The Penguins have found the perfect man to rebuild or at least rejuvenate the team.
Ron Hextall did a thankless job for the Philadelphia Flyers. Hired in May 2014, he had the delicate task of replenishing the bank of young people while keeping the team competitive. An almost impossible challenge.
The Flyers had an interesting core on offense with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, but the defense was porous and aging. Guardian Steve Mason was sometimes good, sometimes awful.
His first sale of veterans, less than a year after taking office, paid off. He got first and third round picks for Braydon Coburn and second and fourth round picks for Kimmo Timonen.
That abundance of picks in 2015 helped draft two important elements for the team’s future, seventh-place defenseman Ivan Provorov (now the number one defenseman in Philadelphia), and Travis Konecny, the club’s top scorer. last year at 24e rank.
Ron Hetxall’s best legacy in Philadelphia remains this daring trade: center Brayden Schenn, on the cusp of his 26th birthday, moved to the St. Louis Blues for first-round picks in 2017 and 2018.
The first player chosen in 2017, center right-hander Morgan Frost, 21, remains a prominent prospect. He had 29 points in 41 games in his first professional season last year in the American League, and seven points in 20 games in the NHL. He is on the long-term injured list, however.
The second, in 2018, winger Joel Farabee, only 20, had a spectacular start to the season with 12 points in 13 games.
The Blues found their account there with Schenn, 29, a center capable of producing between 55 and 70 points per season.
The mistake of Hextall, and of his then recruiting accomplice Chris Pryor, was undoubtedly to prefer Nolan Patrick to the second place in 2017 to Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen and Elias Pettersson.
We said then Nolan Patrick better developed physically than others and able to have an impact more quickly. The 22-year-old may not have said his last word yet. He returned to the game in January after missing all of last season. He had five points in 13 games.
The reset was going well, but probably not fast enough for the owners. Hextall and Pryor were fired in November 2018. Former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has inherited a near-completed club.
After missing the playoffs in 2018-19, the Flyers finished sixth overall last year and reached the second round eliminating the Canadiens. They are 8-3-2 since the start of the season.
The new GM of the Penguins, supported in the adventure by a new president of hockey operations who leaves no one indifferent, Brian Burke, was crystal clear during his first press briefing on Tuesday. “We will try to make the Pittsburgh Penguins the best possible team this year. We will see then. Let’s show how good we can be. We will see how our players respond. And we’ll adjust along the way. We will keep the future in perspective, of course, and we will try to amass assets here and there. But you also have to have a good team. We have the Malkin, the Crosby, the Letang. We want to be competitive in the short term with three of the best players in the world. ”
Free translation: let’s give this core a chance to win this year and if that fails, let’s start a facelift …
There are not many hopes left in the bank. Former general manager Jim Rutherford squandered youngsters and choices to stay competitive in the short term.
Since 2013, the Penguins have drafted in the first round twice out of eight. Among their picks, Kasperi Kapanen was traded to the Maple Leafs… then repatriated this fall with another first-round pick.
They don’t have a first-round pick in 2021 either. Rutherford ceded it to the Minnesota Wild to get Jason Zucker. They don’t have a third and fourth round pick. The third round pick was given to the Sharks last year to get Patrick Marleau.
The last few second-round picks, Filip Gustavsson, Calen Addison and Filip Hallander have all been traded. Zachary Lauzon retired due to multiple concussions. In short, the hopeful tank is almost dry.
Hextall has just inherited a four-year contract in Pittsburgh, in addition to an optional year. Hopefully he can reap the rewards of his labor this time around.
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