In a previous article about the Philadelphia Flyers’ trade deadline options, my suggested plan of action for general manager Ron Hextall was to stand pat and see what this team can do. The reasoning was that the Flyers have been at the top of the league and at the bottom this season so they weren’t in a position to buy but still not in a position to sell. Also, the organization has a great stockpile of promising prospects and draft picks that hold more value than a rental player at this point.
Hextall stayed quiet on deadline day and made a minor move claiming Johnny Oduya off waivers to add some depth.
The Flyers’ GM has always preached that he wants to grow from within since joining the organization. He has done a great job of drafting players such as Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, German Rubtsov, Carter Hart, and Oskar Lindblom who all look like they’re going to be roster players in the coming years. He has the Flyers organization trending in the right direction and its because of decisions like not selling future for rentals.
While he could have done something to bring in impact players, you’re always going to pay more at the trade deadline because the seller is in a position of strength. He could have taken a leap at Rick Nash or Evander Kane but I have to ask, are the Flyers a Stanley Cup team this year? That is still to be determined.
Hextall Instilling Confidence
By not making any moves at the deadline, Hextall threw down the gauntlet to the Flyers players and let them know he has faith in them, and it wasn’t the first time this season. Prior to the deadline, he acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to give the team a boost and show that he was going to give them the best chance at success.
Confidence is a loose term in sports and sometimes the effect it has on a player or team is underestimated. In Hextall’s tenure, he has managed the team very well and his decisions should be recognized. Earlier this season, Flyers fans were calling for head coach Dave Hakstol to be fired. Hextall publicly supported Hakstol which was a confidence boost for both him and the players.
Like a supervisor who needs to pick up an employee from time to time, a general manager needs to do the same with his staff and players. It’s one of the many intangibles that Hextall brings to the table and is probably a trick he picked up while he was an NHL goalie. He is a born leader that is doing everything he can to help the Flyers get back to glory.
The Flyers have looked refreshed since their 10-game losing streak. Of course, there are going to be bumps in the road but that is all part of the learning curve. Hextall is guiding the Flyers in a positive direction, one that may lead to a Stanley Cup in the near future.
Win or Lose – Flyers Do It Together
Hextall, with the help of the Flyers coaches, has created an environment for success. Earlier in the season, the team wasn’t winning and even though they didn’t have the right answers for the media they kept their heads up and battled through the adversity. It’s easy for a dressing room to become toxic during losing skids but the Flyers brass seemed to weather the storm and get the Flyers back on the right track.
When you watch them on the ice, the team is having fun. The guys are joking around and you can tell they’re a very confident bunch. When they’re winning you can feel the energy but even when they’re losing they look like a strong bunch that won’t throw each under the bus.
Prior to the loss against the Carolina Hurricanes, they had earned points in the previous 12 games. After a great month in February, they rocketed up the standings to first in the Metropolitan Division. They’re doing all the little things right and are playing like a team. Players are stepping up for each other and everyone is contributing in some form.
Flyers a Dark Horse Heading Into the Playoffs
It’s easy to look at the team now and say that they’re playing better than they should be. It’s also easy to say that they’ve had a few lucky bounces and that when playoff time rolls around they’ll come back down to earth. A lot of fans and teams may think that but the fact that they’re doing this with three rookies on their roster (Patrick, Lindblom and Robert Hagg) as well as without one of their top power-play guys, Simmonds, in the lineup is impressive.
It is going to take a lot of work to maintain this level of play down the stretch. They’re going to need players like Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mrazek to continue playing at a high level and they’re also going to need to stay healthy because another injury to any one of their big guys would be a critical hit.
If the Flyers continue to pour it on and win the Metropolitan they’ll have a favourable matchup going into the first round and home ice pretty much throughout. Home ice is going to be important because the Flyers have been a strong home team (16-10-6) and because in the playoffs the Wells Fargo Center is rocking.
The battle for the division title and the playoff race is getting interesting. At the time of writing, the Flyers are second in the division with 18 games remaining. They’re going to need a strong push and it all starts with getting back in the win column tomorrow against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers are going to be a team to watch if they get into the playoffs.