January 05, 2018
There was a time, really not that long ago, when the Flyers were consistent Stanley Cup contenders. It was a given throughout the National Hockey League that when you came to Philadelphia, you better brace yourself for a hard-knocks game and make sure to pack plenty of ice bags to sooth the bruises on the plane ride home.
But what happened earlier this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins was an embarrassment, one that could be logged with a number of other humiliating setbacks the Flyers have suffered this season.
The refrain is a familiar one: Lackluster play, costly turnovers and stoic, emotionless hockey. They still sit in last place in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division with a record of 17-15-8 (42 points). And they are still stuck in the great-game-followed-by-a-poor-game mode that they can’t seem to shake.
Perhaps there is one figure in the Flyers’ organization that could shake it out of them out of their current malaise: general manager Ron Hextall.
Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick was on the NBC broadcast team as a studio analyst during the Penguins’ 5-1 thumping of the Flyers, where Pittsburgh’s fourth line scored two goals in a four-goal second period. After the game, he made a great point, basically calling out the Flyers’ young players to see who will step up the second half of the season to make a playoff push.
The catalyst needs to be Hextall.
"The Flyers right now are teetering on going to the playoffs or going into free-fall," Roenick said. "To me – I said this on the broadcast – we’re going to see who has the gall, who has the stones, who has the pride. It’s a new year, starting the second half of the season and you just came off a three-day break from Christmas. You should be nice and rested.
"And they got thumped at home — by their archrival. It was funny because a question was posed to [Pittsburgh’s] Ryan Reaves the other day about how was their intensity and the attitude knowing they were going up to play their archrival tonight. Ryan Reaves goes, ‘We played our archrival last week in Columbus.’ You have the Pittsburgh Penguins not looking at the Flyers as their rival anymore.
"If these players on this team don’t get a burr under their ass and fight for what that Flyer emblem means, and they’re not embarrassed to losing 5-1 on their home ice, to the Pittsburgh Penguins who’ve they’ve played very well over the last couple of years, then they’ve got the wrong players on their team."
Roenick stated this evaluation time will be crucial to a number of the veterans on this team. He also reiterated that he’s a big fan of Flyers’ coach Dave Hakstol and his even demeanor.
He’s a huge supporter of Hextall, who continues to preach patience as this young team matures.
"Listen, Ronny is a very, very smart hockey man," Roenick said. "He was part of building a Stanley Cup winner in Los Angeles. He knows the game. Ron [when he played] was known as a hard-ass. He was someone who going to beat the s--- out to you. That mentality he was known by, and now his beloved in Philly because of it, that mentality has to start coming out.
"You feared No. 27 [Hextall]. You had No. 16 [Bobby Clarke] and 27 symbolized what being a Flyers is all about. You came to Philadelphia and feared playing those guys. When I look at Ron Hextall, I’m still intimidated even now. Ronny talks, I’m listening. I think the man is great, I really do. The guys on the ice have to understand the history behind the crest of their sweater and how they’ve been known for over 40 years. These guys have a responsibility to uphold the mentality and the tradition of this team."
Prior to the Flyers’ 6-4 win over the New York Islanders Thursday night, Hextall was asked about the identity of his maddeningly inconsistent team.
"It’s hard, the identity of any team in the National Hockey League right now, it’s not like it used to be, where you had the big bruising team or the real skilled team," he said. "Now, it’s not as definitive as it used to be. It’s no different than a hockey play used to look and say every player had an identity, whether it was a tough guy, a checker, a scorer. Now, it’s players that are good two-way players, it’s the same with the identity of a team.
"Our foundation though is work ethic, being hard to play against and we need to be that on a more consistent basis."
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