Flyers

The uncanny resemblance between Dave Hakstol and Chip Kelly

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The uncanny resemblance between Dave Hakstol and Chip Kelly

PITTSBURGH — Is Dave Hakstol nothing more than a Chip off the old coaching block?

It's a question worth uncovering as we assess the Flyers' organization two months into Year 3 of the Hakstol era. There's an uncanny resemblance that has shaped the coaching tenures of Dave Hakstol and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.

First, let's begin with the obvious. Both men grew up in relatively small towns. Kelly was born in Dover, New Hampshire — population about 30,000 — before moving to Manchester. Hakstol was raised in Drayton Valley, Alberta — population of roughly 7,000 people — before eventually leaving for Grand Forks, North Dakota. 

Both coaches came straight to the professionals from the collegiate ranks. The Eagles hired Kelly from Oregon after he led the Ducks to four straight BCS bowl games. While Kelly's teams dominated throughout his tenure, they barely missed winning a national championship, losing to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers in 2013.

Hakstol joined the Flyers following 11 seasons at the University of North Dakota, where he also played collegiately. Hakstol, like Kelly, dominated with six appearances in hockey's Frozen Four, but he couldn't quite get over the hump to win a national title. 

While there was an entirely different vibe surrounding their respective hirings, both Kelly and Hakstol were unknown coaching entities. Could they adapt from pushing buttons at the college level to massaging egos and personalities of players earning millions of dollars? Considering Hakstol was the first college coach since 1982 to make the monumental leap to the pros, the questions surrounding his hiring were definitely warranted.   

In Kelly's time with the Eagles, this became an obvious problem. The locker room became fractured as a result of some of the personnel decisions and front-office moves that were made to accommodate the coach who also became the de facto general manager. There was the trade of LeSean McCoy, the release of DeSean Jackson and some awful free-agent signings. 

While Hakstol doesn't have the clout and leverage that Kelly was eventually handed, one can certainly question the roster moves that have been made as a result of his coaching. Most notably, Brayden Schenn has gone from a secondary fixture on the Flyers' roster to becoming a primary contributor and the No. 1 center with the St. Louis Blues. Schenn's 30 points would lead the Flyers at this stage of the season.  

Both coaches also developed a penchant for guys they had previously coached. In Kelly's case, his loyalty to anyone who wore a Ducks uniform was borderline obsessive. The team drafted Josh Huff much earlier than when he was expected to be taken. There was the wretched trade of All-Pro running back McCoy for Kiko Alonso, who Kelly coached at Oregon. At one point, the Eagles had nine former Oregon players on their roster.

While it's nearly impossible to replicate that type of favoritism in the NHL, Hakstol had a similar loyalty towards former North Dakota forward Chris VandeVelde, who seemingly became a fourth-line fixture no matter how poorly he played. In the 164 games Hakstol coached during his first two seasons, VandeVelde was in the lineup for a head-scratching 160.

But the waning early success of both coaches is where the comparison starts to get really interesting.  

After a 10-6 season in his first year in Philadelphia, Kelly was guiding the Eagles to a second consecutive postseason. Heading into December 2014, the record stood at 9-3 when the Birds took a late-season nosedive and missed out on the playoffs at 10-6. By the third season, coaches and their defenses had started to figure out Kelly's playbook. The offense had grown stale and predictable and Kelly finished with a 6-9 record, fired with one game remaining.

When you break it down, Kelly was 19-9 (.680 winning percentage) through his first 28 games, only to finish 7-12 (.370) in his final 19 games as Eagles coach.

Hakstol's coaching record has taken a Kelly-like curve. In Hakstol's first 114 games, the Flyers compiled a remarkable 60-37-17 (.600 points percentage). Coming out of last season's 10-game winning streak, something has changed. While it may be difficult to pinpoint the Flyers' source of failure, the downfall has been equally dramatic — 28-32-13 (.470 points percentage) over the last 73 games. 

With Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal scratched for tonight's game against Pittsburgh coupled with last season's growing pains of Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny, Hakstol may not be the right coach in the development of the organization's younger talent. He also may not be the right person for the franchise moving forward.
 
You could even draw some parallels in the manner in which they deal with the media — neither man has the most endearing personality.

Lurie had seen enough from Kelly after nearly three seasons. Now in Year 3, Hakstol either will ultimately prove he can sharply reverse course in the coming weeks and months, or the resemblance between himself and Kelly will be even more alarmingly similar.

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”