Here's a statement from Hextall:
"I spoke with Erik today and he informed me that he does in fact, have a deal in place to play overseas. Although we are disappointed in his decision, we wish him all the best."
Original story below:
If a report out of Russia is true, then defenseman Erik Gustafsson proved that he’s also a pretty good pitcher.
Because he will have thrown the Flyers a curveball.
The report, coming from Sports.ru hockey reporter Igor Eronko stated that Gustafsson signed a deal to join Avangard Omsk of the KHL next season.
The report comes as a bit of a surprise to the Flyers, who, according to general manager Ron Hextall, are aware of the report but had not heard one way or another from Gustafsson or his agent as of Friday.
Gustafsson, 25, played just 31 games in the 2013-14 season and two more in the playoffs in place of the injured Nicklas Grossmann. He often toiled along at practice as the No. 7 guy on the depth chart. However, considering his age, the Flyers still had interest in his development and planned on keeping him on the roster for next season.
However, now that seems a bit up in the air until Hextall con contact Gustafsson or his representative.
If there is any speculation that the Flyers may have told Gustafsson during his exit interview on break-up day that he wasn’t going to be in their future plans, that would be wrong.
I have been told that the Flyers were planning on extending Gustafsson a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent – and will still do so – meaning they will retain his NHL rights if and when he were to return from the KHL – assuming the report is accurate.
It’s a safe and smart move by the Flyers who can retain Gustafsson as an asset without any penalty as he would not count against the Flyers roster limit of 50 contracts unless the deal is signed, in which case he’d be back in the NHL.
Otherwise, Gustafsson would remain on the Flyers Reserve List.
Gustafsson made $1 million in 2013-14 and the Flyers only have to extend him an equivalent offer for 2014-15 by June 30 to retain his rights.
Stay tuned for more on this as it develops.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
Funny as his deadpan was, it was an important glimpse into the soul of a man who lives and breathes Flyers hockey. For Holmgren knew – has known for months really – that unless he got his assistant general manager a promotion, he would soon leave the Flyers again.
Several teams wanted to hire Hextall as their next general manager. The Flyers wouldn’t say who was calling, but it’s no secret that both the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks are actively searching for candidates to fill their open positions.
Holmgren knew that would be the case. Heck, he knew it when he hired him back from the Kings last summer. This time, Holmgren didn’t want to let such a good asset get plucked from the nest.
The question became, how to make it work so that Hextall would stay in Philadelphia. So, he started formulating a plan as early as November. He met with Hextall and talked about the possibility of transitioning him into a general manager’s role if Paul himself could stay within the organization in another capacity.
Then, in December, the position of team president opened up when Peter Luukko resigned and Holmgren had an idea. He talked it over with Hextall. In January, he took it directly to chairman Ed Snider.
The plan: Holmgren would move into the vacated president’s chair and Hextall would take over as GM, effective the end of the season.
Snider liked the plan. It made sense. It’s a direction that a lot of sports teams in other leagues are starting to take – where the operations people take more of a business role as the two parts of managing a franchise blend ever-more.
It put a sharp, astute businessman in Holmgren into a position of need and it put an equally sharp and astute analytical hockey mind into the general manager’s chair.
It was a seamless idea, one Hextall wouldn’t have accepted unless it were.
"I wouldn’t have taken this job if Paul Holmgren didn’t want to move to the position he’s moving to,” Hextall said. “I absolutely wouldn’t. I would have refused. You can ask Homer, at one point when we talked about it, he said, ‘Stop asking me that. I want to go where I’m going… I’m very comfortable.’ Again, I’ve had a long relationship with Homer, but I’m not the type of person to kind of get in somewhere without the people around me that I care about and I’ve worked with being very comfortable."
And like that, the plan was put in place. Five months later, it came to fruition. It wasn’t a kneejerk reaction to a first round playoff loss to the New York Rangers. It wasn’t a change forced by Snider. It was something that was on the docket for quite some time.
Hextall will have a different approach to some things than Holmgren or any other general manager of Flyers’ teams past. Namely, he will put an emphasis on player development and he will not shy away from advanced hockey analytics – although he did caution that you can’t be a slave to the math, but rather should use it as an evaluative tool.
But, like Holmgren he believes in using the draft to make the team better. He believes in being strong at the center position. He believes a defense should be a good mix of size and speed and not all one way or the other.
But, if nothing else, Hextall believes in patience – something he hardly had as a player. He believes in exhausting all forms of analysis and thought – as well as conversation – about any personnel decision, whether it be free agency, a trade or a draft pick – and that will include leaning on Holmgren when the time is right.
“I’d been an idiot not to,” Hextall said about consulting with Holmgren. “Homer played the game, he was an assistant coach, he was a head coach, as he mentioned [also] in another organization. He was an assistant GM and he’s been a general manager. If I don’t use all my resources, I’m not doing a very good job.
“Homer will be somebody I talk to about things, and bounce ideas off of. Why with a background like he’s got would I not talk to him? It’s no different than talking to our pro scouts and amateur scouts about amateur or pro players. Absolutely I’ll bounce ideas off of Homer. In the end it’ll be my job, like it was Homer’s with Mr. Snider, to talk Homer into what I’m thinking and what I want to do, and then run it up the ladder to Mr. Snider explaining why we think it’s a good move for the organization and why I want to move forward with it.”
And that will start right away. Hextall has just seven weeks until the draft, a few days more than that until free agency. There will be trade discussions in the interim, mostly heating up at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals, which has to end by June 18 at the latest. So, time is of the essence for Hextall to make an imprint on the Flyers for next season.
“If you think winning a Stanley Cup is easy, I’ve got news for you,” Hextall said. “The one thing I mentioned earlier, Philadelphia’s not sitting there waiting for No. 1 picks year after year after year for five years… To maintain something for 25 or 30 years, which has been done here… it’s hard to do. You take a look at the franchises around the league that have been as successful as this one – probably in all of pro sports – in the last 30 years, and there’s not many. It’s a hard thing to do. They went to the finals in 2010… we lost in game 7 in 1987, we lost in the finals in 1997.
“if you look at the track record, other than maybe not winning the big one, which again there’s 30 teams out there, and right now there’s a team, I won’t mention any names, there’s a team out there just collecting No. 1 picks right now. Yeah, they’re going to be a pretty good team in three or four years, but ask their fans if they’ve had a fun last seven or eight years.
“The culture of winning is nothing to be embarrassed about. We should all be damn proud of this organization and how successful they’ve been. Short of winning a Stanley Cup, this organization’s done everything. That is the goal, and I can tell you there’s nothing anybody in this organization won’t do to win a Stanley Cup, from the very top all the way down.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
Well, this post is anti-climactic.
Here I sit, on the afternoon of the start of the second round, ready to give out my NHL playoff picks (for entertainment purposes only) to see who ends up in the Conference Finals and I’m a little deflated.
I know I went 7-1 in the first round with my picks, and that should have me feeling pretty good about my ability to forecast the sport, but when your only loser is the team that you write about the most – then it’s extra disheartening.
I mean, you think you’d know that series more than any other, right? But no. I’m able to predict Minnesota upsetting Colorado. I’m able to correctly prognosticate that the Blackhawks and Kings would win their brutal first round matchups. I was able to not be snookered into the notion that Detroit could beat Boston or Dallas could upset Anaheim. I even pegged Montreal to beat Tampa and Pittsburgh to knock of Columbus with little fanfare.
But the Flyers? I was thisclose to nailing a perfect first round.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
So, I won’t get into grave detail with my second round analysis. I don’t think I have it in me after coming so darn close to perfection. But I will offer you my picks anyway – to do with as you will.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings – The Ducks should be the best team out West, but for some reason, I’m not feeling their mojo right now. They didn’t exactly handle adversity well in the first round when they lost Ryan Getzlaf to an injury in Game 4 and Teemu Selanne was benched. The Kings are battle-tested and I expect are going to be even more amped after overcoming a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose. The Kings also have the edge on defense and goaltending and are mentally strong. I think the Kings go back to the Conference Finals for the third straight year. Kings in six.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild – How good of a story are the Wild? How great was that series with Colorado? That was playoff hockey at its finest. The best series of the first round by far. I love the way Minnesota coach Mike Yeo has his team playing. The Wild are made up of a couple of Superstars (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter), some key veterans (Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville), some underrated up-and-comers (Jared Spurgeon, Mikael Granlund) and a bunch of castoffs (Danny Heatley, Nino Niederreiter, Ilya Bryzgalov) and they’re playing an excellent team-oriented game. That said, I don’t think they’ll be a match for Chicago at all. The Blackhawks are too good, too deep and will be too much to handle for the Wild, setting up a rematch of the Western Conference Finals from last year. Blackhawks in five.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens – If there is one team that gives the Bruins fits, it’s the Habs. So, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if there was an upset here… O.K… Who am I kidding? If Montreal beats Boston, it would be a huge upset. The Canadiens were flying in the opening round with a sweep of Tampa Bay. But something tells me that a lengthy layoff like Montreal had will stem some of that tide and the Bruins will advance rather easily. Bruins in five.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers – How much more excited would the league have been if it were the Flyers instead of the Rangers? Alas, we have to wait til next year for that possibility. In the interim, we are left with two flawed teams playing for a right to be in hockey’s final four. No, I’m not being a homer when I call both teams flawed. The Rangers didn’t overwhelmingly impress me against the Flyers. Watching all seven games as closely as I did, I think the Flyers lost three of the four games they did on their own without much help from the Rangers, never mind Henrik Lundqvist didn’t seem himself. They went through large lulls against the Flyers where they seemed sluggish. Fortunately for them, the Flyers made more mistakes that cost them. Meanwhile, the Penguins looked better in Games 5 and 6 against Columbus, but they still seem shaky. Marc-Andre Fleury has had some chronic playoff goofs and Sidney Crosby hasn’t been himself in the playoffs either. I don’t like the Pens defense and they’re still short on skill up front after Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Yes, I know James Neal and Chris Kunitz but…. then what? Somebody has to win though, and I think the Penguins got the matchup they were hoping for. If it were the Flyers, it could have been a blood bath. Instead, I think it’s a cakewalk for Pittsburgh. Penguins in five.
Yes, I’m predicting two conference finals rematches. Sue me.
See you in the third round where I should be 11-1 and still lamenting my one loss.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
In the end, the Flyers lost a series that they’ll insist they should of won.
In the end, they’ll have to chew on missed chances – like Claude Giroux’s shank in the second period of the 2-1 loss in Game 7 to the New York Rangers with a yawning net staring at him.
They’ll have to question why they passed on so many chances to shoot the puck to try to make that extra pass that didn’t need to be made.
They’ll have to wonder how their raging inconsistency in the playoffs was the fact that they couldn’t play a full 60-minute game.
And while they will definitely feel the sting of those and other little mistakes and missed opportunities in the series, the Flyers have a lot to look forward to moving forward.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
Game 7. Just saying it aloud sends chills down your spine. It means both teams, who have slugged and scrapped and scraped and clawed for six games only to find themselves dead even enter the deciding game with the same thing on the line:
Win and you move on to the next step of your quest, lose and you go home licking your wounds.
For a Flyers team rich in playoff history, this marks the 16th time in 68 seven-game series’ played that a Game 7 was reached.
The Flyers have gone 9-6 in the previous 15 incarnations of Game 7 (Meanwhile, the Rangers are 6-5 all-time).
Here is a look back at the previous 15 Game 7’s in Flyers history:(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – When watching Wayne Simmonds play hockey, no matter if its preseason, regular season or playoffs, it’s hard to think of a time when he just takes his foot off the pedal and goes into cruise control.
It’s not in his DNA.
So, when he finds yet another level of performance that you didn’t think possible, it leaves you in awe of his dedication and relentless perseverance in the sport.
Tuesday was one of those games.
Simmonds was like Pablo Sanchez in the Backyard Hockey video game – he was all over the ice, winning board battles, fighting for positioning in front of the net and scoring goals – not one, not two, but three.
It was his first career playoff hat trick and just the second in his time in the NHL.
And it was enough to provide the offensive jolt for the Flyers in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup First Round series with the New York Rangers, a series tied 3-3 that will have a deciding Game 7 Wednesday night in New York.
“He was all over the puck,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had a goal and two assists and is now averaging
|Wayne SImmonds had his arms raised often in Game 6 and hopes to do it again Wednesday in Game 7.|
a point per game in the playoffs. “[Simmonds] was jumping everywhere, he was strong on the puck, and I think when Wayne wants to win the battle he wins it and kind of gives everybody in the room a little bit of motivation to do the same.”
He scored the first goal of the game on the power play with sheer determination to fight through defenders and whack a loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist.
His second goal he was Johnny on the spot as Brayden Schenn lost a puck cutting to the net, but it ended up on Simmonds’ stick for a slam dunk.
The third came on another power play as he re-directed a Jakub Voracek shot past Lundqvist for 4-0.
“It was just a matter of time,” said Voracek. “He’s a good player especially around the net. He finds that soft spot on the side of the posts. He buried the big goals tonight.”
Simmonds was the catalyst for a Flyers team that needed someone to emerge during a furiously paced opening period.
“He’s an effective player,” Schenn said. “I know what he’s going to do every single night. He’s going to be an up and down the walls type guy. He’s going to win his battles, he’s going to be tough, he’s going to be physical and to add [Scott] Hartnell to that too, we all kind of play the same way – north and south hockey – and we try to be a big, physical line and get our chances off the cycle.”
Simmonds just wanted a chance at a Game 7, and now he’s got it, thanks to his fine performance – and that of his teammates.
“We need to take the positives from this game, take them into tomorrow night and keep it rolling,” Simmonds said. “I think it’s great that we’re having a back-to-back. The other games we had a couple days off and I think that’s why you’ve seen this series go one-one-one-one-one-one because teams have had time to regroup. Now we have the momentum. We’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal and keep pushing forward.”
Erik Gustafsson made his first appearance in the playoffs a memorable one.
Gustasfsson scored what would be the game-winning goal on a breakaway as Braydon Coburn hit him in stride as he emerged from the penalty box after serving a penalty for a phantom high sticking call on the Rangers’ master embellisher Derek Dorsett.
Gustafsson broke in on Lundqvist, made a quick move and beat the goalie to the five hole.
“I was pretty happy after it,” he said. “A lot of emotions went into it. I think we played a great overall game and that adds to it as well.”
Gustafsson played 18:19 and drew high praise from his coach.
“His game overall was good,” Craig Berube said. “I thought he moved the puck well, skated well and was heads up all game. He checked well too. He did a really good job.”
NOTES: The Flyers will participate in the 16th Game 7 in their history. They are 9-6 all time. They will be trying to complete a comeback from a 3-2 deficit for just the fourth time in their history… The Flyers have won their last three Game 7 situations, one at home (2011 ECQF vs. Buffalo) and two on the road (2010 ECSF at Boston and 2008 ECQF at Washington). They have won four of their last five dating back to the 2003 ECQF, a 6-1 Game 7 win at home vs. Toronto. The one Game 7 loss in that timeframe was the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals at Tampa Bay (2-1), which was also the last series the Flyers have played in before this one where neither team has won consecutive games… This is only the third series between the Flyers and Rangers to go the distance and only the second seven-game series to do so. The Flyers won a Game 7 4-3 at the Spectrum on May 5, 1974 en route to their first Stanley Cup. They lost a five-game Patrick Division Semifinal to the Rangers in 1986, with the Rangers taking a 5-2 win at the Spectrum on April 15 of that year… The Flyers are 1-1 when facing elimination at Madison Square Garden. They lost the third game of a three-game preliminary round series there by a 9-3 score on April 9, 1983 and won Game 4 of the aforementioned 1986 Patrick Division Semifinal on April 14, 1986 (7-1) before dropping the subsequent Game 5 at the Spectrum the next day. This will be the first Game 7 the Flyers have ever played at MSG… This is the first Flyers playoff series to reach six games without requiring overtime since the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals vs. New Jersey, which the Flyers lost in seven games. It’s just the eighth Flyers playoff series all-time to reach at least six games without an overtime… Before Simmonds The last Flyer to record a hat trick vs. the Rangers (regular season) was Simon Gagne on December 30, 2009. Eric Lindros had a hat trick in Game 3 the last time these teams met in the playoffs back in 1997… The Rangers outshot the Flyers 36-29, marking the fifth straight game in this series that the winning team has been out-shot… The Flyers were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill tonight, marking the fourth consecutive game they’ve been perfect on the PK. They have killed off 20 consecutive shorthanded situations dating back to Game 2 of the series.
PHILADELPHIA – Something hasn’t seemed right about this Flyers-Rangers first round series.
It has nothing to do with the Flyers facing elimination tonight, nor does it have to do with their struggles on offense – which has a lot to do with how well New York has played on defense.
No, it’s something else. Something that isn’t tangible, but yet is quite noticeable.
It’s almost as if the series has been played by card-carrying members of the mutual admiration society.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some plucky moments – because there have. It’s not to say there hasn’t been any not-safe-for-work verbal exchanges between both sides – because that’s just part of the fabric of playoff hockey.
It just seems – off, and maybe because it is.
Typically, Flyers-Rangers carries with it the stigma of deep-rooted animosity. Typically, a matchup between these clubs is hard, physical, and sometimes ruthless.
But this is a new era of this rivalry.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is a bright hockey mind who focus on speed and technique. Craig Berube, for all that he was as a player, wants the Flyers to be a disciplined hockey team and worry about competing within the system he has in place and not outside of it.
As such, the powder keg explosion everyone has been anticipating in this series hasn’t really come to fruition.
That could change tonight.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
NEW YORK – Claude Giroux got on the scoreboard in Game 5. He fired six shots on goal. For all intents and purposes it was his best game of the series – one which the Flyers now trail 3-2 and face a long summer if they can’t win both Tuesday and Wednesday.
As well as Giroux played though in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, he still didn’t think it was enough.
“I have to play better,” he said. “I want to play better. It will happen. It’s Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center. Right now we’re a little down but we’re going to have to get jacked up again.”
Giroux knows how to amp himself up for a Game 6 at home. The last time it happened was the 2012 Penguins series. It was “the shift.” An opening salvo fired who he buried Sidney Crosby with a big check followed by a goal on the same shift – replete with his patented, “Let’s Go,” primal shout to the crowd.
He’s going to need to elevate his game to that level again against the Rangers who are hitting him every chance they can.
It’s been a sound strategy for New York – smother Giroux and let everyone else beat you. At times it’s worked. Game 5 it didn’t really.
Oh, they still hit Giroux – a lot. There was a slash across the hands on a 2-on-1. There was a cross check to the lower back. There were hits upon hits along the wall.
Giroux’s got to be feeling it physically. Him getting hit repeatedly is certainly as much of New York’s game plan as dropping to a knee to block shots and embellishing penalties.
But in Game 5, Giroux found some room. Not a lot of room – but enough to get noticed.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – The list this season has been lengthy. It goes something like this:
In the playoffs it’s been Akeson, who has held his own and actually impressed with his play. But that’s the point – no matter who you put with Read and Couturier, it’s probably going to work.
Downie had his best stretch of the season playing with them. Hartnell got out of an early-season funk on that line. Raffl earned himself a new contract with his play there (among other places). Rinaldo looked good there too prior to his end-of-season suspension.
And now it’s Akeson, who has more playoff games to his credit (four) than regular season games (two).
After all, it was Akeson who made the smart play to miss a shot on purpose to have a hard shot carom off the lively end boards onto the stick of Read for the tying goal in Game 4.
And as good as he’s looked in these games – and this isn’t a knock on Akeson – but he probably looks better because he’s playing with Read and Couturier.
They have that ability to do that. They make you look good. Mostly because of their disciplined, defense-first approach to the game.
Click ("Full Story" for more...)
VOORHEES, N.J. – The Flyers will be adding another option to their playoff stable.
Scott Laughton, considered the Flyers top forward prospect, will join the team in the next day or so after finishing his season in the OHL Wednesday.
Laughton, 19, will join the Flyers following a successful season with the Oshawa Generals. Laughton finished with 87 points in 54 regular season games for Oshawa, tallying 40 goals. He also had a fine playoff run with the Generals posting four goals and seven assists for 11 points in nine playoff games. His Oshawa team lost in the OHL Eastern Conference Finals to North Bay four games to none.
Laughton missed three playoff games earlier in the playoffs serving an automatic suspension after being assessed a match penalty for a hit with the butt end of his stick in the series against the Peterborough Petes. When a match penalty is called in a game in the OHL there is an automatic minimum suspension of three games. If the penalty was just a major penalty with a game misconduct, it still would have come under review, but a suspension was not automatic.
Laughton played five games for the Flyers at the start of the shortened 2012-2013 season before being returned to Oshawa. A candidate to make the team out of training camp last September, the Flyers opted to send Laughton back for one final junior season.
It isn’t certain whether Laughton is just being recalled to join the black aces or if he has a legitimate shot to see some playing time in the playoffs, however if Laughton plays more than nine playoff games, he would lose his first year eligibility on his entry level contract.
That gives the Flyers some leeway if they chose to put him in the mix at some point.
Laughton was selected by the Flyers in the first round (No. 20 overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.