Flyers

Kings coach John Stevens reflects on Flyers' tenure, growth as leader

Kings coach John Stevens reflects on Flyers' tenure, growth as leader

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — When John Stevens steps behind the bench tonight for the Kings' home opener against the Flyers, it will be 2,862 days since the last time he found himself in this same position (without the interim tag) in the National Hockey League … with the Flyers, no less.

“It’s been so long now,” the 51-year-old Stevens said Thursday. “Seven years have passed since I coached there. I spent a long time in Philadelphia. I have an enormous amount of respect for the organization. It’s always an exciting matchup because it’s a historic franchise. We’re looking forward to it.”

Perhaps there’s a sense of irony that Stevens' first game back will come against the organization who relieved him of his duties on Dec. 4, 2009, following a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice. That was a Flyers team struggling to find an identity — with a 13-11-1 record at the time of Stevens' firing — following the offseason acquisition of defenseman Chris Pronger. Optimism was high as then-general manager Paul Holmgren assembled a team he believed could dethrone the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference, and Stevens was well aware of the expectations.

“I think just incorporating everybody there, getting them on the same page and just dealing with the whole leadership issue is something I may have tackled a little differently, but if you look back, we got off to a great start that year, we had some injuries, and then we let it slip away after that great start," Stevens said. "Clearly, I didn’t do enough to get that ship righted when we had such a good start."

Stevens was tasked with plugging holes during the shipwreck of 2006-07 when general manager Bob Clarke stepped down and Ken Hitchcock was fired on the same Sunday morning just nine days into the regular season. Stevens was given the head coaching job on an interim basis and proceeded to navigate his way through that tumultuous year as the Flyers finished with just 56 points, a whopping 45-point decline from the previous season.

Beginning Thursday night, Stevens takes over a situation with a Kings organization looking for a similar turnaround after missing the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Despite winning two Stanley Cup championships under Darryl Sutter, the Kings' players are embracing Stevens after the relationship between the players and their former coach had developed such animosity that at one point the Kings' players reportedly locked Sutter out of the dressing room.

“It’s definitely refreshing to hear his voice behind the bench,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said of Stevens.

“He was my positional coach for a long time,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “When he first came in, we had a few bumping head issues, me and him, but ever since those issues got smoothed out, it’s been smooth sailing from then on. He’s taught me a lot about being a professional and being a leader on the team. He’s also helped me a lot with my on-ice stuff, too. He’s a very smart hockey mind. He knows a lot about the game and he cares a lot about his players, and he wants the best for everyone.”

For a coach that has been just as attached to X’s and O’s as a giddy high school couple, Stevens has also exuded leadership throughout his hockey career. He captained the Phantoms to the Calder Cup in 1997, coached them to a championship in 2005, and has passed down that leadership skill set to his two sons: John Stevens Jr. and Nolan Stevens, both of whom have worn the “C” at Northeastern University in Boston.

But what Doughty and the Stevens' boys have imparted to John is a personal element that comes into coaching that perhaps wasn’t nearly as evident during his days with the Flyers.

“Relationships have always been important," Stevens said. "I’ve been a captain on every team I’ve played on, so I think that you’re a coach within the locker room. But seeing my kids play at a high level, you see how important feedback is to them. I think it’s really brought it more so to my attention. I think through my experiences of successes and failures, I maybe delve into those relationships, especially with older players, more so than I did before. I think all players appreciate being coached and all players appreciate feedback.”

Derailing the 'Wayne Train'
Wayne Simmonds got the best of reigning Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Brent Burns Wednesday night. Simmonds gets a crack at another one of the league’s top blueliners in Doughty, who won the Norris Trophy in 2016. Doughty is well aware of the problems Simmonds presents.  

“He does his magic around the net, and he definitely makes his living in front of the net,” Doughty said. “There’s not much you can do on a power play besides block shots or get under his stick. They've got a good power play and he’s a big reason to that. You've just got to play him hard because you know how hard he’s going to play every night. He’s a competitive guy. You've got to battle him hard. It’s going to be a tough job, but he’s not going to hat trick tonight.”

Tragedy ... again
The Los Angeles Kings organization was devastated once again when 22-year-old Christina Duarte, a native of nearby Redondo Beach, California, was one of nearly 60 people killed at the country music festival across from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday. Duarte had recently graduated from college and was working her first full-time job — as a fan service associate with the organization.

Duarte’s death comes 16 years after the Kings organization tragically lost “Ace” Bailey who was flying aboard United flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Bailey served as the team’s director of pro scouting. 

The Kings' players will wear a heart-shaped “CD” sticker on the back of their helmets and the team’s personnel will wear a pin to honor Duarte’s memory. 

“For sure, it’s going to be emotional,” Kopitar said. “Obviously, it’s very sad times. We'll use that as a positive energy.”

The Kings are donating their 50/50 raffle from Thursday’s game against the Flyers to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

It’s one and done for Joel Farabee at Boston U.

The Flyers' 2018 first-round selection signed his entry-level contract Monday after one season at Boston University. 

Farabee finished as the Terriers' leading scorer with 36 points in 37 games as Boston University’s season (16-18-4) came to an end Friday night in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament.

However, Farabee’s performance as a 19-year-old freshman was one of the team’s highlights after he finished the regular season on a tear with seven goals over his last nine games and was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. After getting acclimated to the collegiate game, Farabee adapted very quickly.

Farabee isn’t the only highly-touted prospect to leave BU after just one season. Buffalo’s Jack Eichel left after scoring 71 points in 40 games before the Sabres grabbed him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

Unlike CHL prospects, who can sign entry-level deals and still compete at the major junior level, Farabee forfeits the remainder of his college eligibility, so the question moving forward is where will Farabee start the 2019-20 season?

He can make the Flyers out of training camp or start his first year of professional hockey at Lehigh Valley.

Farabee needs to develop physically but the hockey IQ and playmaking ability coupled with high character are all important attributes that he brings to the pro level.

Farabee was the Flyers' first draft pick to come from the U.S. national team development program (USNTDP) since James van Riemsdyk was selected second overall in 2007. 

JVR spent two years at the University of New Hampshire before electing to turn pro. The Flyers' left winger played just seven games with the Phantoms in 2008 before earning an NHL promotion.

There’s a debate as to whether Farabee or Morgan Frost, the Flyers' 2017 first-round pick, is the organization’s top prospect. Personally, I think Farabee has a more NHL-ready game right now, and he’ll get the chance to prove that when training camp commences in September.

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NHL playoff picture: Flyers are down and almost out

NHL playoff picture: Flyers are down and almost out

It was a disastrous weekend for the orange and black after they were swept in a back-to-back against the Islanders and Capitals, missing out on a pivotal four points.

In three days, the Flyers saw their tragic number go from 11 to five. They could be officially eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as this week.

During a crucial stretch with little margin for error, the Flyers are now 4-6-0 over their last 10 games.

Wild-card standings

Carolina       42-26-7    91 points    7 GR        40 ROW
Montreal      40-28-8    88 points    6 GR         38 ROW
———
Columbus   41-30-4    86 points    7 GR         39 ROW
Flyers          35-29-8    80 points    6 GR         34 ROW

Sunday's games

PHI L 3-1 at Washington
CAR W 2-1 (OT) vs. Montreal
CBJ W 5-0 at Vancouver

• Braden Holtby stifled the Flyers, stopping 35 shots as the Capitals swept the orange and black for just the second time in franchise history.

• In a game pitting the two teams currently occupying wild-card positions, the Hurricanes outlasted the Canadiens as rookie Andrei Svechnikov scored the game-winner in overtime. Carey Price made 38 saves in a losing effort.    

• Sergei Bobrovsky made 21 saves for his seventh shutout of the season and the 31st of his career as the Blue Jackets remained in striking range of the Canadiens for the final wild-card spot in the East.

What lies ahead

The Flyers have a light week with a Wednesday game against the Toronto Maple Leafs before another weekend back-to-back against Carolina and the New York Rangers.

The Canadiens have three games on the slate starting Tuesday against the Panthers and a crucial game against the Blue Jackets in Columbus that could determine the final wild-card spot.

Aside from a head-to-head with Montreal Thursday, Columbus takes on the Islanders at home Tuesday with a weekend back-to-back against the Predators and the Sabres.

Playing the lottery?

As it stands right now, the Flyers are 14th out of the 15 lottery teams that would qualify for the No. 1 overall pick. 

Sadly as it may seem, the Flyers have better odds of earning the top pick in the draft (1.5 percent) at this stage of the season than reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As the team with the 14th-worst record in the NHL, the Flyers have a 5.0 percent chance of receiving a top-three selection.

Two years ago, the Flyers had just a 7.3 percent shot of earning a top-three draft pick when they landed at No. 2 overall and selected Nolan Patrick.

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