Obviously responses will be subjective, but here's where I stand:
Hextall inherited one of if not the absolute worst contract structure in the league when he took over. It was a hot mess owing in no small part to several years of terrible management by Homer. Upon Hex taking over the job, he immediately said as much, albeit with far more diplomacy than what I just showed.
I for one hated every moment of it. It made no sense, and while other teams seemed to find success year in and year out, we were left watching from the side lines as the O&B iced subpar rosters with little to no talent or a handful of way passed their prime players in some vague attempt to fluke our way to a deep run. It was garbage, and it was no fun to watch.
What does Hextall do? Well, he did his best to right the ship. He got rid of dead weight after dead weight. Along the way, he patched up the holes with cheap replacements who, despite being obvious stop gaps, were still much better than the players they were replacing.
More importantly than all of that, Hex started to build a stable of prospects that is now the envy of 29 other teams. That to me is the single biggest gamechanger. I went from really not caring about drafts, prospects, and the Phantoms, to suddenly paying attention again.
How did all that work out? Well, this is how I look at the current season:
1. I expected to miss the playoffs.
2. I expected Giroux would continue to decline in production.
3. I figured team scoring in general would be very low.
4. I had a bad feeling Ghost would turn out to be little more than a PP specialist.
5. I imagined Elliott would be a train wreck.
6. I thought Voracek would turn out to be horribly overpaid for his production.
7. I figured all these kids and rookies would be in for a learning year, where nothing seems to go right at all.
In short, I expected largely a write-off year, where we would get to see some kids get experience, but that's about it.
Instead, we got:
1. We're going to the playoffs. Sure, not as contenders, but making them at all is better than I figured.
2. Giroux has been elite. Hart mention elite. Top five in the league elite.
3. Couturier has become great 1C to supplement Giroux's resurgence. And that's not counting all the kids (see no.7)...
4. Ghost has managed to not only shore up his defensive gaps, he and Provo have become one of the best pairings in the league. What's the last time we've been able to say that?
5. Elliott has been a train wreck.
6. Voracek... despite my having no idea how... has lived up to his contract with regards to production. He has been near or at the top of league scoring all season long.
7. I can't even begin to explain how pleased I am with the kids. Aside from the money that Provo and Ghost have become: TK has been a revelation; Patrick overcame a slow second half to become one of the best play drivers on the team; Hagg has brought jarring hits and overall solid dman with more offensive promise than I thought he would.
Bonus: Lindblom seems to be fitting in nicely. Morgan Frost is looking like a million bucks, and LHV is having a fantastic season.
So, overall, all of my predictions turned out to be wrong but one (blargh, Elliott).
That's not to say there haven't been frustrations. We're still carrying some dead weight in the bottom six. Some of that is understandable. Lehtera and Filppula were the cost of doing business on trades I do feel were good. Weise... well, I dunno what to say about Weise. I never liked it. I still don't. Such is the way I guess. Hakstol continues to make coaching decisions that are questionable at best at time, though he does seem to be a solid systems coach 5v5. Our special teams are... disappointing. I really hope we see some coaching changes in this regard.
Do I want better? Yeah, of course. Who's going to say any different. I won't be totally happy until I see a team that is a legit contender. The difference is, I feel like this team took a huge step forward this season. Better than I expected. Better than most people expected. Acquiring Mrazek at the deadline is an indication to me that even Hex didn't expect this type of year.
My thoughts now: Watch out for next season... I think we're on the cusp of something great.
I agree with your assessment. It’s easy to alternate between excitement and frustration during the ups and downs of a season. But overall, there’s a lot more to be excited about moving forward, and I think one word for me sums it up - sustainability.
Hextall has basically turned a run-and-gun franchise built on emotional management into a process-driven model of sustainable development. All the way from scouting and drafting, to team and individual development through the ranks of the organization, to the development and competitiveness of an NHL squad with ready replacements that are exciting and promising.
That, to me, is his biggest accomplishment. His legacy, really.
Until we win a Cup, of course
There’s only one point I disagree with. I don’t feel Elliott has been a train wreck. I think he’s been pretty much as advertised and what I expected. He’s been great for stretches and he’s been bad in stretches - overall, though, he’s been just ok. Unfortunately, he’s the best we’ve got right now.
Neuvirth has been a train wreck.
Yeah, for sure. Neuvy clearly isn't the guy either. In both cases, the season was destined to be tinged with subpar goaltending.
That said, it goes to show how great the team has been. While they have had bad stretches, they've also had stellar runs, and that despite very weak goaltending all season long. That says something about the talent and skill we currently have imo.
However i have to say a train wreck is unfair. I say more of what was expected.
Hard to call a guy who is 22-11-0-7 2.72 gaa 908% a train wreck.
Especially when the defense in front of him on a nightly basis is skating 2 men down (Mcudd and Manning are dressed!).
I'll give you mediocre, underwhelming or even a dime a dozen (maybe pushing it) but not train wreck.
After this year Hak staff needs to be replaced.
I guess you can keep Knobby since this is his 1st year....but the other two need to go otherwise good read.
Edit: Sorry right after i posted i read Brel's post (i should of read through) and i abree Neuvy has been the train wreck.