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Hextall opens up for the first time since firing, criticizes Flyers’ handling of rookie Carter Hart

The Flyers’ franchise icon finally breaks his silence.

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Former Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall always knew that Carter Hart had #1 NHL goalie potential, after all Hextall himself was a #1 goalie in the NHL for over a decade. Under Hextall’s reign as GM though, the Flyers preached patience and Hextall’s handling of Hart was the perfect representation of this patience. Hextall refused to promote Hart from the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, opting instead to have the kid earn his keep in the minors. We all know what happened next.

Hextall was shown the door in November and Hart was called up by new Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher less than a month later. Since then Hart has been stellar, going 15-11-1 in 27 starts with the Flyers. Still, Hextall isn’t so sure that the Flyers are taking the right path with his former top prospect. On a recent segment with Sportsnet’s Hockey Central and Noon panel, Hextall broke his silence on Hart and the Flyers organization for the first time since his firing.

Check it out:

“I believe Carter should just come up as a (number) one or certainly worst case a 1A/1B,” said Hextall. “I don’t believe in a kid that has a chance at being a top guy to come up and label him as a backup. He might as well be playing 60 games or 55 games in the minors.”

Fair enough… but let’s not forget why Fletcher was forced to call up Hart in the first place. The Flyers have gone through a record number of goaltenders this season due to injuries to Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth. Once Hart was called up, he simply played too well to send him back down to the AHL. This may not be the development path that Fletcher and the Flyers organization has in mind but… how do you send this kid down? He’s simply too good.

As far as the rest of his former team, Hextall feels that things just didn’t come together quick enough for them to have success under him. 

“Sometimes when you’re building a team, things don’t come together as quickly as you kind of hoped and as you envisioned,” said Hextall. “Those are the ups and downs of the NHL. The parity in the league is crazy and if you’re just off by a little bit you’re going to lose.”

The thing is, if the team’s young players like Hart, Nolan Patrick, Sam Morin and Morgan Frost emerge over the next couple seasons, Hextall’s Flyers might actually come together as he envisioned. The unfortunate part is that the franchise icon won’t be around to reap the rewards of all his hard work.