Just because general manager Ron Hextall, whose franchise has many promising prospects who may not be quite NHL-ready, is building toward the future doesn't mean the Flyers won't be a factor in this season's playoff hunt.
That was the sentiment of Ed Snider, the team's longtime chairman, during an interview Thursday at his Wells Fargo Center office.
"I think Hexy saying he is going to be patient with the kids was misinterpreted that he was being patient with wanting to win," said Snider, 82, looking trim and tanned. "I don't think we're a patient-type organization that just wants to lay back and maybe not make the playoffs. . . . I think the fans should know, we don't mean that we're patient with winning. We just mean we're going to bring along our kids properly. We haven't rushed too many players in our history."
Like Hextall, Snider thinks the Flyers can be a playoff team. He thinks Matt Read and R.J. Umberger, wingers bothered by injuries last year, will be much better this season. He believes Evgeni Medvedev will add a lot to the back end, and that Michal Neuvirth will greatly improve the backup goalie spot.
"This team was a playoff team the year before last . . . and we've added to it," Snider said as he sat behind a desk that had a photo of him and his best friend, the late Lewis Katz, arm in arm as they stood in the blue waters of the British Virgin Islands. "Some of the players had down years last year. Were those down years because of injuries? Was it all that or because of coaching? Obviously, Hexy must have thought the coaching had something to do with it or he wouldn't have changed it. I think we have every reason to believe in the decisions Hextall has made."
Hextall, of course, replaced Craig Berube with the University of North Dakota's Dave Hakstol as head coach.
"It's Xs and Os on all levels, Snider said. "I think the key difference for a coach coming from college and being successful is that you have to have the ability to handle pros. It's a lot different than handling college players. That's what separates the men from the boys. You either can or you can't.
"The great thing I think about this hiring is that Hextall really knew Hakstol and was really impressed with him before he became general manager of the Flyers. He was intrigued by him because he met him quite often by virtue of coaching his son" at North Dakota.
Snider, who will be among the Flyers' contingent traveling to Toronto for Chris Pronger's Hall-of-Fame induction on Nov. 9, says he is hopeful one of the young defensemen makes the team.
"It would be fun to see . . . but right now we have eight guys signed [on defense] and it'll be tough for a kid to make it unless some other things happen," he said.
Of all the Flyers' defensive prospects, Ivan Provorov is probably closest to reaching the NHL. Provorov, 18, will be among the players at rookie camp when it starts Monday in Voorhees.