By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — These are clearly not the same old Flyers.

General Manager Ron Hextall broke away from the tradition of bringing back former Flyers to the organization when he selected his new head coach. His choice was Dave Hakstol, who spent the past eleven seasons coaching at the University of North Dakota. In a year in which several experienced coaches were available, the Flyers G.M. chose to think outside the box.

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“I had a list of things that I wanted from a head coach,” said Hextall. “I went down this checklist in my mind and every box was checked except for the NHL experience. Quite frankly for me, that was the one that was least important.”

Hextall has seen plenty of Hakstol’s work in person. He coached Hextall’s son at North Dakota. Still, it is a move which surprised much of the hockey world. Some are questioning whether Hakstol can make the transition from coaching college kids to being in charge of highly-paid professionals. Hakstol admits there will be some adjustments needed, but has plenty of confidence that his philosophy will connect with pro players.

“I believe in what we do,” Hakstol said. “I believe in the things that I do, and I’m not going to change that as I come to this level. I think the delivery of the message may be a little bit different.”

This is a bold hiring by Hextall, and one which could certainly prove to be successful. Hakstol put together an impressive record at one of the top college programs in the country. Hakstol won 289 games at North Dakota and reached seven Frozen Fours in eleven seasons. He also coached 20 players who went on to play in the NHL. Even with Hakstol’s successful stint at North Dakota, Hetxall says he decided to trust his instincts when he made his final decision.

“You take all the information,” said Hextall. “You process it, and you weed through it and you make a decision with your gut. This is a gut decision, and I feel extremely comfortable with it.”

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One thing Hextall should feel comfortable with is Hakstol’s straight-forward approach. Hextall believes the players will have no doubt as to who is the boss when Hakstol meets with the team.

“I think they’ll figure out in a hurry here who’s in charge,” Hextall said. “Dave’s a very take-charge guy. He’s got an immense amount of respect around the hockey world.”

This has not been the best of times for the Flyers. They missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and have been stuck in salary cap purgatory. This is a critical hiring for Hextall, who took over before the start of last season. Some have wondered if Owner Ed Snider is still dictating much of the team’s policy. However, Snider made it clear that Hextall is the man in charge.

“Ron thinks outside the box,” Snider said. “But he also is a very deep thinker and I have great confidence in this hire and the future under Ron’s guidance.”

The future is now for Hakstol. The question now if his can continue to be a successful coach in the professional ranks.

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“I don’t have experience at this level,” said Hakstol. “I’m not going to pretend that I do, but I do have a great deal of confidence in what we do.”