RON HEXTALL said yesterday he is not happy with the performance of the Flyers, a team he believes is strong enough to be a playoff performer "on paper."
As it stands now, the Flyers have a whopping 2.8 percent shot to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, using probabilities based on current games played by SportsClubStats.com. They would need a miraculous 27-11-5 run just for a 50-50 shot to get in.
Right now, though, Hextall said he is not willing to overhaul his roster. The Flyers general manager is not interested in calling up young players from the AHL Phantoms to see what they can do.
And he is also not interested in pinning any of the blame on coach Craig Berube.
All three of those things could change in the near future. For the present, Hextall reiterated yesterday he is staying the course.
"My thoughts with this franchise are no different than they were last summer," Hextall said. "We're on the same path, and we're going to continue to go down that path. Is it going to be altered if we continue to [lose]? Probably, a little bit.
"But we're certainly not going to - if we win 10 games in a row right now - trade younger players for older players to try and get incrementally better [to make the playoffs]. We're staying on the same path."
Hextall did, however, offer a rather tepid endorsement for Berube.
"Yes. Absolutely," was the two-word response Hextall gave when asked whether the Flyers' follies were more on the players than their bench boss.
As for personnel, no Phantoms players seem to be knocking on the Flyers' door hard enough. Center Scott Laughton did that and was promoted. He seems to be in the NHL to stay. Jason Akeson didn't pass his test with Berube. The road is clogged for Brandon Manning and Robert Hagg on defense. Rookie Taylor Leier is injured. And forward Nick Cousins has had a so-so season in Lehigh Valley.
"If someone can come up and help us, then we'll have to look at that," Hextall said. "But we're not just going to bring someone up so we can have a peek at them. Our job is to assess players at that level, to determine if and when they're ready to come up here for some games."
Reading between the lines, perhaps the only truly thought-provoking hint dropped by Hextall was his possible questioning of the Flyers' core of forwards.
All along, Hextall has reiterated he has no interest in trading the Flyers' young players. The question that hasn't been asked is: What happens if the young players he has coveted, already given ample opportunity to perform, are no longer the players this team can build around?
The names that would come to mind are Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, even not-so-young Matt Read.
"No, we're not at that point yet, where we're looking at getting rid of guys," Hextall said. "But I will say we're probably not far from the point where, if we don't get it going, we're going to have to start thinking about those things.
"But, in saying that, I look at those things every day: who can help us now, who can help us in the future, and we will move forward with it. Obviously, we're not happy with the performance of the team."
Both Hextall and Berube spoke yesterday of the Flyers' lack of mental toughness, contributing to the team's manic inconsistency on the ice. Hextall said there are some nights the Flyers "just don't look like a very good team" and then other nights "when we look like a pretty darn good team."
"It's hard to assess why and where," Hextall said. "But I think the first thing you've got to do is look at individuals and then the group collectively to see where things have broken down."
If that is the case, every facet of the team - aside from Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek - must be on the table for discussion, from coach to talented-but-inconsistent young forwards.
"We'll continue to look at it hard and try to make the moves that we think are right to get better," Hextall promised. "There's been some disappointment with our club this year, for sure."