With Ron Hextall gone, the Flyers are Dave Scott’s team now | Sam Donnellon
The current Flyers chairman says he tired of waiting for a better day: "I'm a long term investor. I want to spend to the cap. I want to have the best possible team we can have."
"Who is this Dave Scott guy?'' the midday radio host asked repeatedly Tuesday, attaching an air of mystery to the Comcast Spectacor chairman who worked alongside Ed Snider during the last few years of Snider's life and has succeeded him in death.
"I don't know, maybe I have to dye my hair white," said Scott a few hours later, sitting in what was once Snider's office, "So I can look more like Ed."
If you are a Flyers fan and you didn't know who Scott was before Tuesday, you should now. Because, as much as Paul Holmgren couched Monday's dismissal of Flyers general manager Ron Hextall as a consensus, Scott made it clear in a private meeting afterward that that he had grown weary of hearing, in his words, " 'Two years from now.' And 'Three years from now.' "
"It's too long,'' said Scott. " I think it's just too long of a timeline. The business moves too fast for that. The business side.''
Ah, yes, the business side. The Flyers have not made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2012, preceding Scott's arrival. Estimates have put the value of a single first-round home playoff game between $1 million and $1.5 million, with that increasing by each round because of a boost in ticket values. A second-round series can be worth up to $8 million more in revenue, and ensuing rounds as much as $10 million.
That's a lot of lost opportunity. And, at 10-11-2 entering Tuesday night's game against Ottawa, it was shaping up to be more.
"We've got a good mix of players now,'' said Scott. "I love our vets, they're not too old. We've got young players coming up. And we can fill in some gaps.'"
Ah yes, those gaps. Hextall's plan to cover the goaltending position — while the numerous goaltenders he's drafted sifted through the system — was derailed almost immediately by the endless injury woes of Michal Neuvirth and the more recent ones incurred by Brian Elliott. It forced him to trade for Petr Mrazek last season and claim Cal Pickard off waivers early into this one, resisting bigger moves that would cost him prospects.
Trades for veterans to help his struggling penalty kill last summer were also not made. Scott acknowledged Tuesday that he attended last summer's NHL draft in Dallas anticipating pulling off a big trade.
"Didn't happen,'' said Scott. "And again, Ron was the guy and he was committed to this thing. … We came back from the draft. I was disappointed that we didn't get more done. I went out to see [Ron] on a Tuesday and I think he signed JVR on a Friday.''
James van Riemsdyk received a five-year, $35 million deal after John Tavares made it clear he was not interested in playing for the Flyers.
Said Scott, "It's nice when you can give somebody a blank check and you don't ask them to trade somebody away. It's all upside.''
If that sounds like a slight dig, well it probably is. Holmgren, pressed repeatedly about what "philosophical differences'' led to Hextall's ouster, continually used "unyielding'' — at one point following it with, "… And God bless him.''
Scott originally moved from Comcast's business side to oversee the $250 million renovation of the Wells Fargo Center. Some of the upgrades are in already, but some of the bigger ones are planned for this summer. Not a good time for lagging ticket sales and another buzzkill season. So as the team mimicked the up-and-down personality that had marked previous seasons, Scott began appearing more regularly in Hextall's box high above the ice, observing, asking questions – treading more and more into the hockey operations.
Late-afternoon meetings involving him, Holmgren, and Hextall before home games were scheduled with more regularity.
"And we would just challenge him,'' said Scott. "What can we do now? How can we make the team better now?
"It was repetitive. That was the big question. And never really got a crisp answer.''
And so the decision was made late Saturday, after yet another hopeful win was followed with another lifeless drubbing, this time a 6-0 beatdown in Toronto. Holmgren would meet with Hextall and dismiss him. Scott, who was in Disney on a family vacation, would fly back to Philadelphia in time for Tuesday's news conference. They would use an unusual break in the schedule to find another general manager quickly, one who would address their uncertain present, not the one three years down the line.
Only one person mentioned the NHL's Feb. 25 trade deadline Tuesday: Scott.
He may not look much like Ed Snider. But he sure sounded a lot like him.
"We have a stockpile of prospects,'' said Scott. "That's a wonderful thing. In the future, we'll see how this all plays out. But we really have lot to work with. We have cap space. You've heard me say it before. I'm a long-term investor. I want to spend to the cap. I want to have the best possible team we can have.''