Image courtesy of Amy Irvin (38Photography)
On Wednesday night, Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren hosted the Flyers early bird season ticket holders at XFINITY Live! for a Q&A session, moderated by Steve Coates.
As was to be expected, there were a few silly questions that should have been avoided (Why do they clean the ice so often? Are we going to get Danny Briere back? Can they turn the music down in the arena?), but attendees asked some pretty decent questions, for the most part. Here are a few interesting tidbits taken away from the session:
On developing young talent: Hextall reiterated what he’s been saying all along, that the focus is developing their young talent. He’s not interested in trading away their strong assets for a quick fix. If a good deal comes along that might help their chances, they’ll take a look, but they’re not going to be pursuing anything. He also mentioned how Anthony Stolarz is still 2-3 years away from being where he needs to be, and that Rob Zepp is a consummate pro and has been doing solid work for the Phantoms so far this season.
On injuries plaguing current Flyers: Andrew MacDonald suffered a bit of a setback when he skated earlier this week, but Hextall expects him to get back on the ice within the next few days and is hoping there will be improvement. About two and a half weeks ago, the timetable for MacDonald’s return was four weeks, and Hextall said that still stands. He hopes MacDonald will be able to return in another ten days or so. Kimmo Timonen has another doctor’s appointment scheduled for January, and the team will not know anything about a possible return until them. Timonen has expressed his interest in playing again, but it all depends on what his doctors say.
On the shootout: Unsurprisingly, a few questions at the Q&A were regarding the shootout. Holmgren mentioned that in the AHL, they’re experimenting with a seven-minute OT (four minutes of 4-on-4, then three minutes of 3-on-3) and that about 20% less games have gone to a shootout with this in place. He said not to expect the shootout to go anywhere anytime soon, unfortunately, but that they include shootout drills in practice and hope to improve in them (fun fact: the Flyers are the worst at the shootout in the league since the inception of the shootout).
On the use of analytics in the game: Hextall said that he thinks people rely too much on analytics, and hockey is not an analytical game. They do look into certain things – he wouldn’t reveal anything aside from zone entries for fear that his information would leak – but they don’t pay it too much mind in the grand scheme of things.
On a Flyers/Penguins game at Penn State: A fan (most likely a Penn State alum) asked about an annual game between the Flyers and Penguins being held at Beaver Stadium every year. Holmgren, after laughing, said that getting Gary Bettman to do anything annually was a stretch, but there have been talks about at least one Flyers/Penguins game being held there.
A few more tidbits:
– One fan asked why the Flyers don’t salute their fans after the game like most NHL teams do. Holmgren and Hextall didn’t really have an answer, but assured everyone that the team really loves and appreciates the fans so the fans should not take it personally.
– Apparently, one of the cable companies in the Lehigh Valley does not carry The Comcast Network, so fans there will miss out on seeing about 10 Flyers games a season. Holmgren said that with different cable companies, it’s up to them what they will carry, but he will certainly look into it.
– Hextall said he didn’t anticipate sending Carlo Colaiacovo down to the minors once Luke Schenn returns from injury.
– The last question of the night was about officials calling a lot of embellishment penalties, some questionable, around the league as of late. Hextall said that teams are trying to get rid of embellishment, so sometimes those calls get overdone because it’s something they’re trying to do away with.