Ron Hextall was the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender from 1986-92 and again from 1994-99. He is currently the Vice President/Assistant General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings.
Hextall was in Hershey last week, looking in on the Kings’ prospects who are playing for the Manchester Monarchs. With the Stanley Cup playoffs opening next week, Hextall talked about the Kings and defense of the Stanley Cup they won last season.
Question: What’s the mindset of the team, now, heading into the playoffs but coming off last season’s Stanley Cup victory?
Hextall: Not sure. I think it’s the first time we’ve all been in this siuation. Like we proved last year, you’ve just got to get into the playoffs and once you get in, you have to play your best hockey.
Question: Do you like the way the Kings are playing with the playoffs coming up next week?
Hextall: We had a bit of slow start, which was somewhat predictable, though based on the length of the lockout, we felt it would be minimized and it really wasn’t. For the first five or six games, our heads were still in last season. We snapped out of it after we got humiliated a few times and we’ve played pretty well since then. We feel good about our team and like our team. Right now, we’re playing solid hockey.
Question: Will the Kings draw from confidence from winning four series in the playoffs last season?
Hextall: I think there is a belief in yourself as a group. There’s a fine line there, though. You still have to put in all the hard work and sweat and grit into the battle as well. It’s knowing you can win and believing you can win but also understanding the effort and sacrifice that goes into it.
Question: Is the makeup of your team this season close to what it was last season?
Hextall: It’s pretty much the same. We lost Willie Mitchell (knee injury) and replaced him with Robyn Regehr. We got Matt Greene back now (after suffereing a back injury) so our defense is going to look much the same. Our goaltending is the same. And up front, our combinations are much the same as last year.
Question: Former Flyer Mike Richards has had a solid season for you and another former Flyer, Jeff Carter, has been even better with 26 goals and 33 points. Talk about Carter’s season.
Hextall: Jeff kept himself in real good shape during the lockout and that was a challenge since no one knew when the lockout would end. In the normal preparation for a season, you work up to the first game. But Jeff kept himself in top shape and hit the ground running at the start of the season. Jeff’s a sniper. He’s hungry and he’s fast and strong and has a great release.
Question: Did Carter need the change of scenery and need to get comfortable the way he has with your team in order to see his potential?
Hextall: I think the guys in Philly knew how good he was and the guys in Columbus traded for him and gave up a lot to get him and so did we. I don’t think there is a big secret there. I think, sometimes, Jeff can be a little more focused. The older you get as a hockey player, you start to figure out the little things you need to keep yourself focused and playing hard. He’s done a great job for us.