Mark Madden: Penguins GM Ron Hextall did nothing to lose his job or keep him


If my program director asks me what’s on today’s show, I tell him.

When the plate umpire asks a manager for the lineout card, he cannot refuse.

A chef submits a menu. A soccer coach designs a playbook. A film producer needs a script. These are requirements that are not kept secret in anyone’s head.

Fenway Sports Group owns the Penguins. FSG have asked general manager Ron Hextall to submit his plan for the team. He initially refused, saying it was all in his head.

It’s not good, or how it works.

FSG insisted. Hextall complied.

But it does make you wonder how organized Hextall’s plan was at the time, or if he had one.

Since Hextall was hired in February 2021, it’s been difficult to spot much of a plan. The Penguins have barely changed.

Being a mid-season substitute isn’t easy. Hextall was plagued with salary cap issues upon his arrival, and those didn’t ease until, potentially, this offseason. Hextall was also tasked with rebuilding and fighting at the same time, a difficult task.

But Hextall had an unimpressive resume in the first place. He had previously served as general manager once, with Philadelphia from 2014-18. During Hextall’s tenure, the Flyers missed the playoffs twice and lost twice in the first round.

Flyers legend Bobby Clarke criticized Hextall’s work in Philadelphia, questioning Hextall’s draft picks and trades. He also trailed Hextall’s method.

“He immediately alienated everyone,” Clarke said. “He closed his door. He locked the doors. He was the boss, so no one else was in it.

Hextall emits an antisocial or agoraphobic vibe. The clearest duty performed by the president of hockey operations, Brian Burke, is to prevent Hextall from talking to people.

Hextall helped Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup in 2012 as an assistant general manager. His work with the Kings was highly regarded. But maybe Hextall isn’t cut out for the top spot.

Hextall hasn’t made many notable moves since becoming the Penguins’ general manager. As noted, he was limited by the Penguins being tight against the ceiling.

But Hextall’s decision to extend Jeff Carter’s contract in January stands out as eccentric. Carter, 37, signed for $6.25 million over two years.

Hextall knew that Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust were in the final season of their contracts. The money given to Carter is less money available to hold them back. Why would Hextall sign an elderly third line center with the future of more important players yet to be determined?

If it had already been decided that Malkin, Letang and Rust would leave, then the Penguins are in rebuilding mode and don’t need a 37-year-old center.

If Malkin returns, then the Penguins will start next season with 37, 36 and 35-year-old centers. It doesn’t exactly match coach Mike Sullivan’s favorite speed game.

This means Hextall has no plan or a flawed plan.

Maybe it speaks to Hextall about doing a buddy a favor. Both Hextall and Carter were with the Kings at the same time.

If that’s too much of an inference, that’s what happens when there’s no logical reason.

FSG aims for elite management. By their standard, Hextall is not good enough. He did nothing to lose his job. But he did nothing to keep it.

Hextall’s initial refusal to submit his plan sounded like something you’d see in “The Office.” Maybe Will Arnett could be the Penguins’ next general manager.


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