By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com
Hockey is still being played. Good hockey is still being played. The Flyers aren’t playing hockey. Some are, but those games don’t matter unless you care for the Olympics. We’re in the offseason in Philadelphia.
No head coach. No playoffs for the second time in three years.
There actually is hope for the Flyers. It just requires patience, which is hard to do anywhere but especially here.
Except this town can be patient, and it’ll embrace patience, so long as there is a direction and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Case in point: the Philadelphia 76ers. They have hope. They’re building something. That something might not work. Or that something might churn out NBA championship teams.
But there’s a plan.
The Flyers have one too.
They’re building something, but they’re building something out of what they already have. They have young players who have potential, who haven’t hit their ceilings yet. They have a farm system with promising defensive prospects, and that’s refreshing. Oh, and they actually have a goalie too.
Come next year, they’ll have a new direction behind the bench. We don’t know who that is, but we can bet general manager Ron Hextall will do all he can to make that voice Mike Babcock.
The only thing we do know is, it will be Hextall’s guy. And we should place our faith in Hextall.
Process is talked about a lot in Philadelphia. Mostly at the NovaCare Complex and PCOM. We don’t really hear process with the Flyers. The Phillies? Who knows what they’re doing.
We should be talking about process with the Flyers. Hextall has a plan, and it’s building a winner for years to come. It’s about building a team that can win Stanley Cups, not a Stanley Cup. He’s not about going all-in for one run that we’ve seen fail so many times here with the Flyers.
Hextall understands the importance of having a farm system. He understands the importance of developing players. He understands trading young guys for old guys doesn’t work as often as we believe.
His process includes smart, cap-friendly contracts and excludes signing the Vinny Lecavaliers of the world that leave you strapped against the cap with an aging player and an immovable contract.
It requires backing of the ownership, and Hextall has it. Ed Snider supported Hextall’s decision to fire Craig Berube. On Tuesday, Snider told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “We’re going to be extremely patient with all of the young players we have coming.
“He’s going to do everything in his power to produce a winner as soon as possible, which means it could be trades, it could be coaching, it could be all kinds of things.”
As soon as possible doesn’t mean tomorrow. Snider used “extremely patient” when he as talking about young players. Those words used to never come out of Snider’s mouth. It’s a sign Snider believes in the process, and it’s an indicator that the Flyers indeed do have a plan.
At the moment, the Flyers are in a strange place. They’re stuck in mediocrity. Their defense needs a lot of work. They need skill on the wings.
But the process is in play, and the process says this thing won’t be built overnight.
So far, so good.
Since taking over as GM, Hextall has put an emphasis on picks and developing players.
For Braydon Coburn, they netted a second first-round pick and another third-rounder in one of the deepest drafts we’ve seen in a while, as well as Radko Gudas.
For Kimmo Timonen, they received a second-round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional 2016 pick that easily could become another second-round pick.
That second-round pick in June’s draft replaces the one the Flyers lost in the Andrew MacDonald deal.
They’ll have 10 picks this year.
“We got some pieces, a lot of young prospects, a lot of picks,” Hextall said after trading Coburn to the Lightning. “This is only the first part. We’ve got to make them count. We’ve got a lot of work to do. When you look at young players, young assets, we’ve got a lot of them coming.
“That is what excites us when you try to build a top team for an extended period of time. We’re on our way to that. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Hextall is the right man to build it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)