Hextall’s history a benefit to Flyers

Flyers fans had to watch from afar again. The Los Angeles Kings claimed another Stanley Cup Championship on Friday night and three former Flyers hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup once again.

It wasn't long ago that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were on the ice at Wells Fargo Center wearing the Orange and Black and skating off with the Prince of Wales Trophy in 2010. Four years after the heartbreaking overtime loss against the Blackhawks in Philadelphia, Carter and Richards have won the Cup twice.

Justin Williams, a Flyer from 2000 to 2004, won his third Stanley Cup since his departure from Philadelphia. This time around, he was also the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.

John Stevens, the head coach of the Flyers from 2006 to 2010, has served as an assistant for the Kings through the past four seasons which have featured the two Cup wins and a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2013.

Through all of it, one person was there throughout the building process, recenly-named Flyers GM Ron Hextall.

Hextall brought Stevens to LA along with former Flyers coach Terry Murray. Hextall served as assistant GM under Dean Lombardi, who executed trades with the Flyers for Richards and later for Carter.

Working under Lombardi, Hextall was directly involved in the building of a Stanley Cup champion. That has to be the first hope for Flyers fans.

The Kings have not won two Stanley Cups with a plethora of star players. Richards and Carter are assigned to specific roles. Captain Dustin Brown has his role as well. They are not top-line players.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are the team's true star talents, not to mention netminder Jonathan Quick.

The ages on the Kings vary – from 37-year-old Willie Mitchell to 21-year-old Tanner Pearson. And chances are until Friday night, you had no clue who Alec Martinez was. But you certainly know him now.

Martinez is the prime example of what championship teams are made of. Before the 2013-14 season, by far his best in the NHL, Martinez had just 12 goals in the regular season and one playoff goal to his name. 

The Flyers biggest problem under Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren – and Ed Snider quite frankly – has been targeting names not talent. The Flyers signed veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year contract last offseason. After one year, they are rumored to be shopping the forward.

See how well the name game works?

Hextall watched Lombardi make the small moves. In some cases, it required a lot. On the surface, the Flyers appeared to be winners in the deal that sent Richards to LA for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. They acquired two young forwards with plenty of potential and opened the cap space to sign the skilled goalie they had been looking for. 

But all of that backfired. Schenn is going to cost a fortune this offseason, and according to Hextall, remains the Flyers top priority this offseason. And that goalie the Flyers thought solved all of their problems…look where he is now.

The Flyers problem was primarily on defense in 2013-14, but ultimately, it only takes one big-name defenseman and strong compliments. Aside from Doughty, none of the Kings defensemen are truly in the prime of their careers or at All-Star quality. But they are effective and they contribute at both ends of the ice. The forwards aid the defensive game too, another aspect the Flyers need to improve.

But the pieces need to be put in place by the general manager. Ultimately, it was difficult to see Holmgren making moves that focused on the small pieces of the puzzle and ignoring the temptation of signing big players for big money that only mask the true problems. 

Sure, watching Carter and Richards hoist the Cup again was like pouring salt on an open wound. The Flyers Cup drought continues to grow with no end in sight. But have a little faith, Flyers fans, because the man in charge of assembling the team helped assemble one that has now won two Stanley Cups in the three seasons. 

The future has some brightness to it. It is still in Hextall's hands how the Flyers decide to move forward and improve toward the ultimate goal. Maybe a little thinking like Lombardi will help Stanley come to town.

Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.

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