I woke up to a text yesterday morning from a good friend that read, “WHO IS DAVE HAKSTOL?”
Admittedly, I had no idea but a mere second later when I opened Twitter I knew he had just become the 19th head coach in Philadelphia Flyers history.
In an off-season that is just over a month old for the Flyers, rumors swirled and swirled about former Sharks coach Todd McLellan and the highly sought after Mike Babcock filling the void of head coach. Even former rival bench boss Dan Bylsma had 4/1 odds of becoming the guy according to Vegas. Instead, GM Ron Hextall decided to go way off the board with a man who was not thought of by the fan base in the slightest.
Philly has beat teams such as Buffalo and San Jose to the punch in terms of naming a head coach and now that this piece of the puzzle is settled, it means a few things for the current state of the orange and black.
1) Michael Del Zotto NEEDS to be re-signed…
In today’s press conference Hakstol made mention several times of being a good team without the puck and the fast pace of the game.
“You’re going to see with me an expectation that our defensemen are involved in an awful lot of our play in terms of our play with the puck. I think it’s essential both getting up the ice as well as in the zone.”
Well, now doesn’t that sound an awful lot like a system that would benefit the play of Michael Del Zotto? The speedy offensive-minded defenseman clearly displayed in the 2014-2015 season that he can most definitely get up the ice and at times display a “Sixth Gear” that only Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek have the capability of producing. It is a weak free agency class this summer, especially in terms of offensive defenseman, therefore after Mike Green, MDZ’s season may spark the interest of a few other teams. #15 remains a restricted free agent but it would be of the Flyers best interest to get 24-year old inked before another team makes a stab at him and drives the potential cost up.
2) Continue to have patience with Gostisbehere, Morin and Sanheim…
Just because Hakstol has relevant experience with college kids doesn’t mean the youthful defensive core that the Flyers base is banking on all starts jumping in to the lineup immediately. “Ghost” has yet to complete an entire pro season after his season-ending ACL injury last November and despite the fact that he did participate in two games with the big club last season, Hextall’s commitment to developing the youth the right way leads me to believe that Lehigh Valley would be the best starting point for the former Union star.
In Lehigh Valley, Gostisbehere could be joined by 2013 first round selection, Sam Morin. Morin is currently finishing up his third season with his QMJHL team, Rimouski Océanic. The 6’7” 19-year old also brought home gold with the Canadian junior team back in January.
Travis Sanheim’s most recent season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL is over and left many raving due to his 65 points in 67 games while holding down the back end. Sanheim has the option to return to Calgary again in the fall, however it is Hextall and Hakstol who have the power to make the ultimate decision.
3) “We Wanna Go Fast!”
Hakstol’s emphasis on playing the up-tempo game in his presser provides yet just another reason to somehow axe Vinny Lecavalier and RJ Umberger. The two BOTH make more than stud winger Jake Voracek, which is a harsh reality to face. Wasting $9.1 million dollars on two forwards who both failed to even record ten goals hurts.
Obviously there isn’t much interest on the trade market for either and when there were efforts to move Lecavalier the word was the Flyers would have to retain as much as 50% of his salary. It almost seems worth it at this rate, however. Pay the 35-year old who has three more years left on his deal $2.25 million every year to save $2.25 million. Vinny isn’t getting any younger and on numerous occasions last year just looked like he had lost any real power in his legs.
Not to mention, both of these men are hogging spots in the lineup that could be filled by players such as Jason Akeson and Scott Laughton, both of whom appear ready to be on the ice every night and can bring additional speed over Lecavalier or Umberger. If the effort of Hextall and the entire front office is to truly work on the player development, the constant back and forth that these two have experienced over the last few years is going to lead to a “push comes to shove” situation sooner than later.
Only time will tell how Hakstol and Hextall’s relationship develops and what moves are made in regards to these three topics. I do think this was a wise hiring by the Flyers and am excited to see how Hakstol’s tenure gets underway in Philly.
As always, thanks for reading!