TO SAY Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has high praise for new goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh would be making an understatement.
Dillabaugh, whom the Flyers officially hired Friday, is a Hextall guy, having spent nearly six years working in Los Angeles as the Kings' goaltending development coach when Hextall was the assistant GM. Dillabaugh oversaw and contributed to the development of such goalies as Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Martin Jones.
He'll fill the void created when Jeff Reese suddenly left the Flyers in early March. Reese last month was hired to the same position in Dallas.
"I worked with Kim in LA for years, so I got to know him intimately," Hextall said. "He's one of the most intelligent guys I've ever been around with regards to the goaltending position. He's very calm, he's a terrific teacher, he's got a great personality, he knows how hard to push guys and when to back off and put arm around them.''
Coincidentally, Dillabaugh's hire came after the Flyers drafted three goalies in last month's draft. And it also came only days after the Flyers let go of amateur goalie scout Neil Little.
Dillabaugh did some scouting during his time in LA, assisting in putting together the club's draft board. His main job now, however, will be to work with Steve Mason and newly signed backup Michal Neuvirth. He was on the ice Tuesday when the Flyers opened prospect development camp, working with two of the three goalies the Flyers drafted and the three already in the system, including 2012 draft pick Anthony Stolarz.
The Flyers eventually will hire a goalie development coach to work with Dillabaugh and oversee the development of prospects, Hextall said. He said he's had preliminary discussions with Dillabaugh on what his specific duties will be, but his priority will be Mason and the Flyers.
Mason, 27, had arguably his best season in 2014-15, despite missing time after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. His 2.25 goals-against average was his lowest in any NHL season.
Dillabaugh said the two have spoken since his hiring.
"We're getting familiar with each other," Dillabaugh said. "He's a very intelligent person. Part of it is initially building that relationship; he's getting a feel for me, I'm getting a feel for him. I think we've gotten off to a great start there and we'll continue to build from this point forward.
"I'm kind of going through that process, getting to know his game. Obviously, the season he had last year was tremendous, so we're looking to continue to maximize his assets and his attributes and continue to work on making areas of his game better."
Stolarz said after his morning workout Tuesday that there were some noticeable differences and nuances in the way Dillabaugh instructed the goalies, mostly in the positioning.
"I think there's a core foundation platform we like all of our goaltenders to operate out of," Dillabaugh said. "It's not style-specific. I think if you look at the goaltenders we had in Los Angeles, they're all very unique in their makeup, but they all operate with underlying platforms. That's something that we obviously stress to make sure that foundation is strong and in place."
Hextall knows the stereotype of the Flyers as an organization known for goalies who underproduce. He's hoping that changes.
"I know this: We have probably as intelligent a guy in charge of our goalies as there is," Hextall said. "You can't win without . It's a critical position. Kim is a critical hire, and I think us drafting goalies and developing them the right way is critical, as well."
As for Dillabaugh's response to the notion that goalies go to die in Philadelphia?
"I'm starting from this point forward," he said. "What's happened in the past really doesn't have much to do with me."
Ron Hextall said that hiring a head coach for the AHL Phantoms was more "in the research process" at this point. "I hope to have a guy within a couple weeks," he said. Terry Murray left the post last month to join the Sabres' staff . . . Contract talks with defenseman Michael Del Zotto remain "amicable," according to Hextall. Del Zotto, 25, was one of 23 players to file for salary arbitration on Sunday. Arbitration hearings will be held in Toronto from July 20 to Aug. 4, should the Flyers not reach an agreement with Del Zotto before then.