Hard to read into Hextall's vote of confidence
GM Ron Hextall says he's not firing coach Craig Berube, but in these fluid times, how long will that be the case?
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Ron Hextall stood and watched his Flyers practice yesterday in the same Toyota Sports Center where 2 years ago he had an office as Dean Lombardi's assistant with the Kings.
Hextall's former team won another Stanley Cup last June and is off to a solid start defending its crown.
Hextall's current team, well, it has won only once in its last 11 games - leaving him to answer questions yesterday about his coach's job security and tanking for the draft lottery.
"I'm very unhappy about that," the general manager said of the Flyers' recent struggles. "I think everyone is. We have to regroup right now. It's not time to look back at whatever we are [1-8-2 in their last 11] and feel sorry for ourselves. That's not going to make things any better for us."
He has been on the job not quite 7 months, playing with a roster he didn't quite assemble, but doesn't excuse himself from blame.
"There's culpability from all of us," Hextall said. "From myself, 'Chief,' the players, all of us. Everybody is in this. We all have to do a better job.
"I have no plans on replacing the coach."
Craig Berube, 49, is a respectable 50-40-14 in 104 games since replacing Peter Laviolette as the Flyers' coach on Oct. 7, 2013.
It is impossible to read any deeper into Hextall's words, given how fluid the situation is in hockey. No NHL team has replaced its coach yet this season, not even Randy Carlyle in Toronto, who entered October as the odds-on leader to be first fired.
When the first domino falls, the entire landscape could change.
That isn't to say Hextall is considering a coaching change, just that - well - what else is he supposed to say?
Twenty-four days before axing Laviolette last year, chairman Ed Snider called the lockout-shortened season "an anamoly" and said, "He's been a very good coach for us, he's been a good coach in this league, and we're just thrilled to have him."
Hextall bristled with regard to "tanking," saying he doesn't know "that word." Besides, the NHL changed its draft lottery format this summer, disincentivizing the notion of "tanking" by awarding more pingpong balls to teams 29th through 20th in the standings.
"You guys [media] won't be asking those questions in a couple weeks, I believe," Hextall said. "I've given it no thought. We're not going to get rid of guys so we could try to finish worst or second-worst in the league. I believe we have a good enough team, still, to make the playoffs. If the right deal comes along, yeah, I will look at it."
Right now, Hextall said he believes the Flyers are "trending in the right direction." Even if not, don't expect any rash changes.
"We need to go on a run. We're six points out, we're not done by any stretch of the imagination," Hextall said. "I'm not getting off the plan that I set out in the summer time. We're heading in the same direction. We're off track a little bit for this season, but I am not going to do something that's going to hurt our future to try and get a few points to make the playoffs."