With calls to make a change and chants of “Fire Hakstol” frequently being a part of home losses recently, the Flyers made a change. Ron Hextall was relieved of his duties as GM in a move that shocked many people in the hockey world.
Ron Hextall’s tenure in the GM’s chair was characterized by two things: first, a relentless acquisition of prospects and included mid-late round gems like Oskar Lindblom as well as solid early picks like Ivan Provorov. Second, a stubbornness that meant he never held the coaching staff accountable for a bottom tier penalty kill.
This year, he seemed to turn a corner, making a big free agent splash in James VanRiemsdyk to signal the team was ready to take the next step.
Now, with 5 goalies used before November 1 and calls to bring up Carter Hart, a new GM will have to take the reigns of a loaded farm system, a coaching staff that probably needs a change and two big items to fix, the penalty kill and goaltending.
Who are the candidates?
Dean Lombardi is the obvious internal choice. He was the GM of the 2012 and 2014 LA Kings teams. Lombardi comes with baggage that is too much for many fans, in that he showed he would rather stick up for Slava Voynov, who brutally threw his wife’s head into a television sending her to hospital, than honor the league’s decision to suspend Voynov. The story is at this link, be warned it is very graphic. These are character red flags that only get more complicated with Voynov attempting to the return to the league.
Paul Holmgren would be the other internal option, though he most likely would be on an interim role to train someone in the vein of Lou Lamoriello in Toronto. Holmgren’s early tenure as GM was the opposite of Hextall’s. He traded second round picks like candy, and frequently had to play games with Long Term Injured Reserve to stay cap compliant. While Holmgren did draft Shayne Gostisbehere, his defences were famous for being acquired rather than developed.
Ron Francis is in the process of divesting from his positions in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. He’s a veteran GM and unlike his last 3 predecessors, he never played for the Flyers. While he’s young enough to potentially stick around a few seasons, he too might be the veteran mentor for someone who is like Kyle Dubas from Toronto. Francis would inject new blood and an outside vision to an organization that has loved to only hire from within.
Steve Yzerman left the Tampa organization in September right before training camp. He built a solid squad in Tampa and assuming he is given the same reign in Philly, could likely work wonders with the current roster. Yzerman’s connections to the Detroit organization will mean that he might hold out for a job there instead.
Someone else: Obviously the field is an option as well. If Lombardi was a shoe-in for the role, he’d likely already have the job. Which means the Flyers might be looking elsewhere. While Coach-GM combos are rare in the NHL, it’s possible that someone has reached out to Joel Quenneville to take over behind the bench and while not being a named GM, giving him some sway over the roster decisions. The Flyers could also reach out to any number of former players (Does anyone want to imagine press conferences with GM Chris Pronger?), scouts (Flyers scouting Director Chris Pryor found the current crop of defenders from Ghost all the way through Phil Myers) or statistics gurus (like John Chayka in Arizona) or someone completely off the wall.
Of course, with the rumored Seattle team, all of these candidates will have to decide if they want the pressure of Philly. On the other hand, given the stacked farm system that Hextall leaves, the excitement of turning this roster and prospect pool into a powerhouse contender has to be exciting?
We shall see.