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Paul Holmgren, Dave Scott discuss the decision to fire “unyielding” Ron Hextall as GM

The men who made the decision to fire Ron Hextall had good things to say about him, but also made it clear that the team needs to be better now.

2013 NHL Draft Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Just more than 24 hours after making the shocking decision to remove Ron Hextall as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, team president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott sat down for about 20 minutes and talked with the Philadelphia media about said decision. You can watch it here. Here were some of the overarching themes from the presser.

This move was made because the team needs to be better now

“Paul and I have been in constant communication over the last several weeks, really pondering the team performance, and the bottom line is that we just thought that we needed to make more progress.” — Scott

“We talked at length about this decision, and for me, I sort of boiled it down to one question: do I think that we can do better as a team now, not two years or three years from now, but now, and I think that answer was yes.” — Scott

“We had 98 points last year. We were a playoff team. We got beat in a good series in Pittsburgh, in six games. We thought the next step was to get better. We’re a quarter of the way into the season, and where are we at this quarter compared to the last five quarters under Ron’s term? We’re kind of the same.” — Holmgren

They still think Hextall did a lot of good things ... but he may have been a little too unyielding for their tastes

“I do want to acknowledge Ron Hextall. I talked to him yesterday, and these things aren’t easy but we’re all working through it. I think he left us in a good place, as I look at it. I think certainly, we’ve got a younger team now, we’ve got cap space, we’ve got a good farm system, so I’m feeling very good about that.” — Scott

“Hexy, in his time as general manager, has put this organization in a good spot, with the young players that are in place right now, with our farm system, our prospect cupboard is full, there’s some cap space, which is always a good thing. Having said that, I just felt, in the best interest of the organization, it was time to ... look for a new voice with a different mindset that can push the team to the next level.” — Holmgren

“Both of us have echoed how good of a position Ron’s put the organization in. Ultimately, I got to the point, obviously talking with Dave and talking with Brian Roberts, I thought it was necessary to push our team forward, to have a different mindset in that chair. Are there things Ron was thinking about doing to the team? I don’t know. He was unyielding in his plan, and remained that way. And good for him. He’s a well thought-out, deep-thinking guy. He put us in a good position. But I think in order to put the team in a better position moving forward, we needed to do what we did.” — Holmgren

“He was very confident in his plan and his vision, and Paul said it, he wasn’t going to waver from that plan. So to me, to Paul, this is the fifth year, and you guys look at the same data we look at, we thought it was time for a change.” — Scott

“Whoever the GM is now has a lot at his disposal.” — Holmgren

“When I say Ron, and give him credit, he was unyielding in his approach, unyielding. Are there things he could’ve done to make the team better today? I don’t know that. But I think ... he had his plans and he was sticking to them. You can slice and dice that any way you want. There’s some things I’m not going to disclose, because they are proprietary information, and that’s what it is. I’ll leave it at that.” — Holmgren

The new GM search is underway

“We’ve [Paul and I] worked together closely, and our number one priority going forward is getting this new GM hired. Paul’s an experienced leader, he’s been with us 40 years, president, GM, head coach ... love working with him, he’s so well liked inside our organization, and respected in the whole hockey community, I think he’s going to do a great job heading up this search, and I can tell you i’m committed to getting the right fit long-term for the Flyers’ organization.” — Scott

“We’re gonna go through a thorough process, and talk to candidates. I said earlier, fresh outlook, fresh approach. ... I do have calls from a number of people that are interested. This is ... the Flyers are a world-renowned organization and a banner franchise in the NHL. It’s a top job, and there’ll be a lot of people that are interested.” — Holmgren

“Our goal is weeks, not months. We want to get the right fit, but it’s a full-court press.” — Scott, on the timeline for a decision

Whoever that GM is, he’s gonna be makin’ some moves

“Dave and I have had a lot of conversations over the last number of weeks about where we’re at and where we’re going ... we are one-quarter of the way through the season, there’s lots of hockey to be played, maybe there’s things that can be done, as I said earlier, maybe with a different mindset in the general manager’s position, we can push this team forward.” — Holmgren

“You have to look at everything, but we’re very focused on the trade deadline coming up, February 25th, and we think there could be some opportunities could be out there and frankly we don’t want to miss out.” — Scott

“The difference between Ron and I, and we had a lot of debate ... I was an aggressive guy, Ron was more of a deep-thought-out [guy]. I think both approaches had good qualities, both approaches probably had bad qualities when you drill right down to it. But we’re here today to do what’s right in my mind, and in Dave’s mind, what’s right for the organization.” — Holmgren, in response to a question (from BSH Radio’s own Charlie O’Connor!) about the differences between his aggressive approach as a general manager and Hextall’s more passive one

“We’re looking for bright, energetic, strategic thinkers, but also balancing that with a bias for action and really making some things happen.” — Scott

“If you’re a general manager in the NHL, they all have assets at their disposal, right? So, it’s up to them to decide which ones are core guys, which ones are guys that you can move forward with and are gonna be a big part of things, and which guys aren’t. We go back to what Ron did, he’s done tremendous things in improving our prospect pool.” — Holmgren

Hakstol’s job status was not the breaking point, and he’s got their support ... for now

“Absolutely not. It never came up. That was Ron’s decision all along, and it was never discussed with me.” — Holmgren, when asked whether the breaking point was Hextall deciding not to fire Hakstol

“My feeling right now is that, under the circumstances, with the injuries in particular to our goaltenders, you can question it if you want, I think the coaching staff’s done a decent job under the situations that they’re in.” — Holmgren

“He knows that we’re gonna look for a GM. All I could offer Dave yesterday was my support, I said if there’s anything I can do to help you do your job better, to feel free to come and talk to me about it. Talked a little bit about his staff moving forward, that was about it. The players know, the coaches know, we all know, it’s about winning, and we haven’t been winning enough games lately.” — Holmgren

Some other notes, including other things mentioned by the beat writers at the post-conference scrums that were not televised:

  • The decision to fire Hextall was reportedly Holmgren’s, but was done with Scott’s support.
  • Asked about a sentiment reportedly expressed by Pierre McGuire (without explicitly mentioning said report) that a key split between Hextall and Holmgren was how they wanted to handle Carter Hart in his timeline to the NHL, Holmgren said he was “in line with Ron’s thinking about Carter Hart”, but only after about a 10-second pause between the end of the question and him starting to provide his answer, so take that how you will.
  • Scott stopped short of saying that there were business considerations (i.e. monetary concerns from the ownership) that led to the decision to drop Hextall, saying that they’re happy with the reports they get on attendance.
  • Current indications are that the next GM will be someone from outside of the organization. Asked specifically about Dean Lombardi, Holmgren stated that Lombardi told them he wasn’t interested in taking over his old partner’s job.
  • Apparently the Flyers had a conversation about bringing in Joel Quenneville but Hextall resisted, so we can rest assured he’ll be an option for whoever the next GM is (provided Quenneville doesn’t get hired before then). That this apparently happened is not shocking; that this was stated out loud to the media with Hakstol still coaching the team feels maybe a little too on-the-nose (to say nothing about the fact that saying it out loud it might be tampering, given that Quenneville is still getting paid by the Blackhawks).
  • Scott made it fairly clear that he wanted to see more action from Hextall in recent months, including in this past year’s draft (when the Flyers went into the first round with two picks).