Hex­tall’s us­ing cau­tion with rookie Sto­larz

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

An­thony Sto­larz has been called up to the big club six other times as other goalies were in­jured. But he’d never been called upon to play. Now, with Michal Neu­virth out with in­jury, will he get a shot to start?

VOORHEES, N.J. >> There was Ron Hex­tall on this Mon­day morn­ing, do­ing what he does best, ver­bally joust­ing with the me­dia.

His tal­ented goal­tender who rarely gives him­self a chance to show that, Michal Neu­virth, had hurt him­self yet again, and as a re­sult the sub­ject of this dis­cus­sion was rookie goalie An­thony Sto­larz.

Just called up on this day, he was on the Skate Zone prac­tice ice, per­haps won­der­ing if he was ever go­ing to get the chance to show his tal­ents in a real NHL game.

Con­sid­er­ing he’s a goalie, Sto­larz was a sur­pris­ingly high draft pick in 2012, go­ing in the sec­ond round at No. 45 over­all yet draw­ing much at­ten­tion as the Fly­ers’ first se­lec­tion. He’d work through two more years of ju­nior hockey as a 6-foot-6 but too-lanky Fly­ers teen prospect, then an­other two full sea­sons as a de­vel­op­ing pro with the Phan­toms. This sea­son, he’d won six of eight starts.

Sto­larz has been called up to the big club six other times as other goalies were in­jured. But he’d never been called upon to play.

“I’m just tak­ing it day by day,” Sto­larz said. “I’ve pre­pared my­self down in the Le­high Val­ley all year for an op­por­tu­nity to try to make an im­pres­sion, and if my name’s called I’ll be ready. ... Just be­ing in this at­mos­phere, you kind of want to con­trib­ute.”

Now, with Neu­virth on Long Term In­jured Re­serve for four to six weeks with a lower body in­jury, it seemed ob­vi­ous Sto­larz would soon be mak­ing his NHL de­but. Or will he?

“I have no idea,” gen­eral man­ager Hex­tall said. “Prob­a­bly nor does the coach.” Oh. But both Neu­virth and in­cum­bent starter Steve Ma­son have been equally bad in the early weeks of this sea­son. Ma­son, fresh off a bru­tal per­for­mance Fri­day night in Toronto, did come in and play a very solid two pe­ri­ods Satur­day after Neu­virth left with the in­jury, lead­ing the Fly­ers to a 3-2 win over the Min­nesota Wild.

But even if Neu­virth’s re­cov­ery — Hex­tall doesn’t think it will re­quire surgery — lasts a min­i­mum of four weeks, that means Ma­son would still have to play 14 more con­sec­u­tive games while Sto­larz does what he usu­ally does here: Prac­tice.

“An­thony’s done a good job with the Phan­toms,” Hex­tall said. “He’s had a cou­ple of years down in the Amer­i­can League, he’s con­tin­ued to get bet­ter, so we’ll see where it goes.”

Well it goes with­out say­ing that the time is ripe to see what you have in Sto­larz. While Ma­son, as he showed late last win­ter, can be an al­most ev­ery-day goalie, he was charged with that mis­sion then be­cause coach Dave Hak­stol was try­ing to ramp him up for the play­offs.

This sit­u­a­tion isn’t nearly the same. It’s early in the sea­son, and the cur­rent com­pacted sea­son sched­ule has been bru­tal with backto-backs.

So, of course we’re go­ing to see Sto­larz play ... ?

“Yeah, I think you will,” Hak­stol said. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for An­thony to con­tinue what he’s done over the last year and a cou­ple of months here in the Amer­i­can Hockey League. He’s proven that he’s ready to be here.”

But Hex­tall, while not coun­ter­ing his coach’s call, didn’t seem con­vinced about the 22-year-old Sto­larz. Or maybe he was just joust­ing.

“We’re in the busi­ness of win­ning games, not in try­ing play­ers out or see­ing new play­ers or what­ever,” Hex­tall said. “It’s not as ex­cit­ing for us as maybe it is for you. You guys al­ways seem to want a new body or a new face. That’s not our busi­ness.”

But shortly af­ter­ward, Hex­tall hinted at some­thing that might be be­hind his think­ing. Some­thing he pulled from his deep thoughts ... some­thing a lit­tle haunt­ing.

“You don’t want to bring a young goalie in here and put it on his back that he’s the sav­ior, like some peo­ple think we should do right now,” Hex­tall said. “(Sto­larz) is go­ing to prac­tice and he’s go­ing to be part of our team. That’s a much bet­ter sit­u­a­tion to as­sim­i­late a young goalie into the fold, than bring­ing him up with two healthy guys and say­ing, ‘OK, you’re our guy.’”

Then, as if the ex­am­ple was ob­vi­ous, Hex­tall sud­denly added, “You re­mem­ber years ago, Pel­letier?” Oh . ... Ohhh. Pel­letier, as in Jean-Marc. From a French-Cana­dian fam­ily but born in At­lanta. Drafted by the Fly­ers after two years at Cor­nell Univer­sity as a BACKUP goalie. He went in the sec­ond round, 30th over­all, in 1997. Like Sto­larz, Pel­letier was the Fly­ers’ first pick that year. It was just one year after they had drafted sup­posed goalie of the fu­ture, Maxime Ouel­let, and it was one year be­fore gen­eral man­ager Bob Clarke would sign 34-yearold free agent goalie John Van­bies­brouck in July 1998.

Fran­chise icon Ron Hex­tall was still around then, too.

It came to pass for a very good Fly­ers team in March 1999 that the 34-year-old Hex­tall didn’t have the con­fi­dence of coach Roger Neil­son, and Van­bies­brouck al­lowed a cou­ple of bad goals in Mon­treal, the Fly­ers’ fourth con­sec­u­tive loss. Beezer was toast, but rather than go back to Hex­tall, Clarke and Neil­son brought up the former Cor­nell sopho­more who was now a first-year pro for the Phan­toms. to play the next night against the vis­it­ing Ot­tawa Se­na­tors at First Union Cen­ter.

“I can’t re­mem­ber what the score was,” Hex­tall said, “but we lost.”

Pel­letier had hung in there through all of a 5-0 loss to the Se­na­tors. Neil­son raged after the game, mak­ing plans to get Beezer back in net. The Fly­ers, just a short time re­moved from be­ing near the top of the con­fer­ence, didn’t know they were on their way to a 12-game win­less skid (no shootouts back then). By the time they hit the play­offs they were a lost team, flop­ping to Toronto in six games in the first round.

Told by one coun­ter­ing jouster Mon­day that Pel­letier didn’t last long here after his one-game stint, Hex­tall shot back, “Maybe that was why.”

Pel­letier went on to play 24 games with the Phan­toms the next sea­son when he was shipped to the Carolina Hur­ri­canes with Rod Brind’Amour for Keith Primeau in Jan. 2000. Pel­letier would bounce around in the mi­nors, even­tu­ally play­ing six more NHL games with the Phoenix Coy­otes in the early 2000s. After an­other cou­ple of mi­nor league sea­sons he went to Ger­many, and fin­ished his ca­reer there in 2010 with the Ham­burg Freez­ers.

In 2011 he went back to Cor­nell to get his de­gree.

So the moral of this touchy gen­eral man­ager mem­ory?

“You don’t put young peo­ple in a po­si­tion to fail,” Hex­tall said. “You put young peo­ple in a po­si­tion to suc­ceed. With Neuvy hurt right now, we have two goalies and our two goalies are Mase and Stolie. So we’ll see where it goes . ... Stolie’s our sec­ond guy right now. There’s a chance he’ll get into a game. We’ll see.”

By the way, the Fly­ers’ op­po­nent at Wells Fargo Cen­ter Tues­day night is the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors. Just sayin’.

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Work­ing in an ex­hi­bi­tion game for the Fly­ers this sea­son, An­thony Sto­larz, left, tends goal against the New Jersey Devils Sept. 28 in Al­len­town.

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