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April 29, 2016

Leftovers from the 3 H’s: Hextall, Hakstol and Holmgren

One day after the Flyers held their exit interviews, three important members of the team’s brass appraised the 2015-16 season and looked ahead to a busy summer: president Paul Holmgren, general manager Ron Hextall, and coach Dave Hakstol.

On Wednesday, we focused on a couple of pressing issues, the need for added size/scoring up front as well as a possible appeal of Brayden Schenn’s three-game suspension. Here is some of the best of the rest from the 3 H’s:

Hexy thinks the Flyers could have beaten the Caps

“I’m not going to throw rose petals around” was the GM’s line about not being satisfied after losing to the Caps in 6. The general feeling after the series, one in which the Flyers won a game that they were outshot 44-11 in, was that the Orange and Black simply lost to a better team.

Hextall doesn’t think it’s that simple. He said the Flyers (with the exception of Game 5) “weren’t that bad” in 5-on-5 situations. It’s true that special teams did hurt the Orange and Black throughout the series, specifically early on.

“I’m not kidding myself and saying we’re a better team,” Hextall said. “There’s a difference between saying a series was winnable and you’re a better team. They were the best team in the league. I’m not ready to say we’re a better team. It’s not right, it’s not fair. But again, it was a winnable series and those are the things you got to learn from.”

Flyers will continue to be conservative with young guys

Holmgren put it well on Comcast SportsNet the other day:

There is much excitement surrounding the Flyers’ prospect pipeline, especially because there are more highly touted young players than the guy who just took the NHL by storm. Just don’t tell the general manager.

Shayne Gostisbehere is a prime example of Hextall’s “prove it” philosophy. The Calder candidate didn’t make the team out of training camp and was only OK at the start of the AHL season in Hextall’s estimation. Gostisbehere’s play started to pick up, but he was only promoted because the Flyers had a need for a defenseman due to an injury to Mark Streit.

“So I was like okay, we have a huge need here when Mark [Streit] went down and to his credit he was day to day, game to game, and here for the rest of the year and obviously helped our team,” Hextall said. “If I had put him on the team during training camp, what message am I putting to kids as well as every other player on our team that this kid was basically put on our team rather than earned a spot on the team."

Last year’s two first-round picks, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, have a shot to make the Flyers roster after impressive junior seasons. Under Hextall’s watch, they will have to earn it, though.

“I'm not putting a player on the team so we can say we're a young team,” Hextall said. “They're going to come in here and earn a spot."

A question of structure

Ed Snider’s death meant a lot of things to the Flyers, but now the front office has to officially figure out the procedure of making decisions without him. For example, Snider was the team’s representative on the NHL’s Board of Governors. Holmgren mentioned Comcast CEO Brian Roberts as a possible replacement, but he admitted that is a question he can’t provide an answer to right now.

Despite the fact that Comcast sold the Sixers to Josh Harris’ group in 2011, Holmgren thinks the Flyers won’t be changing hands.

"I know that from talking with Brian Roberts, he wants to win,” Holmgren said. “He wants to win in the worst way. [Comcast Spectacor president] Dave Scott, I'm getting to know. He made the comment there that being around the hockey team is a lot more fun than doing cable TV stuff and it is.”

The structure still seems a little murky, but with the prudent Hextall operating within his budget, the Flyers should have time to figure out concrete answers to some of these important questions.

“There’s no real, ‘I got to go to so and so,’” Hextall said. “I go to Homer, we discuss it. It makes sense, then he can talk to Brian, he can talk to Dave, I talk to Dave, I talk to Brian once in a while. So right now there’s not exactly a thing established, but I always go to Homer.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann