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Analysis

Patience and Tempered Expectations Required in Pursuit for a New Head Coach

It was first reported earlier last week by Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo that the Philadelphia Flyers and Barry Trotz were set for an interview for their vacant head coaching position for Friday. Jeff Marek of Sportsnet made mention on Friday that he had heard that Trotz was not interviewing with the Flyers that day but would most likely have one in the near future. SanFilippo took to Twitter a day later and updated the situation, saying that the Flyers and Trotz spoke briefly over the phone and that they were to meet in person the following week. Marek also confirmed that as well that both sides would meet the following week.

He added Chuck Fletcher’s official response to questions regarding the head coaching position: “We are conducting a formal search process to determine the next Head Coach of the Flyers. We expect to interview several high quality candidates over the coming days and weeks. Our goal is to find the right candidate for the job based on chemistry, fit, and a proven track record of success. Our process will be confidential and therefore we won’t be releasing any names or details of the candidates we select to interview.” Fletcher made mention of a 4-6 week window from his end-of-season press conference where he will sit down with all members of hockey operations and divulge the best route for the franchise for the present and future. 

Due to the sparse amount of news at this time of the season for any team, let alone the Flyers, anything to do with Trotz is going to be conversation worthy and breaking news. A lot of national media members have had their say about where they believe Barry Trotz will end up, many don’t believe he’ll be choosing Philadelphia due to fit and how the team has performed as of late. With better options like Vegas or his home-town Winnipeg Jets looking for a new head coach, many believe he will punt on the Flyers but as per usual, take it with a grain of salt, especially from media members who don’t follow the Flyers or have much prior knowledge. 

In terms of what the Flyers want, it doesn’t shock me by any means that Trotz is at the top of their list now. There wasn’t much inkling around the league that the New York Islanders were going to let him go after one failed season, especially after taking them to the Eastern Conference Finals in back to back seasons. Other names that were drawing interest from Philadelphia were current assistant coach of the St. Louis Blues and former Flyer Jim Montgomery, former Flyer Rick Tocchet, and even John Tortorella. The Flyers have been marginally linked to Montgomery for quite some time and it seems like the way some were talking about the situation, that the Flyers had him at the top of their list. Things have changed dramatically in a sense with Trotz becoming available. His pedigree, stature, history, and success will catapult him at the top of every team’s list regardless of prior candidates.

We already know about Trotz’s success but we don’t know a lot about the other potential candidates. Jim Montgomery had early success with the Dallas Stars when he went 43-32-7 in his first season as an NHL head coach. The Stars fell in the second round but things were looking great in Dallas under their new head coach. The following season, after 31 games and a 17-11-3 record, Montgomery was fired by the Stars for “personal behaviour issues”. A month later he checked himself into rehab to deal with his alcohol abuse. 9 months later, he was hired by the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach and has been on the Flyers radar since their mid-season dismissal of Alain Vigneault. 

Rick Tocchet has been a head coach for two different teams, spanning six seasons, and is a former Flyer who was recently inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame. In two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he went 53-69-26, missing the playoffs both times. 4 years later he became an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins and was behind the bench for 2 Stanley Cup wins. Following a successful run as an assistant coach, he was named head coach for the Arizona Coyotes and in 4 seasons he went 125-131-34, missing the playoffs three out of the four seasons but advancing to the second round in 2019-20. 

Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest posted a recent tweet stating that he’s heard a lot of chatter of the Flyers and Tortorella linking up. The fiesty, fiery, says-whatever-is-on-his-mind head coach screams Philadelphia and would embrace the culture almost instantly.

The Flyers know him very well from his time in New York and Columbus with the Rangers and the Blue Jackets respectively, and partially from his days as the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach (specifically the 2003-04 playoffs). He is a seasoned veteran behind the bench with 1,383 games under his belt, a record of 673-541-37-132, a Stanley Cup ring, and two Jack Adams Awards. He is a tough, hard-nosed head coach who can ruffle the feathers of his own players at times but he is still well respected, players love to play under him (Cam Atkinson), keeps his team accountable, and has a successful track record to boot. In terms of the fanbase, he would electrify, reenergize, and bring a totally different element behind the Flyers bench that hasn’t been seen in a very long time.

The Flyers also understand the dire need to finally get the right coach behind the bench. This will be their 7th coach since 2013 after going through the ringer with Peter Laviolette, then Craig Berube, Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon, Alain Vigneault, and Mike Yeo. Gordon and Yeo were interim head coaches, Paul Holmgren decided it was time to cut bait on Laviolette, Ron Hextall wanted Hakstol even though Berube was liked by the organization and players, Hakstol didn’t last too long after Hextall got the can, and Vigneault lost the team after a disastrous year and a half. 

Fletcher and company will be “doing their due diligence” over the next couple weeks as they enter a very critical juncture of modern day Philadelphia hockey. The fans are upset and have shown that through a variety of ways but none bigger than the drop in attendance and viewership on TV. Flyers want instant success and they don’t want to go through a rebuild, which has been the theme of the front office since January with Dave Scott’s blank cheque statement, being happy with the core that Fletcher has assembled, and believing that COVID was the root cause of their issues. If the Flyers can land Barry Trotz, that will set in motion a rather successful off-season because with a coach like that behind the bench, players will look at Philadelphia in a better light. Montgomery or Tocchet can have the same affect but Trotz is like a Big Mac and every other candidate is a value-menu burger. Good choices nonetheless, you’re not entirely displeased or disappointed with a double cheeseburger, but if given the opportunity, wouldn’t you want the Big Mac? 

Patience and tempered expectations will be required for this step because as much as everyone wants Barry Trotz, the Flyers will have to move mountains to make their sitation more appealing, attractive, and better than their competition. Money won’t be an issue because Comcast is ready to throw anything and everything but if Trotz doesn’t want to have to deal with the muddying situation that has been Philadelphia hockey for well over a decade, the Flyers will have to consult their board and look elsewhere, and since they already had candidates in mind before Trotz’s sudden firing, it won’t take too long for the Orange and Black to name their newest head coach.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation, living in Guelph

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