Topic: Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers fired general manager Ron Hextall because — to swipe a page from their glory days — he was Broad Street Bullheaded.Hextall preached patience.The Flyers want to win now.That clash of ideology turned toxic in Philadelphia’s front office Custom Philadelphia Flyers Jerseys , and it cost Hextall his job in his fifth season as GM. Paul Holmgren, the Flyers’ loyalist and team president, had few solid answers Tuesday as to why he made the move, other than to repeatedly call Hextall “unyielding.”Hextall’s arrival signaled a new era in Flyers history, one where short-term fixes, big-budget spending and mortgaging the farm system were no longer in vogue. He gamely tried to restock the farm system and refused to make a major trade for a star that could instantly inch the Flyers closer toward contention.And when all that got the Flyers were a pair of first-round playoff exits and a 10-11-2 record this season, Hextall got the boot.“He was unyielding in his plan and remained that way,” Holmgren said. “Good for him. He’s a well-thought out, deep-thinking guy.”The deep thoughts included packaging draft picks and prospects for All-Stars capable of carrying Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Vorcek and James van Riemsdyk at least into May.The Flyers expect to hire a GM in weeks and he’ll have to make an urgent decision: keep or fire coach Dave Hakstol.“I hate to say Dave Hakstol’s fate is in the next GM’s hands but it is,” Holmgren said. “I’m not going to make that decision.”Hakstol, 132-97-40 in three–plus seasons, was set to coach the Flyers on Tuesday night against Ottawa.Holmgren said he never asked Hextall to fire the coach he hired with no NHL experience out of North Dakota. But Holmgren said Hextall had told him “of course, I’m thinking about it.”But, Holmgren added www.sanjosesharksteamshop.com , “he never did it.”The Flyers did at least discuss the potential of adding Joel Quenneville after the Chicago Blackhawks fired the three-time Stanley Cup champion coach.“I can tell you his name came up right away when he was let go,” Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott said. “I think Ron was set on, stay the course.”With his biggest backer gone, and the Flyers wallowing, Hakstol’s job is in serious danger.“I like Hak. I think he’s done a decent job under the circumstances he’s coached under,” Holmgren said.“Decent” isn’t exactly an encouraging vote of confidence. Hakstol has had his issues — the Flyers are last in the NHL in the penalty kill (69.7 percent) — but Hextall’s decision to enter the season with two oft-injured goalies haunted the team. The Flyers have matched a franchise-high with five goalies this season while prized prospect Carter Hart lingers in the minors.“Is he our long-term solution? I don’t know that,” Holmgren said. “I’m not prepared to answer that. That’s another topic for the next GM.”Holmgren punted about every major issue facing the Flyers to the next GM, and there are plenty of top candidates. The Flyers have about $7 million in salary cap space, and enough talent that should entice some heavy hitters for the job. Former Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who won two Cups and now works for the Flyers, told Holmgren he wasn’t interested. But Chuck Fletcher, Ron Francis, Sean Burke and Brian Burke are sure to pique the interest of a team eyeing its first Stanley Cup since the back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975.“What can we do now, today, to make the team better now? Not two years or three years from now,” Scott said.Hextall was criticized for refusing to listen to scouts and advisers and had been accused of cutting off alumni from access to the team. Hextall San Jose Sharks T-Shirts Womens , a star goalie and one of the franchise’s more popular players, had wanted his own process on his terms.“His plan was his plan and we’re really hoping for a little more openness going forward,” Scott said.Asked when the Flyers decided to shift from long-term rebuild to legitimate contention, Holmgren was blunt.“We’re in the fifth year,” Holmgren said. “That’s a long time in hockey years.”The Flyers haven’t made the Cup finals since 2010 and haven’t won a playoff round since 2012.“It’s a long time,” Scott said. “We’re gonna go for it.”The decision to dump Hextall was about dollars and cents as much as it was the state of the roster. Fan apathy is at a low, attendance is down and tickets are steeply discounted on StubHub. There is little buzz apart from the new googly-eyed mascot.What’s more, the 76ers, their fellow Wells Fargo Center tenant, have overtaken the city in popularity, with big stars and packed houses.“They were having some challenges and then (Jimmy) Butler coming certainly helps things,” Scott said.So the Flyers need their own Butler?“Couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure,” he said, laughing. SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) With the top three teams in the Eastern Conference all coming out of the Atlantic Division San Jose Sharks Hoodies Womens , there’s a good chance the second and third best teams in the East will play in the first round for the second straight year.That imbalance has led some to push to abandon the division playoff format and go back to seeding teams one through eight by conference. Why stop there?The minor league that brought 3-on-3 overtime to hockey more than a decade before the NHL followed suit is adding a new innovation this season for the playoffs.The Southern Professional Hockey League will use a ”pick your opponent” playoff format, with the first-place team choosing its first-round opponent from the teams that finished from fifth to eighth place, then the second- and third-place teams makes their choices before the final two teams get matched up. In the second round, teams will be matched by regular-season points.SPHL President Jim Combs said he decided to bring this format to his 10-team league after a conversation with an executive from Austria’s Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, which already uses it.”I immediately knew this was the greatest idea I’d ever heard,” Combs said. ”The person at the top earns the right to pick the weakest of the bottom four. He can base it on travel, he can base it on difficulty of opponent, how the guy has been playing the past three or four weeks. A lot of times, you don’t want the eighth-place team because that’s the guy who has hustled and played hard and put the team together the last two or three weeks of the season. That’s the hot team.”Combs said most teams started the year with thoughts of following the old format of picking the team with the fewest points as the opponent. But as the season has gone on, Combs said teams seem more open to picking what they believe is best matchup.Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said if the format was used in the NHL, he’d probably make it known he’d pick the lowest seed available in any case.”The first thing that comes to my mind is all of us coaches are paranoid,” Gulutzan said. ”So to actually have to pick somebody, you think immediately we’ve given them some fuel in a playoff series, right, like: `Oh yeah, they picked us.”’To add even more intrigue San Jose Sharks Hats Womens , the SPHL will broadcast the selection show at the end of the season so fans and teams can watch live as the matchups are chosen and the extra motivation is created for whoever is picked as the most desirable playoff opponent.”I think there would be some bulletin board material,” said Columbus defenseman Ian Cole, who won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons with Pittsburgh. ”I think that would certainly fire a team up if you’re picking them because you think you could beat them.”Dallas general manager Jim Nill agrees with that sentiment, saying ”it might be great for their league, but it’s not something I’d encourage our league to do and I couldn’t see it ever happening.”Others are more intrigued by the idea, pointing to the unfairness last year that had Pittsburgh and Columbus matched up in the first round despite finishing with the second and fourth most points in the league, respectively.”It sounds like a great idea,” Buffalo backup goalie Chad Johnson said. ”I mean, why not if you’re in first place you should have that choice of who you want to play? It gives you that advantage regardless, because sometimes the eighth-place team, you might have struggled against them, right?”Combs said he has heard from executives from other minor leagues, NHL teams and a few people from the NHL league office about the new format and hopes it will become more widespread after people see the added drama it creates even if there is some initial hesitation.”In 2004, when we started 3-on-3 overtime, everyone laughed at us and said `Hey this will never happen at the top level,”’ Combs said. ”We played it for 10 years and the NHL adopted it Custom San Jose Sharks Jerseys , they’re playing it, they revamped the All-Star Game. They have totally embraced it. Will the NHL take this? They might. I don’t know why after all this excitement every sport wouldn’t do it.”GAME OF THE WEEKPittsburgh at Toronto on Saturday. Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews has been sidelined since Feb. 22 with an apparent shoulder injury but could be ready to return this weekend for a showdown against Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Even if Matthews can’t go, this is still an intriguing game between two Cup contenders.LEADERSThrough Tuesday’s games: Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 40; Assists: Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg), 57; Points: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), 86; Wins: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), 39; Goals-against average: Carter Hutton (St. Louis), 2.02; Save percentage: Hutton, .934.—AP Hockey Writers Larry Lage in Detroit and John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.—