Let's rewind back to the 1986-1987 season when a young Ron Hextall had an unprecedented rookie campaign where he took the Flyers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals before eventually loosing. Hextall did win the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process and became the Flyers best goaltender since Bernie Parent during the seventies who backstopped the franchise to their only two Stanley Cup Championships. Ron Hextall played 11 seasons for the Flyers and finished as one of its all time greats. His best statistical season came in 1995-1996 where he posted career bests with 2.17 Goals Against Average (led the NHL) and a career best .913 Save Percentage. Unfortunately, Hexy as he became known to by the Flyers faithful never was able to bring the Stanley Cup back to Philly. Now let's take a spin on the goaltender carousel we call Gritty.
37. That is the number of goalies that have started a game for the Philadelphia Flyers since the Ron Hextall era. Wendell Young, Mark LaForest, Ken Wreggett, Marc D'amour, Bruce Hoffert, Dominic Roussel, Tommy Soderstom, Stephane Beauregard, Frederic Chabot, Garth Snow, Sean Burke, John Vanbiesbrouck, Jean-Marc Pelltier, Brian Boucher, Maxime Oullet, Roman Chechmanek, Neil Little, Robert Eshe, Antero Nittymaki, Jeff Hackett, Michael Leighton, Martin Houle, Martin Biron, Ray Emery, Jeremy Duchesne, Johan Backlund, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Bryzgalov, Steve Mason, Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp, Michael Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, Petr Mrazek, Alex Lyon, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard. That's a pretty long list of goalies, some of which were relevant and some which were just a flash in the pan.
The purpose of this list is to show the ineptitude of the most important position in hockey that the Flyers have displayed throughout the years. Sure, there were a few bright spots, most notably Brian Boucher, Steve Mason, and Roman Chechmanek. Likewise, there were one hit wonders like John Vanbiesbrouck, Robert Eshe, Ray Emery, and Michael Leighton. Yes, the one that got away...Sergei Bobrovsky (2x Vezina Trophy Winner). And then there was the nut case Bryzgalov, who I still think is on the Flyers payroll somehow. You get the point...the city of Philadelphia and Goalies does not mix. For over 30 years, the Flyers have been trying to get things right at this one position and for 30 years they have failed. That is up until now.
That is where I am hedging my bet on Carter Hart who will be the face of the Flyers for the next ten to fifteen seasons. I know that he is only 20 years old and this is a ton of pressure to put on a kid that has only a handful of AHL games under his belt. However; I am telling you that the time is now for this kid. The future is yesterdays news. It may have only been injuries that got Hart into an NHL game, but in my opinion the Flyers should keep him on the NHL roster, even when Brian Elliott returns. Hart can be the backup and learn from the veteran Elliott who has some experience grooming young goalies (most notably Jake Allen in St Louis).
Carter Hart has a ton of skill and needs to be thrown in the fire. The modern NHL and MLB does a very poor job of handling prospects in my opinion. Many of these prospects are held back out of fear that they will endure failure thus ruining their confidence. In reality, its the exact opposite. Failure is what will improve their confidence as they are able to overcome adversity and shine on the big stage (just ask Eagles QB Nick Foles). This is where we are at with Carter Hart. The Flyers organization has nothing to loose by keeping him on the roster. Right now today, at 20 years old, he provides them the best option in net and gives them the best chance to win. The New Jersey Devils faced a similar situation with a young Martin Brodeur back in 1993-1994 and we all know how that story turned out. Ride the tide Fly Guys.
This team needs excitement and that is what Hart will bring to the table. He may be young but his skill set far outweighs his age. He is ready for the big stage, you can just tell after last nights win against the Detroit Red Wings. Hart is polished and focused. He was razor sharp in net during his debut. Sure, there will be bumps in the road. There will be growing pains. I see an awakening here. A struggling team that just fired its GM and coach in the past two weeks. A team that lacks an identity. Well that identity has arrived and its # is 79. Carter Hart is not only the Flyers goalie of the future, he is the goalie of the present and the Flyers will be better for it. The carousel may finally be coming to an end and that is sweet news to all of the Flyer faithful that have been nothing but supportive of this franchise, even through all of the ineptitude and dysfunction. Welcome to Philadelphia MR. Hart!