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Kingerski: Clarke’s Angry Criticism of Hextall Exposed Why Flyers are Failing, Again

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Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall, Nolan Patrick, Bobby Clarke
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall, Nolan Patrick, Bobby Clarke: Photo Courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers

It was a boon for our business and hockey chatter across North America. After a sigh, a breath, and a slight hesitation, former Philadelphia Flyers GM and current senior advisor Bobby Clarke figuratively shredded current Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall for his performance as the Flyers GM from 2014-18.

During a podcast on Tuesday, Clarke backed the truck up and dumped the blame for the Flyers’ current struggles on Hextall. Bad drafts, a bad trade, and refusing a good trade were part of the grievances. According to Clarke, when Hextall traded Brayden Schenn at the 2018 NHL Draft, it was without others’ input or knowledge. Clarke also said the Flyers could have acquired Ryan O’Reilly in 2018, but Hextall declined.

Oh, and Hextall’s first-round-pick foibles, most notably not drafting current superstar Cale Makar in 2017, was also done without input from the scouts or Clarke.

“…He alienated everybody, right away. Shut his door. He locked the doors. He was the boss, and nobody else was part of it,” Clarke said.

As part of the Cam & Strick podcast hosted by former NHL’er Cam Janssen and reporter Andy Strickland, the interview went viral. Everybody buzzed over the takedown. Of the Schenn trade, Clarke groused.

“I sat at the table three seats away from him. When he traded Schenn, I didn’t have a clue.”

The Real Issue

But the reality of the comments was immediately evident, too. Ron Hextall didn’t consult Bobby Clarke, which was the great sin. The rumors were that Flyers president and former Flyers GM Paul Holmgren also felt excluded from the decisions.

The two former GMs looking over Hextall’s shoulder didn’t like how their former protege-turned-GM excluded them.

Gee, that doesn’t sound like two men putting ego above results. And that is why the Flyers are in a heap of trouble against the salary cap and will likely miss the playoffs, again.

Our colleague Sam Carchidi of Philly Hockey Now wrote Clarke brought the issues to light to distract from another Philadelphia Flyers nose dive.

The trade for which Clarke took Hextall to the woodshed–trading Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtora and a first-round pick turned out pretty well for the Flyers. Lehtora was soon broomed away, but that pick (14th overall) became Joel Farabee.

Farabee, 21, has 16 points (10-6-16) in 28 games this season. Schenn, 30, has 12 points (5-7-12) in 22 games.

Schenn was 27-years-old and due a hefty raise. He currently carries a $6.5 million AAV with St. Louis. The Flyers were going nowhere and were also up against the salary cap. Hextall pulled Farabee out of the fire.

If that’s a terrible trade with no input, bring me more. A senior adviser should want a few more of those “terrible” trades.

Pittsburgh Penguins fans probably won’t argue; Farabee is an exciting young player who is only getting better (and still on his $925,000 entry-level contract).

Ron Hextall Drafts

Hextall and co. did whiff on Cale Makar. For that matter, so too did the New Jersey Devils, who drafted Nico Hischier, first overall. And maybe the Dallas Stars who selected Miro Heiskanen, who also appears to be a real player, but Makar is elite. Clarke said, “none of our scouts wanted Patrick,” but that seems to be revisionist history.

Most scouts had Hischier and Patrick, 1-2.

Also, it happens. It indeed happened to Clarke a few times when he ran the Flyers drafts from 1994-2006.

Hextall also picked Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and the promising Morgan Frost with first-rounders. He snagged Carter Hart with a second-round pick and Oscar Lindblom with a fifth-rounder.

Does anybody want to argue the Hart pick?

Clarke also didn’t mention the cost for O’Reilly: Three forwards, including a recent first-rounder, a first-round pick, and a second-rounder.

Hextall probably should have pulled the trigger on an O’Reilly deal at the 2018 NHL Draft, but so, too, should a lot of teams. Hextall’s logic has merit–a team entering a rebuild doesn’t spend future assets for a 27-year-old center at the top of his game.

Flyers Problems

At best, Clarke’s comments show a disconnect between Hextall, who was trying to retool cautiously, and the Flyers old guard who wanted to win, NOW, and wanted a say in how Hextall did it.

The old way that hasn’t worked vs. a new way. The old way won, and the Flyers stink again. They’re currently well out of the playoff chase.

At worst, Clarke putting the boots to Hextall shows the Flyers old guard as out-of-touch and petulant over their lack of input. Clarke is a piece of Flyers history who lifted the Stanley Cup as a player, but that was a long time ago (1975), in a hockey galaxy far, far away.

GM Chuck Fletcher is currently chasing his tail trying to patch together a playoff team. Facing a crumbling core last summer, the Flyers traded Jakub Voracek and acquired defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. It was a far cry from the Penguins keeping their championship core together, and the Flyers’ moves were all about the 2022 NHL playoffs.

Tunnel vision. Win NOW. And the direction undoubtedly comes from above.

In Clarke’s two GM tenures with the Flyers, which began in 1984, they made it to the Stanley Cup Final twice (1987, 1997). They made it to the Eastern Conference Final three more times (1995, 2000, 2004).

Never won the Cup.

Not since Clarke and the Broad Street bullies bloodied opponents have the Philadelphia Flyers lifted a Stanley Cup. In 2014, Hextall was fresh from being an assistant GM with the LA Kings, who used a plethora of young players (for which Hextall was responsible) to win two Stanley Cups.

Hextall may not have been perfect as the Flyers GM, but Clarke’s pop-off merely highlighted the Flyers’ dysfunction and the effects of their lack of direction.

On Tuesday evening, Hextall had a brief exchange with Carchidi and declined to comment on Clarke’s criticisms. That was too bad. He could have had some fun pointing out the Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, and much of that falls on Clarke and Holmgren.

He also could have pointed out that the organization’s best assets next season will be Hextall players (if Claude Giroux departs).

Perhaps that special feeling Hextall has helped cultivate around this Pittsburgh Penguins roster with cautious pickups Jeff Carter, Danton Heinen, Brian Boyle, and even Evan Rodrigues will pay dividends. Maybe.

But the Philadelphia management won’t be drinking champagne anytime soon, only sour grapes.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda(@pozone)
8 days ago

A number of my family members are Flyer fans. I hate that team like no other. When Bobby Clarke was GM he was the worst ever and Holmgren was just as bad. Don’t get me wrong I loved it. Hextall did some good things for the Flyers. Clarke likes to blame anyone but himself. 1975

Schultz
Schultz
7 days ago

What are you talking about?! Hexy was supposed to run that team till Clarke and Holmgren were both DEAD but he pooped the bed. They booted him because he was a hammerhead, period… Clarke was a bad GM?! the flyers qualified for the playoffs evey single year of his 12seasons as GM. 5 CF appearances and 1 SC. 6 times they were top 3 in the eastern conf. and never worse than 5th… yeah he was terrible… I know the Pens have a magic formula which seems to be : Suck for a decade then magically draft 2 or 3… Read more »

Steve
Steve(@steve)
8 days ago

The everybody wanted Makar argument sounds like a hindsight diversion. I went back and read some of the pre draft coverage that year. Everybody was debating Hischier versus Patrick. Because Makar has outpaced them may also have something to do with him being in a much better situation. Regardless, I think Clarke’s lying about that.

Kris
Kris
8 days ago

The guy is punch drunk from too many fights. I already read on another site that a scout said they were chasing Heiskanen and not Makar, so more proof the guy is clueless. God I love it.

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly(@donny)
8 days ago

Other things Clarke blamed Hextall for:

Global pandemic
Kennedy assassination
New Coke
The last episode of “Lost”
2020 election
Cousin Oliver on the “Brady Bunch”
His missing front teeth

Mstar80
Mstar80
8 days ago
Reply to  Mike Donnelly

This is great!

David
David
8 days ago

The Philadelphia Flyers — 47 years and counting. Even their own fans boo them.

Justin
Justin
7 days ago
Reply to  David

Every 13 years a ring is removed from the Stanley Cup, the next one to come off in 2030 has both Flyers cups; I can’t wait until that franchise no longer defaces that trophy!

Rhodepop
Rhodepop
8 days ago

Clarke, as a GM, was masterful at “doing less with more”. His record, particularly with the talent around him (he should get credit for some of that), was mediocre. Yep, he got to a few finals but he also lost to lesser teams in the Cup playoffs on a consistent basis. I have long thought that had Ed Snider gone outside of the Flyer family for GMs, they would have been more successful.

Jim
Jim
8 days ago
Reply to  Rhodepop

The Flyers in and 85 and 87 lost to the Oilers. A team that won five cups in a seven-year span and had Hall of Famers; Gretzky, Coffey, Messier, Kuri and Fuhr. I remember watching those series, the Flyers were very talented but not on the level of the Oilers. The 1997 team lost to the Red Wings, also a far superior team talent-wise and had Bowman on the bench.

Clarke had his faults as a GM, but to say the Flyers lost to inferior teams in those finals is a ridiculous statement.

Rhodepop
Rhodepop
7 days ago
Reply to  Jim

OK, Jim, you can cherry-pick the 85 and 87 teams. Good call. I will cherry-pick the frequent first-round losses to lower seeded teams. 4 in 5 years if I recall. I did not state FINALS, I stated playoffs. Ridiculous my a$$

Schultz
Schultz
7 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Clarke always had that team ready to challange for a cup in both of his stints with the flyers. He also helped shape the panthers for their early playoff runs. To say it’s his fault the players didnt perform is in fact, ridiculous all three cup teams had both drafted all start AND free agent all stars. He did everything he could… He should have used the Penguins model of tanking then drafting 2 HOF players, which magically happened twice for you guys. Yup he was terrible…

Rhodepop
Rhodepop
7 days ago
Reply to  Schultz

I forgot about the Panthers. He did do a great job there. Look, I never said he was terrible. I said he should have done more with the talent around him like a certain football coach in Pittsburgh. I know the Pens tanked for 66. Did they tank for 87 also?

Frank
Frank
8 days ago

It is easy to dislike so much of what comes out of Philadelphia and take every opportunity to make that known to as many others as we can. But seriously . .. there has to be something environmental or genetic out there that generates the bitter angry hate filled disposition of those living there. So, when you see Bobby Clarke launch into this theory on why the Flyers have spent nearly a half century watching Stanley Cup winners instead of being one it comes as no surprise. Even as a Philadelphia transplant he is just as angry and bitter. Since… Read more »

Bryan Way
Bryan Way
8 days ago

I’m a die hard Flyers fan who was sent this article by another, and could not agree more. I started watching hockey as a teen in 2000, and thought it was cool that the Flyers were a tough team and always in contention. It didn’t take me more than a few years to realize our management was poison: I’ll never forget the pain in my heart when Clarke traded our top goalie prospect with our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks for Adam Oates at the 2002 trade deadline. He ended up being our top playoff scorer with 2 points… Read more »

Bryan Way
Bryan Way
8 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I think someone would have to be drunk and crazy to disagree with your premise. Ever since the Flyers fired Russ Farwell in the ’90s, the methodology has been the same, with only a few rare exceptions: throw away the future at the expense of winning now. And I do think you see the results of that on the ice: until recently, the team looked surprised when they’d let up 2-4 goals in the first period. Like they expected a different result without earning it. Now, they just look like they’ve given up. Considering how poorly managed this team is,… Read more »

Brian
Brian
8 days ago

I think this is my favorite article ever hahahaha

John
John
8 days ago

Clarke doesn’t want the flys to win a Stanley Cup. If the flys win a cup Clarke and his crew are irrelevant. The way it is Clarke captained the only Stanley Cup winner in flys history.

Kate
Kate
8 days ago

This is a GREAT article! I lived in Philly from 2000 to 2015 and was constantly subjected to the ridiculous comments and actions of flyers fans. This article describes it perfectly.

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