The Philadelphia Flyers have hired from within for their AHL head coaching position.
The new bench boss in Lehigh Valley has arrived! pic.twitter.com/njubrPGk3r
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) June 7, 2021
Ian Laperriere, 47, has been named the new bench boss of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The move comes less than three weeks after the announcement that incumbent head coach Scott Gordon and assistant Kerry Huffman would not be returning.
A Hard-Working Hockey Player
Lapierre was originally drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Blues in 1992. He was a high-scoring center in junior, but a long-shot to carve out a meaningful NHL career. Adopting an in-your-face playing style, he agitated opponents and wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves when needed. In the end, he played 1,083 NHL games for five different teams. He finished with 121 career goals, 336 points, and 1,956 penalty minutes.
Laperriere joined the Flyers organization on July 1, 2009, when he signed a three-year free-agent contract. But he played just one more season.
Laperriere was forced to the sidelines with post-concussion syndrome after being struck hard in the face by pucks twice during his lone campaign in orange and black. He officially retired after the 2011-12 season.
During his two seasons on long-term injured reserve, he stayed close to the organization. He often served as a mentor to younger players.
Laperriere was officially named Director of Player Development ahead of the 2012-13 season. When Craig Berube took over for Peter Laviolette four games into the 2013-14 season, Laperriere joined him as an assistant coach. He remained there for eight seasons, through the Berube, Hakstol, Gordon, and Vigneault regimes.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Laperriere thanked then-GM Paul Holmgren for all his support.
“He’s the guy who signed me, and he asked me what I wanted to do after and I told him what I wanted to do,” he said. “He helped me from Day 1. And you know, you meet so many people in hockey, some you forget. But Paul Holmgren, that’s the guy I’ll never forget. He’s the guy who will give me all my chances and I can’t thank him enough.”
What Laperriere Brings
Now, Laperriere is ready to run his own bench.
“I’m very excited for this next challenge in my career and I would like to thank Chuck Fletcher, Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan, as well as Jim and Rob Brooks for this opportunity,” said Laperriere in Sunday’s release. “The Phantoms are a first-class organization in the AHL and the fan base in Lehigh Valley are the very best at showing their support at every game.
“I look forward to developing the players in our system, helping the Flyers reach their goals by continuing the success of the Phantoms and building towards winning a Calder Cup Championship.”
When Gordon and Huffman departed last month, Laperriere’s name was immediately floated as a probable replacement. So Sunday’s announcement came as no surprise.
Assistant’s Job Remains Open
It was also rumored that one-time Flyers’ head coach Terry Murray could return to the organization as a Phantoms assistant. On Monday, Laperriere downplayed that possibility.
Laperriere confirms that he has NOT spoken to Terry Murray regarding the assistant coach position.
— Amy Johnson (@FlyersRule) June 7, 2021
Now 70, Murray served as head coach of the Flyers between 1994 and 1997. He returned for four seasons as an assistant, starting in 2003.
“We feel like if I went into July, there would be more candidates, like top-notch candidates out there,” Laperriere said about his hiring timeline. “I do have names in my head.”
As for his coaching style, it sounds like Laperriere-the-coach is going to be a lot like Laperriere-the-player.
“I’m going to be the energy guy who’s going to bring life at the rink every day and going to make sure we’re on the positive side,” he said. “I think that’s what the young guys need.
“They need a leader that’s going to direct them towards the right direction. To find a chair for those guys, especially those young guys coming up from juniors that just don’t know what kind of player they should be as a pro.
“When you get to this level, everybody was pretty good in junior or in college. I feel like my job and my staff’s job is going to be to find the right chair for those guys to be successful for the Phantoms. And if they are successful with Phantoms, they can move to the next level.”
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Learning On The Job
As a player, Laperriere’s minor-league experience was limited, while he was part of the Blues organization. He had a brief stint with the Peoria Rivermen of the now-defunct International Hockey League. Later, he played three games with the AHL’s Worcester IceCats.
He knows he has some learning to do when it comes to juggling the demands of the league. Player development comes first, but icing a fan-friendly, winning team is also important.
“I won’t lie to you, I don’t know much about the American League,” he said Monday. “I know by watching it and being around people that coach there and play there.”
“At the end of the day, it’s going to go back to the way I want the team to play and back into the structure. I want to have those kids buy in into that structure. And if they do get better, it won’t be a free ride. If they don’t play in your structure, they won’t play.
“I go back to the only thing I control is the ice time.
“We’ll see what kind of team we’re going to have next year on paper. It doesn’t matter what team I get, I’m going to have to make them better. If they are a Flyers prospect or not, if you wear a Phantoms jersey, I’m going to help you be better as an individual. If I do and we do as a staff a good job, we will win more games than lose, for sure.”