Why Flyers Fans Drank the Ron Hextall “Kool-Aid”

Flyers Hextall GM Hockey
New Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, right, speaks as chairman Ed Snider looks on during an NHL hockey news conference, Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Ron Hextall is a god of sorts to some who root for the Philadelphia Flyers. To others, he’s a fool. Regardless, Hextall was the Flyers general manager from May of 2014 until November of 2018.

During Hextall’s tenure, he had some fans eating out of the palm of his hand with the moves he made. Flipping Zac Rinaldo for a 3rd round pick, moving Braydon Coburn for a 1st and 3rd round pick and Radko Gudas. The list goes on.

Hextall also had some fans questioning his every move. Trading away Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera and 2 first round picks. Signing Dale Weise. That list goes on as well.

One thing is for certain. In Paul Holmgren’s eyes, Ron just didn’t get the job done. Hextall preached patience, as he acquired a cap messier than a tangled fishing line. He also acquired a depleted farm system from years of trading prospects and draft picks for veterans who never helped the Flyers win a Stanley Cup. Patience was something that Ed Snider was willing to give him.

Not shortly after Mr. Snider’s passing, Holmgren took over and many fans knew what was next, according to his days as the general manager of the club. Patience was nearly out the window, and Homer wanted to field cup contenders, and he wanted to field those teams now.

When it didn’t happen, he did what most of the fans saw coming, and he fired Ron Hextall.

During Hextall’s press conference where he answered questions for the first time since being shown the door, Hextall stated, “The only thing (Paul Holmgren) said is that your vision and my vision are not the same.” Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a hockey analyst to know that.

Hextall made it clear that when he took office, he had 3 stages of his tenure laid out, and ready for execution: Cleaning up the mess of a salary cap, gathering, developing, and implementing assets, and “go time.” When asked why it wasn’t “go time” yet, Hextall proclaimed, “I didn’t feel we were there yet.”

He was right.

His first year as GM, the Flyers missed the playoffs. It didn’t come without it’s positives, however. During that year, he managed to unload Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen in exchange for a 1st round pick, two second round picks, a third rounder, and Radko Gudas. He also drafted Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny that year as well.

The next year, the Flyers managed to squeak into the playoffs, only to get eliminated by the Washington Capitals in the first round. During the year, he made one significant move, acquiring Jordan Weal from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn.

The very next year, Hextall missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years, and made one major move, trading Mark Streit to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Valtteri Filppula, a 4th and a 7th round pick. That year, he also drafted Nolan Patrick and Morgan Frost.

His last full year as general manager of the Flyers was interesting. The Flyers were bitten hard by the injury bug, and that was only in net. After acquiring Petr Mrazek before the deadline, the Flyers made it into the playoffs, only to be eliminated by the Penguins in the first round.

After going into this past season with more goalies than most of us care to count, it hit him hard once again, and proved his undoing with the Philadelphia franchise.

There were good times, and there were bad times, but what it all boils down to is Ron Hextall was never ready to take that next step when his higher ups thought it should happen. Hextall was constantly digging the Flyers out of a hole, even when he didn’t need to dig anymore.

So many fans drank the “Hextall Kool-Aid” because they saw the good things he did for this franchise. He drafted strongly, he made concise moves that built the franchise’s farm system to a point where it was the strongest in years, and one of the best in the league.

Too many people couldn’t see past the fact that Hextall was so good at maneuvering the salary cap and stockpiling prospects. They couldn’t see past that to the point where Hextall just wasn’t ready to put his plans into action. Hextall was the army general who drew up a solid plan, but never got his troops in line to do battle.

Fans loved Ron Hextall, and for good reason. However, his inability to take that next step into “go time” proves that the Kool-Aid drinkers just didn’t want to see the flaw in Hextall’s regiment. The fatal flaw of never taking that next step.

Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

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