Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ron Hextall Jersey Card

Ron Hextall was perhaps the most polarizing goalie of his generation. He had his ups - a Vezina Trophy in his rookie year and two other top-10 finishes, a Conn Smythe in his rookie year - and downs (GAAs over 3.00 in eight consecutive seasons, and a career save percentage of .895 despite playing six seasons in the Dead Puck Era). He, uh, also had a bit of a temper:

The Philadelphia Flyers have had very good goalies pass through their ranks, Bernard Parent being perhaps the "best" one - and Pelle Lindbergh leaves you with a definite "what if?" feeling - but Hextall is the quintessential Broad Street Bully in that there were seasons where he was among the elite and he was aggressive as fuck, a prison riot onto himself. As a matter of fact, he has eight seasons in which he accumulated more than 30 penalty minutes, including three consecutive over the 100-PIM mark.

Just look at his stance, with his shoulders leaning forward making him slightly off-balance but also challenging the puck-handler who knows Hextall's as likely to try to stop the puck as he his to literally attack the shooter:
It's card #GJ-RH from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and Upper Deck Game Jersey sub-set, showing him wearing the Flyers' black (mid-1990s away) uniform with a white game-worn jersey swatch inserted in it.

He spent 11 of his 13 NHL seasons manning the net in Philadelphia, with his fiercest opponents being the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Montréal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils; it's fitting that the two other teams he played with shared those rivalries, the Québec Nordiques being the Habs' regional foes and the New York Islanders having the same issues with the Rangers and Devils.

Unlike others, he was actually more focused when his anger was "on". But he was also more than just a raging bully; like Patrick Roy, he was among the best skaters on his team and showed youngsters (and minor-league coaches) how not putting the worst player in nets could actually contribute to a better transition game.

He was the best stick-handler of his time, and the first goalie to score in both the regular season and the playoffs. He even came up with a customized Victoriaville stick that I used for a couple of years (before reverting back to the more classic John Vanbiesbrouck model) which had a curve in the shaft for the glove hand to have a better grip and shoot harder.

What's weird is that he's now one of the best general managers in the NHL, a position in which one has to keep their cool in both tough and great times and never overreact, because just one bad decision can sink your team for years, perhaps even decades. He has a Stanley Cup under his belt as an executive (he was the assistant GM with the Los Angeles Kings), making up for the two Cup Finals he lost as a player (1987 and 1997).

Since taking over GM duties on May 7th, 2014, he has gotten rid of most of the Flyers' bad contracts that his predecessor Paul Holmgren had straddled the team with, all while stacking up the deepest defensive prospects pool in hockey, highlighted by the likes of Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim - and perhaps even Mark Alt, Robert Hagg and Mark Friedman.

Hextall was the second third-generation NHLer (and, thus, NHL grandson), his grandfather Bryan Hextall being a Hall Of Fame player with the Rangers and his father, Bryan Jr., and uncle Dennis Hextall also having played in the league; his son Brett Hextall was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes, and should he play, he will become only the second fourth-generation NHLer (after the Howie Morenz - Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion - Dan Geoffrion - Blake Geoffrion connection).

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