Flyers

Flyers officially hire Rick Wilson, will start Wednesday

Flyers officially hire Rick Wilson, will start Wednesday

VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol is bringing Rick Wilson out of retirement to coach the Flyers' blue line.

The team made the announcement official Tuesday as the 68-year-old Wilson is expected to join the team for Wednesday’s practice. Wilson’s résumé is quite extensive, having played at the University of North Dakota from 1969-72 (see story).

He had a brief NHL career in which his final stop was with the Philadelphia Firebirds in 1975.

This will be Wilson’s first coaching job since stepping down from the position of associate coach with the Dallas Stars last season. So what exactly does Wilson bring to the Flyers' organization?

“A wealth of experience,” Hakstol said. “A tremendous feel for defensemen and the entire D core, an ability to communicate very, very well. I think he’ll have a great effect on our entire group, as well as our coaching staff with the experience that he has.”

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Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

EDMONTON, Alberta — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher believes the answers for the team’s countless problems have to come in-house.

Right now, that house is on fire and nobody can find the hydrant to connect the hose. 

Friday in Edmonton, the Oilers poured more gas on the Flyers' blazing inferno of a season that continues to go up in smoke, winning easily, 4-1, at Rogers Place (see observations).

“It’s tiring to say we didn’t play that bad and maybe we deserve better,” Jakub Voracek said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It sucks. It sucks for everyone here. There are no excuses. Nobody cares. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. You can fight whatever feeling you want. It doesn’t matter.”

To be clear, Voracek’s not saying that the Flyers don’t care, but rather the league doesn’t care about how poorly the Flyers are struggling.

Yet, here’s the disturbing part: opposing teams don’t need to bring their A-game to produce a "W" when a B-minus effort will get the job done. The Oilers were a tired bunch, having played the previous night in Winnipeg. They were also down two key defensemen and resorted to calling up a 21-year-old rookie making his NHL debut.

On a night when three different NHL teams rallied from three goals down to win, the Flyers once again looked deflated falling behind 1-0, which is pretty much all it takes these days — and their 6-12-2 record (23rd in NHL) when the opponent scores first reflects a spiritless attitude.

“When we get down, I don’t know what it is, but we get really down on ourselves and turn into a negative bunch,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. 

Edmonton tried to inspire the Flyers. Oilers center Drake Caggiula gifted the Flyers a four-minute power play with a high-stick to the chin of Nolan Patrick that could have swung the game in the Flyers' direction. Then again, an eight-minute man advantage against the 23rd-ranked penalty kill probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

No goals. No momentum. No chance.

“Lately, our power play — I mean all year — we’ve been doing nothing,” Sean Couturier said. “It’s horrible. Right now, we’re just passing it around and we’re not doing anything and it’s killing the momentum.”

Even Connor McDavid had a superstar night on the scoresheet without actually dominating the game on the ice. McDavid mustered just two shots on net — a bank shot off Anthony Stolarz from behind the goal line and a tap-in putt into an empty net. His first goal came off a hard forechecking play that made Gostisbehere look rather silly (see highlights)

“I should’ve made a better play,” Gostisbehere said. “I was at the puck first and should have gone D-to-D, but he picked my pocket to their guy and then shot from the corner. Best player in the world made a good play, but I should have made a stronger play.”

Flyers hockey is one hot mess with too many fires to put out right now.

And everyone should be feeling the heat.

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Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — A promising start to a five-game road trip is beginning to completely unravel for the Flyers. 

Connor McDavid scored twice, including an impressive bank shot off the back of Anthony Stolarz, as the Oilers handed the Flyers a 4-1 loss Friday in Edmonton.

Why couldn’t the Flyers expose a depleted Oilers defense and how badly did Dave Hakstol shake up the lines after Wednesday’s loss to Calgary?

Here are my observations from Rogers Place:

• The Flyers needed to get in strong on the forecheck and put some pressure on a young, inexperienced and mistake-prone Oilers blue line. Edmonton was missing two of its top defensemen, relegating young Darnell Nurse to that No. 1 role, plus the NHL debut of Caleb Jones, Seth Jones' younger brother.

The Flyers failed to expose the Oilers' weakness in the first period and throughout this game.

• Hakstol’s new-look lines were a real wake-up call for Nolan Patrick, who has gone from a second-line center to a fourth-line checking center.

I thought Patrick responded well, made some plays, drew a four-minute penalty and had a little burst to his game playing alongside Oskar Lindblom once again.

• Did you catch Stolarz’s nifty footwork in the first period? After an Oiler dumped the puck in hard off the boards, Stolarz did a quick foot shuffle in an effort to avoid the puck hitting the back of his skates and going into the net. 

With Stolarz’s size, I don’t think a 60-minute game takes a toll on him like a smaller goaltender such as Michal Neuvirth, which gives me reason to think he can handle a back-to-back and playing three games in four nights. Remember Brian Elliott, also bigger in physical stature, won all three of these games last season.

The Adam Larsson goal (the Oilers' third) is certainly one Stolarz should have had.

• Here’s the problem with playing the Claude Giroux line (James van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Travis Konecny) on the road, where you can’t control the matchups. All three forwards aren’t exactly stellar defensively, so when Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald get caught on the same side of the ice, JVR has to come down and cover the man in the slot. That didn’t happen and here’s the end result:

• The outcome could have been different had the Flyers converted on a four-minute power play. However, with the No. 1 unit out there for most of that time, there was too much passing, not enough movement and very little shooting. It’s a power play that has become very stale and is now challenging the PK in terms of its ineffectiveness.

• With a wide-open Travis Sanheim looking for a pass behind the net, Shayne Gostisbehere needed to make a stronger play in the corner and not allow McDavid to easily take the puck away, which eventually led to a bank shot off Stolarz for a 2-0 Oilers lead. Yes, I realize it’s McDavid, but he made that whole play look way too easy.

Gostisbehere was relegated to a third defensive pairing for this game, and right now I trust Sanheim more from a defensive standpoint than I do Gostisbehere. 

• The Flyers had several strong shifts in the third period, but they were only able to capitalize when Jakub Voracek’s shot from the high slot snuck past Mikko Koskinen. Outside of that, the Flyers were lifeless and for the most part, they didn’t have that look of desperation tonight (see story).

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