When John Paddock left the Flyers front office in January to become an assistant coach for the team, it left an opening at a key position in the Flyers hierarchy – assistant general manager.
When asked, at the time, if he was going to fill the position, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren paused before saying, “not at this time.”
It was a hint that at some point, the plan was to get someone into that chair that made sense – and when the time was right.
Holmgren announced that he was bringing back a former Flyers player and executive to take over that role, naming Ron Hextall the Assistant G.M. as well as Director of Hockey Operations.
Hextall, who signed a multi-year deal, will begin his new job with the team August 1.
"Im excited about it," he said. "Quite frankly it came together in a very short period of time. I had a brief conversation with [Holmgren] at the draft and since then it kind of steamrolled toward the resolution today. It's kind of bittersweet for me because I had a great time in L.A. and I won the Stanley cup and that’s the pinnacle... I know you want to hear more, but it was [simply] a gut felling and that’s what I went with."
Asked to expand on the "gut feeling" Hextall said there were a few little things that contributed to the decision, but ultimately he made it because it felt right.
"There are a few things that happened over the years that have affected me," he said. "My family is out east and I have ties with the Flyers. A lot of little things that went into it, but I’m following my gut here with what I think was the right move."
Hextall, 49, returns to the Flyers organization after spending 1999 through 2006 as part of the staff working first as a pro scout and later as the Director of Pro Hockey Personnel.
He left the Flyers after the 2005-06 season to become the Vice President and Assistant General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings, a team he helped mold into a Stanley Cup Champion in 2012.
Hextall's contract expired with the Kings at the end of June, and Holmgren began talking to him at the NHL Draft. Knowing Hextall's family is based more on the East Coast, the idea to bring him back in the fold and re-organize the staff came up rather quickly.
"I jumped at it," Holmgren said of the opportunity to bring Hextall back. "I think it's great to add a person with his quality and knowledge. He's been with Los Angeles the last number of years and he's had a lot of success and I'm certain he has a lot of different ideas - more different ideas than when he was here [the last time]. So. I think it's a real big deal for the Flyers organization."
Hextall added that he viewed this decision as a lateral move - since he will have similar responsibilities with the Flyers as he did the Kings - but said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi left the door open for him to make one lateral move from L.A. - and that was to return to Philadelphia.
Hextall said he maintains a good relationship with Lombardi and believes he's a more astute executive now than he was when he left seven years ago.
"I think the one thing they say is the more guys you work for the smarter you become," Hextall said, heaping praise on Bob Clarke and Lombardi, his last two bosses. "Anything you can expose yourself to is educating. I learned an awful lot in L.A. and I’ve had a blast."
The ultimate goal for Hextall remains to be a general manager himself in the NHL someday. Holmgren thinks he's one of the most well-respected assistants in the league and that it's only a matter of time before he becomes a general manager.
Some believe, he is Holmgren's heir apparent. However, Hextall wants a shot anywhere in the league, not just here in Philadelphia.
"I do want to be a GM," Hextall said. "I told [Holmgren] if something else becomes available I want to look at it and he’s fine with it."
Despite Hextall taking on new roles, Holmgren said the rest of his staff will stay on board, but some people will have new titles.
"Nobody's role is really going to change," Holmgren said. "Over the past few years, some guys assumed different roles and some titles probably don't make sense now. [Former Director of Hockey Operations] Chris [Pryor] is heavily involved in our scouting, so he is the Director of Scouting. Dave Brown, who was the director of Pro Scouting is now going to be our head pro scout. John Paddock is going to assume the Director of Player Personnel title and continue his role with the hockey club.
"Barry Hanrahan obviously will have his role remain the same as he is the other assistant general manager in charge of the salary cap and financial issues with the hockey club."
While with the Kings, Hextall also served as the General Manager of the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary affiliate.
During his tenure overseeing the farm system, the Monarchs went 290-205-24-32 in seven seasons reaching the Calder Cup Playoffs in each season, including twice making the Conference Finals.
As a player, Hextall appeared in 489 regular season games during his 11-year Flyers career (1986-87 through 1991-92 and 1994-95 through 1998-99 seasons), posting a 240-172-58 record and 2.91 goals-against average. His 489 games played and 240 wins as a Flyer rank him first all-time in Flyers history. In 84 playoff games for the Flyers, Hextall registered a 45-36 record and 2.95 GAA. His 45 playoff wins are the most in Flyers history.
He became the 19th member of the team to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame on Feb. 6, 2008.
Hextall was feted five years ago because of his combination of great skill in goal as well as his colorful approach to playing the game.
As a rookie during the 1986-87 season, Hextall posted a 37-21-6 record, 2.52 GAA and one shutout in 66 regular season games. He led the NHL in games played (66), wins (37) and minutes played (3,799).
He compiled a 15-11 record, 2.77 GAA and two shutouts in 26 playoff games as the Flyers advanced to the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals.
He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and NHL First All-Star Team for the 1986-87 season. In addition, he won the Vezina Trophy as “the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position” and the Conn Smythe Trophy as “the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs”.
The 1986-87 season was the first of five seasons that Hextall recorded 30 or more wins (only goaltender in Flyers history to post five 30-win seasons - 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1995-96 and 1996-97).
On December 8, 1987, Hextall became the first NHL goalie to score a goal by shooting the puck into the opposing net as the Flyers defeated the Boston Bruins at the Spectrum, 5-2.
He repeated the feat when he became the first goalie to record a playoff goal as the Flyers defeated the Washington Capitals at the Capital Centre in Game Five of the Patrick Division Semifinals, 8-5, on April 11, 1989.
He was traded by Flyers, along with Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, a first round pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, $15 million and future considerations (Chris Simon and a first round pick in 1994 NHL Entry Draft) to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for Eric Lindros on June 30, 1992.
After two seasons with Quebec (1992-93) and the New York Islanders (1993-94), he was traded by the Islanders, along with a sixth round pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, to the Flyers in exchange for Tommy Soderstrom on September 22, 1994.
He still holds Flyers records for most penalty minutes by a goaltender in one season (113 in 1988-89) and most points by a goaltender in one season (8 in 1988-89).
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