Writer and Blogger for PhillyRockRadio.com.
In essence, Clark failed to win one championship ring during his 22 years as the general manager of the Flyers. And Clark's legacy showed that he was always willing to spend money and bring in talent and the team was extremely successful during the regular season, but always came up short in the playoffs. One common theme of the Clark regime was a propensity to bring in big name players with large contracts that always seemed to be on the decline. Clark was famous for making big trades at the deadline by selling off youth for end of season rental players that failed miserably. He was also guilty of trading away all of the team's draft picks leaving their farm system in shambles. In conclusion, Clark will be remembered as the gm that almost did enough every year, but never was able to win the prize.
When Bobby Clark resigned in 2006, another former player, Paul Holmgren took the reigns. Holmgren was able to take the flyers to the Stanley Cup just one time during his tenure. He made the same exact mistakes when it came to trading away youth as well as signing overpriced star players that were past their prime. The highlight of his career as general manager was in 2010, when the team made it to the finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. The team lost the series in six games after an exciting playoff run that saw the team become only the third professional sports team to overcome a 3-0 playoff series hole with Boston in the first round. After that season, the team traded away all of their core players away in was seemed to be a rebuilding process. But then they signed big name free agent Vincent Lecavalier to an astronomical contract that once again turned out to be a mistake.
Now enter Ron Hextall. Former player...check. Former scout...check. Former GM...check. And now to the most important fact; the fact that the Los Angeles Kings had won the Stanley Cup under Hextall's thumb as their GM. The elusive trophy that the Flyers have not been able to capture was already won by Ron in a short period of time. Thus far, Hextall has not made many flashy free agent moves nor has the team had playoff success. However; what he has brought to the table is the ability to rebuild through young talent along with not trading away core players. In fact, Hextall has this team set up for stardom in the near future. The moves that he has made have been calculated and with purpose. He has also been able to shed many of the overpriced roster spots by way of salary dumps which in turn makes rebuilding much easier.
His latest salary trade was in January when he traded away Vinny Lecavlier and Luke Schenn for a prospect as well as a third round draft pick. Of course, the team must eat some of Vinny's contract, but now they have more room under the cap. He was also able to move Chris Pronger (retired) and another overpaid defenseman Niklass Grossman for Sam Gagner and another draft pick. The team was also able to unload the high contract of Scott Hartnell for RJ. Umberger who came much cheaper and for less years. Hextall has also made many other roster moves that has saved money. Since he took over, the team went from 27th in cap space too #12. So the first major difference is that he has helped the team with the cap.
Secondly, he has inherited more draft picks to combine with the Flyers own picks without trading them away for pricey free agents. The team has some awesome youth on the horizon along with Shayne Ghostibehere (Defense) that will be in the Calder Trophy conversation come the end of the year. The team also has Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nicolas Aube-Kuble, and Travis Sanheim (all high draft picks) in the minors who are close to making an impact on the roster for years to come. This is not even including some of the under the radar players that come from out of nowhere. So if you add the future draft picks+future stars+current roster this formula translates to a very good hockey team that could have the success that this city has so desired.
Finally, Ron Hextall has made some key moves at the goalie position, an area that the Flyers have always undervalued. Steve Mason was a great late season pickup and the team actually stole Michael Neuvirth who is only 27 years of age and is 16-7-4, .927 Save Percentage (2nd), 2.22 GAA (5th) and 3 shutouts in 26 games. The team also has a few goaltending prospects as well as the multitude of draft picks that are at their disposal. The bottom line is that Ron Hextall is playing his cards exactly how he should be. He is looking to the future instead of making quick fix roster moves that never pan out. And he is also saving the cap room that the team normally spends on free agents to instead have for all of the young talent that the team will have to sign. And, the team is third in the wildcard race in the eastern conference, so they remain competitive. The future of this team is bright and in HEXY WE TRUST.