Grading Hak/Hex: Hakstol Makes All the Wrong Choices

Updated: November 28, 2017 at 3:52 pm by Wes Herrmann

Another week, another winless stretch for the Philadelphia Flyers. For the first time this season, though, coach Dave Hakstol falls under a lot of heat for the decisions he made. Scratches, promotions, demotions and overtime are the topics in this week’s look at Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

Sam Morin & Danick Martel Recalled

Hextall couldn’t have granted Flyers’ fans wishes much better than he did last Tuesday when he recalled Morin and Martel. Morin probably should have made the team out of camp and fans were calling for Martel’s recall weeks ago.

Morin was actually recalled about a month ago, but was dealing with an injury that kept him out of the lineup. When he was healthy, though, Hakstol decided to play Mark Alt over him.

Alt played fine in his six games in Philly, but Morin is a part of the future. He should have been in the lineup much sooner than the career AHL blueliner.

Martel’s recall was more of a surprise. Hextall had said before that the 22 year old needed to show more before he considered calling Martel up, but with the Flyers’ offense hitting a major snag, his hand was forced.

Still, the recalls were smart moves by Hextall.

Morin only played two games. His first was a little rough, but his second was better. He was sent back to the Phantoms Monday (more on that later), however, he still showed promise.

Martel played even better, especially in the first game, bringing plenty of speed and creativity in the middle six. He even had a breakaway chance in the first Islanders game, but didn’t capitalize. A week after the call-up, he’s still a part of the Flyers’ lineup.

Brandon Manning in Overtime

In overtime of Friday’s game against the Islanders, Hakstol had three rookie defensemen among his lineup. One was Travis Sanheim, an offensive-focused blueliner with speed, Robert Hagg, a solid all-around player, and Morin, a defensive defenseman with impressive speed for his size. Naturally, Hakstol played Brandon Manning.

As I wrote last week, Hakstol’s trust in the undrafted defenseman was growing and it hit its peak Friday.

Manning is a serviceable bottom-pairing defenseman. That means there should be at least four better than him and the Flyers use just one at a time during the 3-on-3 overtime. There was no reason for him to be on the ice during a short sudden death situation.

Sanheim ended up being on the ice for the winning goal, but he shouldn’t be going after Manning and Hagg and Morin should be playing before him.

I will say that Manning has largely been playing decent hockey this year. Not well enough to warrant overtime ice time, though.

Weal, Leier Out for Lehtera, Weise

I can understand where Hakstol was coming from with these lineup decisions Monday. The Flyers’ bottom nine wasn’t producing, the Penguins have a big fourth line and Weal has been in a minor slump.

However, Weal and Leier’s speed were more likely to give the Pens’ fits and Pittsburgh, as the home team, had last change Monday night. I don’t think Hakstol is that dumb not to realize that, which makes me believe the coach thought the offense needed a tune-up.

Weal may be under-producing, but Leier scored Wednesday night. The fourth line, including Leier, hasn’t scored much, but has had plenty of chances. On top of all that, Leier is a rookie that now has to worry about his spot in the lineup.

Weise and Lehtera should be extra forwards, just on the roster because of their contracts. They can bring a more physical edge than Weal or Leier, but in today’s NHL that’s not as important as it used to be. To top it all off, Hakstol used Lehtera on the second power play unit, a spot that should go to Weal.

Hakstol got this decision wrong pure and simple.

MacDonald Back, Morin Returned to Phantoms

On the heels of the offensive lineup choices came the return of Andrew MacDonald and the corresponding demotion of Morin, due to roster space. That brought a lot of constant unrest for Flyers Twitter in less than 24 hours.

However, MacDonald had been having a good year before his injury. His Corsi for percentage isn’t great at 48 percent,but he is moving the puck better and excelling at dodging forecheckers in his zone.

Fans may not want to believe it, but chances are that the former Islander was missed in the Flyers’ locker room. The team named him an alternate captain for a reason and without him, the Philadelphia blue line was much younger than it’s been in years.

Where I have issue with Hakstol is placing MacDonald with Provorov and breaking up the impressive duo Provorov-Hagg duo. I would have rather seen MacDonald with Shayne Gostisbehere, who hasn’t always played a consistent game this year.

I have no problem with MacDonald replacing Morin in the lineup, but as you may have guessed from my earlier writing, I don’t believe Manning should be playing before him.

At his worst, Morin can probably be just as effective as Manning, but the veteran has become a favorite of Hakstol’s and won’t be scratched in favor of the rookie.

I understand Hextall’s wish for Morin to work on some issues in the AHL. At some time — maybe even a point in the past — the Quebec native deserves a legitimate chance in the NHL. Right now, it doesn’t look like he’ll get that opportunity with Manning on the roster.

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