The hiring of Lombardi led to the hiring of Hextall, which caused the drafting of Drew Doughty, ushered in the team’s rise and walked us down the path to restricted free agency. These events will steer us toward a hold out which will lead to Doughty’s inevitable poor season and the team missing the playoffs, only to culminate with the trade of Drew Doughty and the demise of the L.A. Kings so we become the Philadelphia Flyers!! Oh, God, how do we take this train off its fateful track?
But Doughty needs to look no further than L.A.’s front office for an example of what can happen by missing training camp because of a contract dispute.
Kings’ Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall should be very well versed in such a state of affairs. He may end up getting a view of a holdout by a star player from the front office point of view this time around, but he went through the same scenario as a player prior to the 1989-90 season.“Hexy” was at that time a brash, fiery goaltender who was the emotional on-ice leader for the Flyers. Though, at 25, Hextall at that time was a few years older than Doughty is right now, his career standing was strikingly comparable (minus the numerous suspensions Hextall was handed for various on-ice bad behavior).Hextall had just completed his third NHL season, and was regarded as one of the players that was most responsible for his team’s prosperity since his arrival in the league.During his first three years, Hextall averaged 64 games played and more than 32 wins per season.
Hextall accepts Conn Smythe Trophy from then-NHL Commissioner John Ziegler. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
As a rookie, he took Philly on an improbable run to the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals, before finally falling to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers in Game 7. Wayne Gretzky even praised Hextall as the greatest goaltender he had ever played against following the series. For his efforts, Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.He would become the first goaltender to shoot the puck the length of the ice and score a goal when he accomplished the feat the next season at the Spectrum against the Boston Bruins. Hextall would also be the first goaltender to do the same in the postseason, when he scored on the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 1988 playoffs.As is the case now with Doughty, Hextall’s future at the time was truly looking to be the brightest of the bright.During the summer of 1989, Hextall came to the conclusion that for all that he brought to the table and all that he meant to the Flyers, he was vastly underpaid. Though he had a contract, Hextall reasoned that it was inadequate and deemed it the deal as having no validity.He promptly refused to report to camp, and the man who had been showered with accolades for his refusal to accept defeat throughout the hockey community – and especially in Philadelphia – was suddenly coming under scrutiny from team officials and fans, alike.Hextall, who was labeled “selfish” by team president Jay Snider, would remain out of the fold for six long weeks.After the Flyers got off to a horrific 1-5-1 start without their regular goalie, GM Bob Clarke broke down and asked both Hextall and his agent, Ritch Winter, if they would come to Philly to see if some kind of understanding could be worked out between the sides.When they were able to come to an agreement, it seemed that Hextall would come back and save the Flyers’ season, but that would not end up being the case at all.Without proper preparation that working out with the team and going through drills in training camp entails, Hextall endured an injury-filled season upon his return. He played in just 8 games in all, which were interrupted by four seperate injuries – two left groin pulls, a left hamstring pull, and a right groin tear. He would finish with a 4-2-1 record, with a bloated 4.15 goals-against average, and an awful .868 save percentage.The team, in turn, never fully recovered. Philadelphia finished with just a 30-39-11 mark, and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.Injuries became chronic for Hextall, who played in just 36 contests in 1990-91 and 45 in 1991-92. Both the netminder and the Flyers finished with sub-.500 records in both seasons, and the team again failed to receive an invitation for the postseason dance in both years.Hextall’s stay in The City of Brotherly Love ended in the summer of 1992, as he was sent to the Quebec Nordiques as part of the package that brought young phenom Eric Lindros to the Flyers.
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