When the Flyers season ended, exactly one month ago Monday, it was perceived that changes were going to be coming. The Flyers had missed the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons. They had already started the purge during the season with the firing of GM Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol. With Chuck Fletcher in the GM chair, things were certainly going to be different.
The Flyers wasted little time in the offseason in getting their first order of business resolved. Alain Vigneault was hired as head coach on April 15, just nine days after the Flyers final game in the 2018-19 season.
The next thing to be done was to assemble the rest of the coaching staff. When the Flyers announced the new staff on Monday, it was clear experience was a key factor.
Vigneault has over 1,200 games behind the bench as a head coach. His new assistants, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, have also served as head coaches with multiple stops. Combined, the trio has over 2,500 games of head coaching experience.
The hirings, completed by Vigneault and Fletcher, show a clear shift in philosophy from the previous regime. Ron Hextall took a chance by hiring Hakstol, a college coach with no NHL experience. His staff of assistants also had no NHL experience.
The Flyers new coaching staff isn’t just led by a coach with experience. There are three head coaches behind the bench in different roles.
Experience. Accountability. Structure. The Flyers haven’t shown these qualities in recent years, but make no mistake about it, shortcomings and failures will not be accepted anymore.
Experience isn’t a direct correlation to success. Just because the Flyers have new coaches, even with all the experience, it does not equal success. That will ultimately come down to the players.
The role of a coach, as Vigneault said repeatedly at his press conference, is to provide direction to the players, but ultimately it is on the players to be motivated and ready to play mentally from the drop of the puck. The experience can help the Flyers in that respect. There are now three coaches behind the bench that have guided teams to the playoffs, that have served in the role of guidance counselor to the players and helped them achieve success. Just not the ultimate success.
It truly is a bench unlike many seen in the NHL. It’s not unusual for a head coach to bring a former head coach onto his staff as an assistant -- Vigneault has done it in each of his stops as a head coach. But two former head coaches in assistant roles is certainly uncommon.
This is a critical offseason for Fletcher, who has already made one franchise-altering move by hiring Vigneault, the coach that will ultimately determine his long-term success. The rest of the moves to come -- from the re-signings that will occur over the next few weeks to the draft and free agency -- will ultimately determine the success of Fletcher’s era with the Flyers.
The hope for the Flyers is that the experience, an opposite approach to the previous regime, will translate to success, that the direction provided by the new coaching staff gets the Flyers back on the right track. Only time will tell, but the Flyers made a statement with their coaching hires.
This franchise has not been successful lately, and it appears that will not be tolerated any longer. It certainly falls on the players now to achieve that success, especially with three head coaches behind the bench that will demand success and consistency.