Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announces Travis Sanheim (not pictured) as the number seventeen overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Hextall Is Using A Model That Works

Yesterday on FrozenFutures.com I wrote an article about the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. I gave a brief overview of their projected roster and explained why they should be a competitive team next season.

For the purposes of that article/site, I tried to stay away from analyzing the organizational philosophy behind the team and why the Phantoms will be a boon to the Flyers in the years to come.

It is clear that Ron Hextall is building the Phantoms in the same fashion that he built up the Manchester Monarchs while working for the Los Angeles Kings.

Hextall became the Assistant General Manager of the LA Kings in the summer of 2006. During his time at that position, he oversaw the Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. During his seven years as AGM, the Monarchs only missed the Calder Cup playoffs one time.

Eventual Stanley Cup winners like Jake Muzzin, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Slava Voynov, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick passed through Manchester for an extended period of time during Hextall’s time as AGM. The Kings captain, Dustin Brown, spent a full season with the Monarchs during the 2004-2005 lockout season, before Hextall’s time in  LA.

That list comprises many of the Kings core Stanley Cup pieces. Sure, super stars like Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar did not have to spend time in the AHL (although Kopitar spent an extra season abroad developing after being drafted) before becoming NHL regulars. But almost half of the Kings current roster has spent time with the Manchester Monarchs.

This also points out the fact that the Kings have been a great scouting/drafting team. With the exception of Jake Muzzin, the players listed above were drafted by the Kings. Yes, they have made some savvy trades along the way, but the bulk of their Stanley Cup winning roster are LA Kings draft picks.

Other cogs in the Kings machine like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, and Justin Williams were acquired through trades. Therefore, they could not spend time in Manchester. However, it is important to note that Carter and Richards spent a season (the lockout year) in the AHL while Hextall was working in Philadelphia. A majority of the players on the Kings roster have AHL experience somewhere.

When Hextall says that he is not afraid to make players pay their dues in the minors, we know that he is not bluffing. He has done it before and he is not afraid to do it again.

Another Kings-Flyers management connection is current Phantoms coach Terry Murray. The man who put together the “Legion of Doom” line for Philadelphia in the mid-90s is known for his conservative, defensive style. Not only is this style similar to that of Head Coach Craig Berube, but it was taught to players like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty upon their arrival in the NHL.

Murray was the head coach of the LA Kings from 2008 until the middle of the 2011-2012 NHL season. Murray was fired 29 games into the season that eventually saw the Kings win the Stanley Cup. Murray coached many of the current Kings during their early NHL years and helped nurture their development.

His role will be different with the Phantoms in the upcoming years. He is not an NHL coach, he is an AHL coach. However, his ability to teach players how to play a smart, defensive game will be invaluable as the Flyers seek to bring players up to the NHL level.

As much as we all want to see Hextall make big changes to the big club, the most important thing he is doing right now is developing the farm system. He watched the effect of a good AHL team reap huge benefits in Los Angeles and he is bringing that philosophy to Phialdelphia. If prospects like Scott Laughton, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Sam Morin spend a year, or even two, with the Phantoms, it is nothing to worry about.

He is using a model that works. Let’s be patient and watch the magic happen.

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Tags: Lehigh Valley Phantoms Philadelphia Flyers Ron Hextall Terry Murray

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