Don’t be surprised if Mike Yeo is given the opportunity to finish out the season as the Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach.
On Friday, Anthony Di Marco of The Fourth Period reported that “while things can change, Yeo is ‘the guy for now,'” according to a Flyers team source.
In six games behind the bench through Thursday, Yeo has coached his group to a 3-2-1 record.
Here’s a quick look at some key stats from before and after the Dec. 6 coaching change that saw bench boss Alain Vigneault and assistant Michel Therrien get their walking papers:
- Goals per game – Before: 2.32 (28th); After: 3.67 (6th)
- Goals against per game – Before: 2.18 (24th); After: 3.17 (16th)
- Power play – Before: 13.4% (30th); After: 30.8% (9th)
- Penalty kill – Before: 82.6% (13th); After: 77.3% (17th)
- Expected goals at 5-on-5 (via Natural Stat Trick) – Before: 45.44% (30th); After: 45.92% (26th)
- High Danger scoring chances – Before: 41.8% (32nd); After: 45.63% (24th)
Since Yeo took over, Cam Atkinson leads all Flyers skaters with four goals and six points. The club has also gotten some nice contributions from its bottom-six forwards, with three points each for Max Willman and Patrick Brown. After managing just one assist in 21 games under Vigneault, Oskar Lindblom also has three points in the last six games.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 17, 2021
Called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after Morgan Frost was placed in Covid protocols earlier this week, college free-agent signing Jackson Cates logged his first career NHL goal in Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Spirit of St. Louis
This is the second time in his career that Yeo has been a mid-season NHL head coaching replacement.
He joined Ken Hitchcock’s staff with the St. Louis Blues during the summer of 2016, and was intended to take the reins following Hitchcock’s retirement at the end of the 2016-17 season. Instead, he stepped behind the bench on Feb. 1, 2017, with the Blues sitting on the playoff bubble with a 24-21-5 record, for a .530 points percentage.
In their remaining 32 games under Yeo, the Blues went 22-8-2, a .719 points percentage. One year after reaching the Western Conference Final, they finished third in the Central Division and took out the Minnesota Wild in a five-game series before falling to the Nashville Predators in the second round of the 2017 postseason.
But Yeo’s positive impact didn’t last. A 94-point effort in the 2017-18 season left the Blues fifth in the Central, just outside the playoff picture. After a 7-9-3 start the following autumn, Yeo was replaced by Craig Berube on Nov. 19, 2018 — setting the stage for the Blues’ unprecedented worst-to-first run from last place in the standings all the way to the 2019 Stanley Cup championship.
Laying the Foundation
A left-winger during his playing days, Yeo’s pro career peaked when the captained the Houston Aeros to the 1999 Turner Cup championship in the International Hockey League. The following season, a knee injury ended his career at age 26, after 19 games with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
When he was no longer able to play, Yeo accepted coach Glenn Patrick‘s offer to become his assistant. He stayed on when Michel Therrien replaced Patrick in 2003.
Thirty-one games into the 2005-06 season, Yeo moved up to the NHL with Therrien as part of the regime change that saw Eddie Olczyk replaced. When Therrien was replaced himself by Dan Bylsma midway through the 2008-09 season, Yeo stayed on. He earned a Stanley Cup ring the following June as an assistant in Pittsburgh.
While he was with the Penguins, Yeo also got to know Chuck Fletcher, who was serving as general manager of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and an assistant with the big club.
Stanley Cup success breeds job opportunities. In 2010, Fletcher became general manager of the Minnesota Wild. One year later, he installed Yeo as his new head coach, replacing Todd Richards.
After leaving the Wild, Fletcher moved on to Philadelphia in December of 2018. Less than a year later, he got the band back together, with Yeo and Therrien working as assistants under Alain Vigneault.
The departures of Vigneault and Therrien, leave Fletcher and Yeo at the helm once again, trying to squeeze positive results from the club’s many offseason changes and get the Flyers back into playoff contention. Based on the one-year-in, one-year-out pattern that has persisted for a decade, 2021 should be an “in” year — which may or may not happen with impending UFA Claude Giroux still in the fold.
Where They Stand
With Friday’s games complete, the Flyers’ record of 11-12-5 leaves them sixth in the Metropolitan Division and four points short of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
On Saturday, the Flyers return to Wells Fargo Center. They’ll host the surging Ottawa Senators, who have recently knocked off Carolina, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Florida while winning five of their last seven games.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET.
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