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Flyers Coaching Search: Is It a Two-Horse Race?

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Stanley Cup Final is set to begin on Wednesday. For the two weeks that follow, it is typically a quiet time for other teams around the NHL, particularly when it comes to coaching vacancies. 

The Flyers continue to take steps toward hiring their next head coach. How close are they to doing so? While nothing is imminent in terms of an official deal, it does appear the Flyers are moving forward with their coaching search by narrowing down the list of potential finalists.

According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, finalists for the Flyers head coaching position are believed to include Barry Trotz and John Tortorella. Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo also reported that Peter DeBoer is also a finalist.

The Flyers interviewed a number of other candidates, including Mike Vellucci, Rick Tocchet, Jeff Blashill, and David Quinn. There were also reports that the team had spoken to Bruce Cassidy, though it is not clear that was a formal interview.

It is not clear if there are any additional finalists to those three names, but one thing seems abundantly clear: getting an experienced head coach matters to the Flyers management group.

Trotz has been the headliner of the coaching free-agent market. Much of what is happening around the league hinges on Trotz’s decision. Winnipeg, Detroit, Vegas, Dallas, and Boston all have coaching vacancies and are similarly awaiting what Trotz does before moving forward with any other candidates.

Trotz was the head coach of the New York Islanders for the last four seasons. Prior to that, he spent four years as head coach of the Washington Capitals after serving as the first head coach of the Nashville Predators for 15 seasons.

Tortorella, on the other hand, has been heavily linked to the Flyers over the last few weeks and appears ready to take on the job. Tortorella has been the head coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2001 to 2008. 

In February of 2009, he took over as head coach of the New York Rangers until the conclusion of the 2013 season. He spent the 2013-14 season as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, but was fired at the end of that season. After taking the 2014-15 season off from coaching, he returned behind the bench as a mid-season replacement for the Columbus Blue Jackets in October 2015. He held that position until mutually parting ways after his contract expired following the 2020-21 season.

Tortorella has also spent time as an analyst, first on TSN and most recently on ESPN this past season.

DeBoer most recently coached the Vegas Golden Knights for the last three seasons. He was fired on May 16 after Vegas missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Prior to Vegas, DeBoer spent part of five seasons with the San Jose Sharks, being fired 33 games into the 2019-20 season before replacing Gerard Gallant in Vegas for the final 22 games. He spent part of four seasons with the New Jersey Devils from 2011 to 2015 and three full seasons with the Florida Panthers from 2008 to 2011.

Trotz ranks third all-time in coaching wins with 914 and won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018. Tortorella ranks 14th all-time in coaching wins with 673 and won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. Tortorella also ranks second all-time in coaching wins by a U.S.-born coach, trailing only Peter Laviolette. DeBoer ranks 26th all-time in coaching wins with 513 and reached the Stanley Cup Final twice with New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016.

While it’s always possible another name could be among the finalists the Flyers have, it’s fair to also wonder if this coaching decision comes down to two names already and one determining factor. Is this a two-horse race between Trotz and Tortorella?

If it is, then the decision seems pretty easy to decipher. Every team with a vacancy seems not only interested in Trotz, but awaiting his decision before making another move. That would certainly indicate that if he decided on the Flyers that an offer would be waiting, even if nothing formal has been made yet. If Trotz decides to go elsewhere, it may be Tortorella’s job. Tortorella may be hired regardless of what Trotz decides, simply because the Flyers may decide he’s the right fit and make the hire.

DeBoer is an interesting addition to the list of finalists, but he appears to be trailing Trotz and Tortorella at this point.

Ultimately, the final decision on which finalist emerges is still likely a couple weeks away with the Stanley Cup Final about to take place. But the picture is becoming clearer for the Flyers, who seem poised to add a big-name free agent behind the bench before embarking on an offseason of crucial decisions among players.

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