Hinxtall? The Difficulty of Embracing the Tank

Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography

Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography

When Ron Hextall was hired over the summer to take over for Paul Holmgren, a number of fans were filled with hope. Early on in Holmgren’s tenure as general manager he made some good moves, before succumbing to madness in his later years. Enter Hextall, the former Flyer who had come up through the Kings organization, with a team that has been pretty good at building a contender in recent years. Hextall spoke of patience and analytics, things the Flyers desperately need.

The problem is, Hextall can’t turn this roster around overnight, and there’s quite a bit to overturn. Holmgren’s parting shot, the Andrew MacDonald contract, will be haunting the Flyers for years to come. Vincent Lecavalier came to Philadelphia to play under Peter Laviolette. He got three games with the gum chomper before Lavy was fired in favor of Craig Berube. Hexy himself acquired R.J. Umberger, who has been far more useless than anyone could have imagined. The Flyers are stuck playing the waiting game with Umberger, until his contract runs out after the 2016-17 season.

The coach is an issue. Berube’s judgement on who to scratch and who to play is questionable, at best. He seems increasingly desperate to get this team to do something, anything. This might be Berube’s one shot as a head coach, and despite getting the team to the playoffs last season, this season is not going nearly as well. This year’s Flyers are a mess. On their best day, they’re a mediocre team with two superstars, a bunch of nice middle liners, and some trash. On their worst days, the trash really stands out and overtakes the good. They’re a smelly toilet that no amount of ginger scented candles can fix.

This team should not make the playoffs. It’s probably in the Flyers’ best interest to tank this year away, like their Wells Fargo Center roommates, the Sixers. Connor McDavid is going to be a star. Jack Eichel is fantastic. There is some great incentive out there for the Orange and Black to keep bleeding out for the rest of the season.

Tanking, however, is hard. It’s hard on the fanbase, who have to sit through 82 miserable games, sighing as the team finds new heartbreaking ways to lose. It’s hard on the players, who have their pride to maintain. Look at Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, both having great years. Giroux has 28 points in 25 games. Voracek has 33 points in 25 games, and is competing for the league lead. You don’t want those guys fighting for nothing, wasting away their best years.

There are reports of the Flyers trying to make a move, but what is there to move? Schenn and Couturier are their most valuable assets, and Hextall seems (rightfully) hesitant to move either one. No one wants to take on the Lecavalier, MacDonald, and Umberger contracts. Perhaps the combination of Berube and their own ineptitude will make them all retire? Alright, there’s little chance of Andy Mac and Umby doing that, but Vinny’s rumored to be considering it!

I don’t know what Hextall has planned to clean up Holmgren’s mess, but there’s a long road ahead of us. The team is going to struggle at times. There’s going to be some growing pains and questionable moves. Panicking to save this season is not in this team’s best interest. Snider, Hextall, and Berube can yell at the players all they want, but that’s not going to fix anything. This team needs a drastic makeover, and it can’t happen with the pieces in place. It’s going to hurt for a year. Most likely two. Ron Hextall isn’t pulling a Sam Hinkie and outright tanking, he’s just trying to deal with the hand he’s been dealt.

 

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