Ian Laperriere now has his assistants.
The Philadelphia Flyers announced earlier this week that Jason Smith and Riley Armstrong will fill out the coaching staff for the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms next season. They’ll work as assistants alongside first-time head coach Ian Laperriere.
Meet Jason Smith
Smith, 47, is a familiar figure for Flyers fans. A big, right-shot defenseman, he spent a season in Philadelphia late in his career, serving as captain. In 2007-08, Smith picked up 10 points and 86 penalty minutes in 77 regular-season games. In 17 playoff games, he added two more assists as the Flyers knocked off Washington and Montreal before falling to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Final.
Drafted 18th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 1992, Smith played 1,008 career NHL games with the Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Flyers and Ottawa Senators. He was known as a physically intimidating defensive defenseman, and a strong locker-room leader.
Smith hung up his skates in 2009, as a member of the Senators. He returned to that organization three years later, spending two seasons as a scouting and development consultant. Then, he logged two years as an assistant coach, first with Paul MacLean, then beside Dave Cameron.
Swept out of the Senators organization when Cameron was let go at the end of the 2016 season, Smith shifted gears to junior hockey, taking the reins of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. He was relieved of his duties early in his third season, in the fall of 2018.
From there, Smith moved over to the Prince George Cougars, where he served as an associate coach for the past two seasons. One of the players under his charge was defenseman Ethan Samson, who was selected by the Flyers in the sixth round of last month’s draft.
Meet Riley Armstrong
Armstrong, 36, is the younger brother of NHLer-turned-broadcaster Colby Armstrong.
A right-winger, Riley played just two NHL games in his career, suiting up for the San Jose Sharks during the 2008-09 season. Undrafted out of the Western Hockey League, the native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan put together a 12-year pro career with stops in the AHL, ECHL, KHL, Germany, Finland and Sweden.
Checking in at 5’11” and 187 pounds, he peaked offensively with 25 goals for the AHL’s Worcester Sharks in the 2008-09 season. Armstrong’s penalty minutes regularly eclipsed his point totals. He tallied 120 minutes in 38 games with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies in 2012-13, where he also put up 37 points.
Since hanging up his skates in 2016, Armstrong has been learning the coaching trade in the ECHL. He spent two seasons as an assistant with the Wheeling Nailers. Then, he was named head coach of the Maine Mariners at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.
In his second year, Armstrong added the title of assistant general manager to his job description. He kept that title last season, while the Mariners elected not to ice a team due to Covid-19.
In Maine, of course, Armstrong has been apprenticing under former Flyer Danny Briere, who owns the club and also serves as its general manager and vice president of hockey operations. Briere, of course, also played with Laperriere on the 2009-10 Flyers — and with Smith in the 2007-08 season. His fingerprints are all over both of these hirings.
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Flyers Bring In Veteran Execs Mike O’Connell and Nick Beverley
At the NHL level, Chuck Fletcher has tapped a pair of former NHLers and longtime executives to join his staff.
Mike O’Connell comes on board as senior advisor to the general manager/player development. Now 65, O’Connell played 860 games on defense for Chicago, Boston, and Detroit during a 13-year NHL career. After retiring in 1990, he soon re-joined the Bruins organization, where he worked his way up to general manager.
The Bruins fired O’Connell midway through the 2005-06 season. The next year, he signed on with the Los Angeles Kings, where he has worked in player development and as a development coach. His new job with the Flyers reunites him with his original boss in Los Angeles. Dean Lombardi now serves as a senior advisor to Chuck Fletcher in Philadelphia.
Beverley, 74, also has years of experience with the Kings on his resume, including during the Gretzky years. He spent nine years in the organization’s front office between 1985 and 1994. During that time, he worked his way up from scout to director of player personnel, assistant general manager and then general manager for two seasons. Also a defenseman, Beverley played 502 NHL games for six different teams through the first expansion era, between 1966 and 1980.
Beverly has spent the last 16 seasons working as a pro scout for the Nashville Predators. He’ll assume that same role for the Flyers in the 2021-22 season.