Since the day Ron Hextall became General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, he has preached his philosophy of building the team from within by drafting and nurturing young talent. Hextall has kept that promise with a fruitful 2015 draft and a vow to not rush the Flyers growing stable of young prospects. This fan has been on board with Hextall’s plan from day one, and I believe that developing young talent is the only way for the Flyers to “right this ship” and become a Stanley Cup contender again. What I didn’t realize until this week was how difficult it would be for fans to be patient with the implementation of Hextall’s plan when face-to-face with that that young talent in action.
Let’s start with 18-year-old forward Travis Konecny. In his brief time in the Flyers camp this preseason, he was on fire, showing impressive speed and tenacity. I did not see him play in a preseason game, but I saw a clip of him speeding down the ice and making a big hit. His skating was so fast that for a minute I thought the clip was on fast forward. He impressed Flyers management, but was sent to his junior team earlier this week to gain more experience. When I heard the news my reaction was: I get it but I don’t like it. I knew he probably wouldn’t make the Flyers’ opening night roster, but I was hoping he would stick around camp for a while longer.
The second case in point, and perhaps the most difficult one for Flyers fan to swallow, is the case of 22-year-old defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. I saw him score a goal Saturday night in the Flyers’ preseason game against the Islanders, his third goal in three games. He had a lot of ice time, making it obvious that the Flyers’ brass were giving him every opportunity to prove himself, which it seemed he did. But then came the news that he had been sent to the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Based on the social media reaction, most fans seem to get it, but some are confused and disappointed about this decision.
Of course the real answer as to why Ghost (and perhaps several other highly-touted prospects) are no longer in the Flyers camp is not so much because of Hextall’s plan as it is because there is no place for them on the Flyers roster even if Hextall wanted them there. Unfortunately for Hextall, he inherited a handful of under-producing veterans with expensive, lengthy contacts that are going to take a while to get rid of (one way or another). Until then, the talented kids will gain experience in the juniors and minors while us fans wish we could fast forward to a few Octobers from now. But if we patiently wait, I believe that Hextall will prove that his plan worked, and today’s prospects will become tomorrow’s Cup-contending Flyers.