At his season-ending press conference, Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher confirmed the club is looking for a new coach for next season.
“We’re in the business of winning. When you don’t win, then there’s pressure.”
That’s how Chuck Fletcher summed up his outlook as the Philadelphia Flyers head into their third offseason outside the playoffs in his three-and-a-half years as the club’s general manager.
This year was the worst yet. The Flyers finished 29th in the 32-team league standings with 61 points, 39 points out of a wild-card spot.
“We just really struggled this year,” Fletcher told the media at his year-end press conference on Tuesday. “We were defending all the time and that is something we have to look at — we were not exiting the D-zone well enough.
“There are certainly things we have to look at in terms of our structure and our details. We didn’t have the puck enough and when you defend all the time, bad things happen.”
Yeo Out, Coaching Search Begins
The Flyers started well, with a record of 8-4-2 through the first month of the season. Then came an eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), capped off by a 7-1 home-ice loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 5. That spelled the end for head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien. Another assistant, Mike Yeo, was tapped to lead in an interim role for the rest of the season.
Over 60 games under Yeo, the club posted a record of 17-36-7. On Tuesday, Fletcher confirmed that the club is now looking for a new head coach.
“We dealt Mike a really tough hand,” he said of his long-time associate, who also served as head coach of the Minnesota Wild while Fletcher was that team’s general manager. “He is a good coach and I thought he did a really good job under the circumstances. He kept our players competing and going hard until the end.”
Calling Yeo “a good hockey man,” Fletcher said he’d be open to keeping Yeo in the organization in some capacity going forward.
As for the next coach, “The first thing we are going to do is put together an ideal candidate profile,” he said, while declining to offer a timeline. “We are going to go through a very thorough discussion on what we are trying to achieve and what we are looking at.
“At this stage, all options are open. We are just starting the process and once we start that ideal candidate profile, we will start to reach out to candidates who we want to interview.”
The Lay Of The Land
Flyers Hall of Famer Rick Tocchet, currently working as a TV analyst on TNT, has made it clear that he’d like to return to the NHL at some point in a head-coaching role. Paul Maurice is another well-respected coach whose name has popped up. Cam Atkinson spoke at his exit interview about how he appreciated learning from John Tortorella in Columbus.
There will be competition for top candidates.
So far this offseason, the Detroit Red Wings have announced that they are also searching for a new voice, as Jeff Blashill will not be returning. The Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks have both said that they’ll be conducting coaching searches but haven’t ruled out the possibility of bringing back their current interim bench bosses, Dave Lowry and Derek King, respectively. And the Vancouver Canucks and Bruce Boudreau have both indicated a desire to go forward together, but the club is not offering an extension beyond the deal Boudreau originally signed. He has one year remaining with an option to move on if he chooses, but must decide before June 1.
More vacancies could pop up as the offseason rolls along.
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Looking To Youth
While short on sure-fire future stars, the Flyers’ prospect pool is deep. Fletcher is hopeful that some of those players can be integrated into the lineup next year.
“If you look at last offseason, for example, at that point Morgan Frost was coming off of surgery and we weren’t expecting him to be able to make the club,” he explained. “Cam York had, I think, five NHL games. (Tanner) Laczynski was injured. Wade Allison quickly became injured. Tyson Foerster got injured early.
“A lot of our younger players were not really in the position to compete. We signed veteran players — Brassard, Yandle, Nate Thompson, and picked up Patrick Brown and MacEwen on waivers. We simply didn’t have the young depth to compete. A critical part of what we do going forward, whether it is for short-term or long-term success, will be to integrate more youth into our team.”
Topping that list — Laczynski and Allison. Both hard-nosed wingers will soon be turning 25 and would need to clear waivers next season in order to be sent down to the AHL. Best-case scenario: they add bottom-six depth to the big club.
Fletcher also envisions a meaningful role for defenseman Cam York. “The attributes he brings are exactly what we need in terms of the ability to go back at the puck, skate if it needs to be skated, make the quick first pass and if that’s not there, find the second option,” he said. “He has all those abilities and not every defenseman does.”
Up front, late-season NCAA additions such as Noah Cates and Bobby Brink will be in the mix to compete for jobs, as will Hayden Hodgson, who parlayed his AHL minutes with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms into a big-league contract and six NHL games.
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A New Face In Net?
Between the pipes, Fletcher is hoping to sign big 6’6″ Ivan Fedotov. The club’s seventh-round draft pick from 2015, Fedotov won a silver medal with Russia at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, then posted a .937 playoff save percentage over 22 games as his CSKA Moscow squad captured the KHL’s Gagarin Cup late last week.
“He can compete for the number two job,” Fletcher said. “He’s coming off a remarkable playoff run and good Olympics. Again, I think he’s 25, might be turning 26, but he’s right at that age where he’s put his time in. He’s developed, and he’s ready to go.
“Like every goalie coming over from the bigger ice surface, sometimes there’s a little bit of adjustment with angles,” he continued. “In the NHL, there’s a lot more traffic at the net. A lot more throwing pucks at the net and jamming the net. There’s certainly things that goalies have to adapt to. Some do it quicker than others. In terms of ability, we think he’s ready to challenge for an important role.”
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