Grading Hak & Hex: Hoffman rumors, Weal scratched, Mrazek sticks in net

Updated: March 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm by Wes Herrmann

It was not a great week for the Philadelphia Flyers, who earned just a single point in three games over the past seven days. Unsurprisingly, things also weren’t glamorous for general manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol.

Flyers Balk at Mike Hoffman Price

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Boruk reported Monday that the Flyers had inquired on Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators before the Feb.26 trade deadline. Boruk’s sources told him that the Sens asked for Travis Sanheim and a first as a starting point for a return. The discussions didn’t move past there.

Sanheim and a first for Hoffman is a more-than-reasonable deal. Hoffman’s a near 30-goal winger every season, signed through 2019-20 to a $5.1 million cap hit. Any team that acquired him was theoretically paying for three playoff runs with the 28 year old.

Considering the asking price was just a “starting point” is the concern. Sanheim is a high-valued prospect and the first could be anywhere in the range from 11th to 31st (adjusting for the possibility of it being the Blues’ first rounder) in a weak draft year. That could have meant another prospect like German Rubstov, Morgan Frost or Wade Allison heading the other way.

Hextall had every reason to balk, but what it really shows me is that Hextall is looking at making a trade to help his team. He knew Hoffman wouldn’t be cheap and there were plenty of rumors that the GM was looking into a bevy of talent before the trade deadline, though they may not all be true.

Although the Flyers may have two first-round picks at the 2018 Draft, it seems logical that they may end up with just one — even if the Blues don’t hold on to their pick.

Jordan Weal Scratched Thursday

After scoring 12 points in 23 games last season, I think it’s fair to say that Jordan Weal has been a bit of a disappointment this season.

He’s still just as strong along the walls and quick in open ice, but the skill around the front of the net he showed last season hasn’t been as evident. Leading up to Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the 25 year old was held pointless in eight straight contests and was bumped from the second to the third line.

Hakstol didn’t think that was enough, though, and decided to sit Weal against the ‘Canes. The former King was a healthy scratch once before in November and responded with three points in the next six games.

But Flyers fans weren’t happy with the scratch, noting Hakstol’s inability to optimize the lineup — a common issue with the coach since he came to Philly. However, if Weal sits a couple games because he isn’t scoring and as a reset method to get the offense going, I think the move is fine.

If Weal doesn’t sit again, it’s just two games in an 82-game season that he missed because of the coach’s decision. It’s better to work out the kinks now then during the playoffs.

There’s also an argument that while Weal is sitting, players like Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise were in the lineup. Those two could be replaced with better players, but they aren’t counted on to score like Weal is.

Also, remember that both Lehtera and Weise have been healthy scratches this season. They haven’t been free of all punishment this year.

After the Hurricanes game, Weal was back in the lineup in place of Weise, quelling any more furor that could have came.

Petr Mrazek Played Back-to-Back

If I were to sum up Hakstol’s usage of goalies over this season, I would say that he’s been markedly better than last year. Unfortunately for the team and its netminders, this past week definitely hurt that statement.

In three games, Mrazek started every single one, including back-to-backs Saturday and Sunday. In total, the Czech Republic native let up 14 goals. That’s not to say that any of the losses were his fault, but it was clear he could have used a rest.

Mrazek started off the week by letting up four goals to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday. With two games in two days over the weekend, though, the 26 year old was given Saturday’s match against the Lightning.

I’m fine with that decision. Statistics have shown that it’s much harder for teams to win the second game in a two-day stretch than the first, so doing the most you can for the win in the first game is the right move. Not many would argue that.

Where most would argue, myself included, is that after giving up six goals and playing a team with little factor in playoff position, Mrazek should have sat Sunday against the Panthers. Hakstol felt otherwise, giving Mrazek the start and leaving him out there after he gave up three goals in the first two periods.

Again, the loss wasn’t on Mrazek (though a timely save on the second goal could have changed the tide), but it seemed like the perfect time to play Alex Lyon over him.

To play devil’s advocate, the Flyers do have a full two days off before Wednesday’s game and could have used a win after two tough losses.

But Philly has another back-to-back with a game Thursday also — and with more important opponents like the Penguins and Bruins. Fans will have to hope Hakstol acts better than he did last weekend.

Sanheim Remains with Phantoms

To most everyone’s surprise, Andrew MacDonald was banged up after Saturday’s game and had to miss Sunday’s game with what the team is calling a “day-to-day” injury. Johnny Oduya checked into the lineup Sunday for his first game in the orange and black.

To the chagrin of many Flyers fans, that meant that Sanheim was remaining with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Matters didn’t get much better during the game, either, with Oduya making an error on the first Panthers’ goal and playing an all-around poor game.

It became evident when Oduya was claimed that it would take a major injury, probably to an offensive defenseman, to force Hextall and Hakstol’s hands in recalling and playing Sanheim, respectively. A day-to-day injury to MacDonald wasn’t going to force that.

I’m not saying fans shouldn’t want Sanheim in the lineup — he should be here — but there’s a, perhaps, unfortunate plan that the team has laid out regarding the defenseman. Expecting Hextall to deviate isn’t realistic, as unfortunate as that may be.

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