Patience pays off in player development

In the salary-cap era, Ron Hextall understands the need to keep a certain focus on the future. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Los Angeles Kings were on the ice practicing during their 2012 Stanley Cup run and Ron Hextall was sitting in the stands watching. It was clear at that point that he would run his own team someday. He’d paid his dues, put in the mileage as a scout, then worked his way up to his job at the time as Kings assistant general manager.

This wasn’t some former star who expected to be handed the keys to a franchise one day because of his accomplishments on the ice. He was working, and in front of him, the labor was paying off. The Kings were dominant during that playoff run, and GM Dean Lombardi was quick to credit the assistance Hextall provided in building that powerhouse team. Bear in mind that this is a team that continues to win with essentially the same roster.

Hextall was chatting about his next step, why he chose management over coaching; to him, it was about vision. The coach has to think about lines and pairings that night. About winning in the moment.

He loved the idea of the big picture.

“I enjoy looking at pieces,” Hextall said that day. “As a manager, you want to win the next game, but you also can’t sacrifice the future. You have to have a vision.”

He went on to explain that it’s about balancing the future and the present. That every decision made, when he first started in Los Angeles, was through a lens that focused 90 percent on the future and 10 percent on the present.

At that moment, he estimated that the focus had shifted to 60 percent on the present and 40 percent on the future, a philosophical shift that meant the Kings were willing to give up draft picks and young talent to acquire Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, although still with one eye on the big picture. Neither players were rentals.

So it’s no surprise that one of the comments Hextall made during his introduction as GM of the Philadelphia Flyers that received the most praise was his call for patience with young players, the lifeblood of any organization during the salary-cap era.