With Ron Hextall out as general manager in Philadelphia, it is now up to the ownership group to begin searching for a replacement. There are plenty of options out there, but finding the right one to fit Philadelphia’s unique “patient but win-now” mode is crucial.
1. Dean Lombardi
Lombardi led the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 before being ousted for poor performance and salary cap management. Despite his blunders, he has proven himself capable of putting together a winning team in the past.
Los Angeles’ mold of rough-and-tough play from the Lombardi era may translate over well in the City of Brotherly Love, too. The Flyers and their fans have long yearned for the days of the Broad Street Bullies to come back, even if the game has shifted away from that style of play. The Flyers do not have to revert to beating people up every chance they get, but a more physical style of play could work and it is in Lombardi’s range.
Lombardi is a prime candidate for the job due to his history within the organization. After serving as a scout for the Flyers between 2003 and 2006, Lombardi departed for the Kings. He returned in an advisory role to Hextall in September of 2017, though, so he knows the ins and outs of the organization by now.
Lombardi is likely the safest play the Flyers can make, but it is also arguably the worst play that they can make as well.
2. Chuck Fletcher
Despite leading the Minnesota Wild to multiple straight playoff appearances, Fletcher was canned in April after another unsuccessful run. He has proven himself worthy of building playoff caliber teams, and has made a number of value picks and trades over the years to put his teams in fantastic positions.
Still, Fletcher has proven himself to be somewhat stagnant. Despite his teams finding wins, they could never take the next step — similar to Hextall.
Fletcher is an interesting proposition for the Flyers, as he clearly knows how to create a modern, winning NHL roster, but he may be more of the same of what Hextall provided.
3. Ron Francis
In what was one of the most shocking storylines of the 2017-18 season, Ron Francis was removed as Hurricanes general manager in March and then left the organization in April. It was a bitter end to one of the franchise’s greatest players and executives.
Francis built a solid foundation in Carolina, especially given how little flexibility he was given to work with during his time there. The Hurricanes are put in a position to succeed now, but they are missing one key piece — a goaltender.
Sounds a lot like the Philadelphia Flyers.
Francis’ key flaw is one that Philadelphia already has. Although Carter Hart is in the pipeline, is it worth waiting two, three or four years for him to become, potentially, an elite goalie? It turns into a series of “if/then” propositions for the Hurricanes.
Francis may not be the best fit for the job either because he has few ties to the organization, although that has not stopped anyone in the past. The closest thing he has is his stint with Philadelphia’s biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Francis is still, though, a great general manager and is young into his career. It is a riskier path for the Flyers to take, but it is one that can also garner a high reward. Francis is much more in-key with modern hockey than any of the other options.
4. Garth Snow
After being usurped by Lou Lamoriello, Snow moved into an advisory role with the New York Islanders over the summer. The long-time general manager certainly did not have much success during his years guiding the Islanders, but he does bring experience and knowledge of the business.
Snow spent three seasons with the Flyers from 1995 to 1998. Although that was a long time ago, connections to the organization still matter, and especially so when Paul Holmgren is still around.
The one advantage to Snow that the Flyers may see is that he has never been afraid to make the big moves. Whether it be the Thomas Vanek trade in 2013, or the Leddy and Boychuk deals of 2014, Snow has never taken his finger off the trigger. He has not shot the gun much, and that is a large reason why John Tavares is in Toronto, but when he has, it has been big.
Hextall’s departure may have come off the back of the team growing weary of his patience, and if the owners want to buck that, Snow may be the way to go.
5. Tom Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is currently the assistant general manager for the New Jersey Devils, but his name has popped up in rumor circles for open general manager jobs for the last couple of years.
He previously played professional hockey for nearly two decades and served under Ray Shero in both Pittsburgh and now New Jersey. Fitzgerald has been groomed to this point, and now, it is his time to shine.
The close proximity of New Jersey to Philadelphia may be enticing for Fitzgerald. It would not be a total change of scenery.
The bump in the road, though, comes from the Flyers getting permission to speak to him. That may put a stamp on things, but it remains to be seen if they even express interest. Given Fitzgerald’s track record, however, Philadelphia most certainly should look into it.