Bench Mark: Flyers options for next head coach

Now that Craig Berube is officially out as Flyers head coach, the search begins for the next leader behind the bench for the Orange and Black.

There's only one problem. That coach may not be available just yet.

According to Tim Panaccio, the Flyers top three coaching options are all still employed by their current teams, which could make the search that much more difficult.

That said, Ron Hextall and the Flyers do have plenty of options, both available and waiting in the wings, as they look for a new coach.

The leading candidate without question is current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. It is rumored that Babcock and the Red Wings will part ways following this season, after 10 seasons. If that's the case, look for the Flyers to make a serious run at Babcock.

In his 10 years with Detroit, posting a record of 458-223-105 record and making the playoffs in all 10 seasons, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2007-08.

Another option is current Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien. Julien's job is definitely in jeopardy after missing the playoffs this season, the first time the Bruins missed the playoffs under Julien, and the firing of GM Peter Chiarelli. Unless the Bruins fill the job internally, it appears Julien will follow. 

Julien just completed his eighth season as Bruins coach, posting a 351-192-79 record, including a Stanley Cup championship in the 2010-11 season.

The third coach on the Flyers short list is Todd McLellan, current coach of the San Jose Sharks. McLellan and the Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time since McLellan's hiring in 2008. This was McLellan's seventh season with the Sharks, posting a 311-163-66 record.

There are numerous other options currently available as well. Dan Bylsma and John Tortorella, both Stanley Cup winning coaches, have been out of work for the last season. Bylsma won a Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the only team with which he has NHL head coaching experience. Tortorella won a Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, before serving as head coach of the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.

The Flyers are the third team this offseason to fire their head coach. Toronto fired Randy Carlyle in January and finished the season with Peter Horachek as interim, leaving a vacancy as the offseason begins. Buffalo fired Ted Nolan immediately after the season ended on Sunday.

The New Jersey Devils also never formally filled the head coaching job after the firing of Pete DeBoer, another free agent coaching option for the Flyers. Currently, the head coaching duties in New Jersey are split between Adam Oates and Scott Stevens.

The Edmonton Oilers also had Todd Nelson finish the season as interim head coach after Dallas Eakins was fired in December.

Additionally, there are several assistant coaches that could be suitable fits if the Flyers choose to go that route. Two of them stand out.

One is current Los Angeles Kings assistant and former Flyers head coach John Stevens. Stevens has been with the Kings for two Stanley Cup runs and is expected to be the heir apparent to Darryl Sutter. That said, he's an attractive piece to the many teams who will be in the market for new coaches.

Stevens was also the head coach of the Flyers from 2006 to 2010. Stevens took over for Ken Hitchcock eight games into the 2006-07 season and was fired after 25 games in the 2009-10 season. The fact that Stevens was already exercised as head coach of the Flyers makes his selection less likely. 

The Flyers do have a knack for staying within the organization or dipping into their past when it comes to hiring personnel. Enter Rod Brind'Amour, current assistant with the Carolina Hurricanes and a former Flyer from 1991 to 1999. He certainly meets the criteria of former Flyer great who could enter the organization again as part of the coaching staff.

In a similar way, Hextall could also tap into the Flyers past and revisit his days in Los Angeles with another coaching option.

Mike Stothers, a Flyers draft pick in 1980 and player for parts of four seasons with the team, is the current head coach for the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings AHL affiliate. 

Another minor-league coach that may garner some attention is Jeff Blashill. Blashill is currently the head coach of the Red Wings AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, and served as an assistant coach under Babcock in the 2011-12 season. In his first two seasons as Griffins head coach, Blashill helped Grand Rapids win a Calder Cup and make another conference semi-finals appearance.

That is all speculation at this point, as the list of coaching options continues to grow. Also growing is the number of teams in need of a new head coach. The Flyers join four other teams in search of a coach with potential four or five more teams contemplation making a coaching change as well.

As Hextall said, he would like to have a new coach in place by the Draft. So the clock is ticking, the search is underway, and the speculation will only grow from there.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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