flyers, so no dice for Dean Lombardi, Chris Pryor or Danny Briere, nor is Chris Pronger a candidate.

Holmgren said he most certainly will look outside the organization.

The top choices appear to be former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher (who now works for the New Jersey Devils), New Jersey assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, and former Carolina GM Ron Francis.

The Flyers would need permission from the Devils and Hurricanes to speak to these guys, but that’s a formality. Interestingly enough, Francis has begun divesting his financial interests in the ‘Canes, but that could be for any reason – not necessarily for the Flyers GM position.

Fitzgerald seems like the kind of guy they’re looking for – young, eager, and willing to make a mark. However, Fletcher is more of a reliable veteran guy who could bring instant stability.

Either way, the expectation is to win now. Scott said so. Which means, the new GM isn’t likely to get the same leeway Hextall was given from a time element.

Consider how Holmgren answered these questions from Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer today:

You talked about keeping things close to the vest, but he [Ron] was upfront about what his approach was; that he was going to be patient. So, given that, what timeline did the people above you or you have in your mind that this should be progressing forward on the ice?

Well, we’re in the fifth year, Mike. I don’t know. That’s a long time in hockey, in hockey years, in my mind.

He came from an organization that had gone six years without playoffs.

Yup. That’s a long time in hockey years. I’ll leave it at that.


The thing is, he won’t leave it at that. He will hire a new GM, who will likely replace a lame duck coach now, and who likely will trade a player or two or even from the crop of prospects as well in an effort to help the team win post haste.

Is that the right decision? Who knows. Time will tell if getting back to the old-school Flyers philosophy of winning now is the right choice. If bringing in a new coach, a new goalie, a new star, will help jump start this moribund team.

Or, will it all crumble beneath them and the plan will be to start all over from scratch?

Either way, the pursuit of the future will be done with a lot of sighs of relief around the organization – because the toxic environment no longer exists.

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29 Responses

  1. WOW MAN!
    OVER 2 million hits per month from
    7 articles and almost 30 whole comments?

    how does kyle do it………………………..?

  2. Anthony, I like the cut of your gib, pal. If we could get more of you, and less of Kevin, this site would be better off for it.

    Stay golden, pony boy.

  3. So at this point, turning around the Flyers is in the hands of Paul Holmgren and Dave Hakstol?

    This franchise is screwed for years. I am looking forward fo paying 20 bucks for a ticket for that Stadium Series game in February.

    1. Arn Anderson! Saturday night at the Sportatorium Daddy-o, Bring your horsemen because Big Dust will be waiting

  4. The Cuz summed it up perfectly yesterday. The real problem is Holmer. Once he’s gone they can start the rebuild. The Cuz is a NBA/NFL expert, but the guy knows hockey too. We all love the Cuz!

  5. I have all the faith in the world in Holmer. He’s a gritty Flyers alum. He knows how to win championships. He’s my guy.

  6. What an embarrassing performance last night. Must have been a real letdown for Holmgren and whoever else in this organization thought this team was going to turn it around and compete this year. This team is TRASH.

  7. I understand the decision, but I don’t think Hexy was the problem. The Flyers had nothing in the farm system before he got there. Flyers fans were looking at Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins as real top-6 assets because that’s all they had. He has created a really deep and talented pool of prospects at the AHL, the CHL, and the NCAA. THey Flyers probably have more future NHL players in their system than any other team in the league (the talent isn’t super high end, but their depth is fantastic). The Flyers will be able to successfully manage the cap now (a problem before Hextall), because they can now resign valuable piece and replace non-essential players with a deep crop of inexpensive talent from the minors. Teams like the Blackhawks were so good for so long because they were able to do this. The problem with the Flyers was Hakstol. He was pretty good at developing talent, but he was overly loyal to the wrong people and couldn’t manage a game to save his life. His offensive system was too conservative, his defensive system was too conservative, and he favored players like Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning and Jori Lehtera. He took what used to be a good puck moving defensemen in Robert Hagg and taught him to throw the puck off the glass every time he touches it… conservative. He has been loyal to the same PK coach for all of these years despite the team having a terrible pk for all of these years. Hakstol needs to go. I cannot tell you how badly I miss Peter Laviolette.

    1. Yeah – the only reason I agree with firing Hextall is if he was refusing to fire Hakstol. PP and PK coaches are demonstrably dogsh*t. Hakstol’s dumb face every time the other team scores. Hakstol who NEVER EVER EVER won a replay challenge. I miss Lavy so much. He and G single-handedly willed the team to beat the penguins in that playoff series.

  8. I was at the game last night. We were in one of the suites at the top which really provides a much different perspective than you get on tv, and the one thing that was painfully obvious watching the Flyers is how passive and unemotional their play is. One guy per shift, maybe two are skating around at full speed trying to make something happen while the rest of the players are upright on their skates watching the game, not playing in it. Weal was max effort last night, Sanheim was involved and Gudas rallied off him on their shifts, and occasionally you got spurts from G, Simmer, but everybody else can take a fucking seat. The players are the problem right now. Where that is coming from (and this article’s explanation of Hextall’s Putin-like reign reaching the locker room sounds right to me) I don’t know, but those guys are professionals and didn’t look like that at all.

    Hak can’t go out there and Bugs Bunny that shit and play the positions himself, so all the calls for him to go may be misdirected. His system may very well work with players willing to give a damn.

    1. This is a dumb take. The coach’s system should make it perfectly clear what all players on the ice should be doing for a given situation. And the coach himself should be holding players accountable if they are not following his system .

    1. The Cuz sucks. So does his lifetime, boyhood friend (from South Jersey, not South Philly), Bob Marino………………who is now advertising what might be his 9th place of employment since those dreadful live ads started a few years ago!!

  9. It’s just hockey so there’s always that! Boring!!!!! In other news, I accidentally tuned into the 97.5 morning show (gave up “sports” radio years ago) and heard a young girl kid (Sam Wilson) on the air. Is she MCW reincarnated? Who is she sleeping with???

      1. Please don’t tell me that you are one of the five people who listen. Sad!!

    1. You mean you’re not entertained after the 100th time 97.5 has referenced Chance the Rapper’s SNL skit about hockey? Come on man thats good stuff

  10. This team is playing scared/unconfident/careless and just like Sabres star Eichel says about the losing his team endured last season:

    “It’s tough when you lose that much because you question everything you do,” Eichel told ESPN before the season. “I never lost my love for the game, but it made doing it every day a lot tougher when you’re losing, everything is negative, and you’re just trying to find the positives in what you’re doing. … I just thought that there was too much complacency and there was a lot of ‘Happy to be here. Who cares if I work at my game? I’m already in the NHL.’ I think that’s pretty contagious, and it can cause a lot of problems.”

    ……….the line about ‘who cares’ is EXACTLY what is happening with this current Flyers team. They are in NHL getting NHL money…so who cares about fixing it, and as the losing/pressure mounts ‘who cares’ sounds about right for the product on the ice. You can’t DOMINATE 50 minutes and in the last 10 just fold like that without several of those players saying ‘who cares’….. where is the fight, the frustration on the ice, get into a damn fight, hit someone, get angry, REACT for pete’s sake! The inconsistency game to game (win one soundly, then get destroyed the next) can also be explained by Eichel’s ‘who cares’ line…. Its a culture thing at this point and that HAS to be eradicated!

    Trades need to happen, call ups and benchings need to happen….WAKE THE F UP FLYERS!!!!!!!!

  11. “People” of the media (no, I wouldn’t say any of these hacks are) whom say “piggybacking”…. well that is where I stop reading.

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