Scott Hartnell blames Flyers coach, R.J. Umberger blames himself

Scott Hartnell blames Flyers coach, R.J. Umberger blames himself

Hearing Scott Hartnell explain his decision to waive a no-trade clause and join the Columbus Blue Jackets was something that sticks with you.

He was upbeat, because he’s Scott Hartnell. But there was this palpable shock, disappointment and frustration. He bled orange and black. But so did Mike Richards and so did Jeff Carter and so did James van Riemsdyk. Hartnell was just another name on that list of players who saw long-term security evaporate at the whim of the team’s management.

“It had a lot to do with [Ron] Hextall being named GM, and he wanted to put a fingerprint on how he wants to play,” he said, back in June, after being flipped for R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick. “He has a different vision for the club and their style of play going forward.”

He returns to Philly on Friday for the first time to face the Flyers. While Hextall was the target of his ire last summer, he moved the target to Coach Craig Berube in speaking with Randy Miller of NJ.com: 

"You think of what happened and why me ... I'm sure (Chief) had a big part of that or a big opinion in whether to part ways or not," Hartnell said. "But I'm not going to sit here and worry about it and lose sleep over it, that's for sure."

Berube said on Wednesday that he doesn’t “have input on trades” and laughed off the suggestion.

Economically, the Flyers still believe they made out will in the deal, with Hartnell signed through 2019 and Umberger signed through 2017. But Hartnell’s $4.75 million cap hit is, frankly, a ridiculous bargain, and should remain so.

But Hextall tells CSN Philly that he stands by the deal:

“I can’t give you a percentage, but you look forward to your team two or three years out, and kind of judge how much money you are going to pay this player and that player and where another player will be at that time,” Hextall said.

“There’s a lot of things you look at to try and plan. Every plan goes awry in terms of guys you don’t have to pay as much and some you have to pay more. You gotta look forward. A lot of teams get into salary cap problems and you got to do your best to avoid it. It’s difficult.”

On the ice … it’s not even close right now. Hartnell has 14 points in 15 games, skating a top-liner for the Blue Jackets. Umberger has three points in 14 games, skating roughly four minutes a game less than Hartnell. They’re both a minus-6.

Umberger’s in an impossible situation. He’s replacing a franchise fan favorite, and absence makes the heart grow fonder when Flyers fans see what Hartnell’s giving the Jackets.

Berube said that Umberger has “the weight of the world” in his shoulders, and Umberger didn’t disagree, telling CSN Philly: “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and that is the thing that gets me.”

The split wasn’t an easy one for Hartnell or the Flyers. One expects Philly fans to give him a hero’s welcome on Friday. One hopes the team has enough class to give Hartnell his due during the game with a tribute.