Flyers’ Paul Holmgren, Dave Scott say Ron Hextall left team ‘in a really good spot’ but it ‘was time to move on’
The decision to fire Hextall was Holmgren's, the timeline was taking too long and Holmgren agrees they need to be patient with Carter Hart.
Dave Scott, the CEO of Flyers parent company Comcast Spectacor, and club president Paul Holmgren wanted general manager Ron Hextall to be more aggressive in the trade market and thought his plan was taking too long.
That, in a nutshell, is why Hextall was fired Monday, the two Flyers executives said during and after a news conference Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Holmgren said that it was his decision and that Scott went along with it.
In an interview after the news conference, Scott said Hextall's methodical rebuild needed to move faster.
"It's too long of a timeline," Scott said of Hextall's plan. "The business moves faster than that."
"I just felt, in the best interest of the organization, it was time to move on, look for a new voice with a different mindset that can push the team to the next level," Holmgren said.
Holmgren and Scott, in separate conversations, mentioned that Hextall thought the team would be outstanding in two or three years.
"Do I think the team can be better now — not in two or three years — but now? I think that answer is yes," Holmgren said.
Both Holmgren and Scott lauded Hextall for building the farm system, making shrewd draft picks, and getting the Flyers' cap situation in order. The Flyers have almost $7 million in cap room.
"We have a stockpile of prospects; that's a wonderful thing, but we have a lot to work with and we have cap space," Scott said. "You've heard me say this 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. I think Ron was very disciplined in his approach, and we started hearing about 'two years from now, and three years from now.' We've got a good mix of players now. I mean, I love our vets. They're not too old, and we have the young players coming up, and we can fill in the gaps [with deals]."
The Flyers entered Tuesday on a pace for 78 points.
"We had 98 points last year. I thought we were a team headed in the right direction," Holmgren said. "… So it hasn't been what any of us envisioned. Are there areas we can get better in? Absolutely. Our special teams aren't very good right now, and part of that is you can't just blame the coach for that. You've got to blame the players a little bit, too. And they know. When I talked to them yesterday, everybody's aware of where we're at and that things have to get better."
Scott said he was disappointed Hextall didn't make a major trade at the June draft. The disappointment grew as the Flyers got off to a 10-11-2 start.
"The good news is, we're holding a good hand," Scott said. "We have a lot to work with, more than I had when I came in five years ago, more than Ron had" when he became the GM in 2014.
Among the other statements from the two executives:
• Scott said Hextall "left us in a good place" because the team is young, the farm system is strong, and the cap space is improved.
• Holmgren said the firing of coach Dave Hakstol never came up, and he vehemently denied Hextall was fired because he would not dismiss the coach he hired. Holmgren said the coaching staff has done a "decent job," considering all the injuries, especially to the goalies. He added that the new GM will evaluate the coaching staff.
• Scott said there will "be some opportunities" before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. In other words, he wants the new GM to make moves.
• Holmgren said Hextall was "unyielding" in his plan, and "good for him. He had his plan, he stuck to his plan, and God bless him," Holmgren said. "… He put us in a good position, but in order to put us in a better position [a change needed to be made]."
• Holmgren said that he was more aggressive as a general manager than Hextall and that both styles have their pluses and minuses.
• Holmgren is heading the search for a new GM. He has made some calls. Scott says he hopes a decision is made within "weeks."
• Dean Lombardi, former Flyers scout and Kings executive, and Chris Pronger, ex-Flyers defenseman and current Panthers adviser, are not candidates for the GM job. Holmgren said Lombardi doesn't have interest.
• Holmgren said he agreed with Hextall as far as being patient with Carter Hart, the Phantoms goalie.
• Both men said they want to win now. "Our fans deserve better," Scott said.
• Holmgren, who hired Hextall in 2014, said he was a "big Hexy fan. I'm the guy put him in that spot. Unfortunately, I'm the guy that relieved him of his duties, too. But he's left the organization in a really good spot."