The Flyers did not renew assistant coach Joe Mullen’s contract, general manager Ron Hextall announced Thursday.
Mullen was in charge of the power play, which was No. 1 in the NHL and clicking at 25 percent on Dec. 10. The power play slipped to 14th (19.5 percent) by the end of the season.
The power play collapsed in March, contributing to the Flyers’ failure to make the playoffs for the third time in five years. In March, the Flyers’ power play was just 8 for 66 (12.1 percent).
“I’m not laying anything on Joe Mullen,” Hextall said at a season-ending news conference at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “It was a gut call on my part. I felt like we needed to make a change. It’s not because of necessarily the power play. It’s just one of those things where I feel like we needed a change.”
Hextall said he told Mullen on Monday his contract wasn’t being renewed. He called Mullen “one of the nicest human beings and one of my favorite guys in the whole world” and added that “Monday was one of the worst days of my life because of it. I have an awful lot of respect for him.”
Mullen, an outstanding forward who went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, was a Flyers assistant for 10 years.
“I can’t imagine a better person than Mully,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
All other coaches will return, said Hextall, who added that he and Hakstol would have numerous discussions before selecting Mullen’s replacement.
Hextall said the Flyers’ leadership group “has got to be better. The number one part of leadership is backing [it up]. … The talk is cheap.”
He said he wasn’t talking specifically about captain Claude Giroux.
“That’s our whole group,” he said.
Added Hextall: “You look at the best leaders in the game and they go out on the ice and do it.”
Goalie Anthony Stolarz, who had to be helped off the ice early in the first period of the Phantoms’ playoff-clinching, 2-1 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, is going to miss several games. He left the rink using crutches.
“I don’t have the whole ball of information on Stolie, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be healthy in the real near future,” Hextall said.
Defenseman Brandon Manning will have a small fragment removed from one of his disks, and Hextall called it a “very mundane procedure” and said he “should be fine.”
Hextall added that winger Dale Weise recently had bone spurs removed from his elbow.
If he could do it over again, Hextall said he would not have carried eight defensemen for most of the season.
“That’s a tough situation for the coaches, tough situation for the defensemen, and quite frankly, for the team,” he said. “I look back at what I could have done different, that’s one of the things.”
Dave Scott, the Comcast Spectacor president and the Flyers’ governor, said that it was a difficult season but that it was a “terrific year from a business perspective. It was probably one of the best years we’ve ever had.” He called Hextall “our guy. We believe in the system, we like the vision, the strategy, the pipeline. These young players coming up, there’s a lot of excitement.” … Hextall didn’t rule out the possibility of dealing one of his core forwards. It didn’t sound as if he would pursue a free-agent forward on the market. … Hextall credited Andrew MacDonald for helping the growth of his defensive partner, rookie Ivan Provorov. He added that he hopes Provorov is “one of the guys next year where young kids come in and watch him. Kid’s a pro. Mac’s a pro.”