Did Ron Hextall's plan turn into bad business? Flyers believe it can be better


In April 2017, Dave Scott stood in the media room at Flyers Skate Zone and spoke radiantly about Ron Hextall's vision and the business success behind the process.

The Flyers had just missed the playoffs a year after making them. They won 39 games and put up 88 points in 2016-17, a drop-off from 2015-16, when the Flyers had 41 wins, 96 points and impressively made the postseason in Year 1 under Dave Hakstol.

But Scott, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, saw the potential in Hextall's plan and believed in it. And it didn't hurt that the business side wasn't taking a dip, as well. Despite the team sitting out the playoffs, Scott called 2016-17 a "terrific year from the business perspective."

"It was probably one of the best years we've ever had," Scott said then. "Ron's our guy. We believe in the system, we like the vision, we like the strategy, the pipeline."

Something must've changed. Clearly, vision isn't results.

In a press conference Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, Scott and Flyers president Paul Holmgren were discussing the firing of Hextall and the search for a new general manager.

Which begs the question: was the business suffering?

"On the business side, we have so much going on right now with the transformation, if you've toured our facility, I think there's a lot of excitement about that," Scott said. "But at the same time, you need to win hockey games, too. We feel pretty good. I mean, our attendance is good, we get all the league reports. I think a lot of the other teams would like to be in our position. But could it be better? Sure."

According to ESPN.com's figures, the Flyers are fourth among NHL teams in average attendance at 19,136. Last season, the Flyers were third at 19,517. Actual fans in the seats, though, are noticeable. This season, there's no denying the lower bowl of the Wells Fargo Center has been visibly emptier compared to the mezzanine level, where tickets are cheaper and the area is renovated.

There's also no denying fans have grown frustrated and impatient with the lack of progress on the ice. As Scott said, it's about winning hockey games.

And winning hockey games is good business. The Flyers haven't done enough of it, especially in Year 5 under Hextall as general manager, a season in which lopsided defeats and heavy boos were becoming more frequent by the game. 

A hockey person like Hextall always saw the long view, didn't see the rush; a businessperson like Scott eventually needed to see and feel his results.

"It's all about winning, whether it's in business or a hockey team and getting deep in the playoffs and winning the Cup — I mean, that's what we're all after," Scott said. "I personally feel our fans deserve better. I think we have great fans and they have been patient. My vision is that we'll invest everything that we have to and we'll look at every opportunity to make it better. This is about winning hockey games."

Like any other businessperson, Scott eyes return on investment.

"The bottom line is we just thought we needed to make more progress," Scott said.

Finding a new GM that can fulfill that wish is the next order of business.

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