Rick Wilson says believe in the Flyers' coaching staff

Rick Wilson says believe in the Flyers' coaching staff

VOORHEES, N.J. — Rick Wilson has been around quite a bit.

He owns over 30 years of NHL coaching experience, has served seven different teams and won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999.

The 68-year-old knows a thing or two about coaching.

And he believes in the Flyers' coaches, a staff that is essentially in audition mode with a new general manager taking over the reins. The 2018-19 Flyers have underperformed, which is a major reason why Ron Hextall no longer has a job and why Chuck Fletcher was being introduced at a press conference Wednesday.

The coaching staff is now fighting for its future in the Flyers' organization. Gord Murphy was let go last week after Hextall's firing and before Fletcher's arrival.

Now Wilson is on board, fresh out of retirement. He has been impressed by head coach Dave Hakstol and assistants Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies), a group that has been under heavy outside criticism for the Flyers' shortcomings through 25 games this season.

"I love working with these young coaches, it's a good coaching staff — really good coaching staff," Wilson said Wednesday after his first practice. "They're younger and they know the new elements in the game — the video elements, the computer side of things, the analytics.

"You've got to work together. It's part of a team, that's what I've always been a part of. There's no single answer to anything that's going on around here — not one single answer." 

Wilson is more of an old-school guy embracing the new age of coaching but never losing his approach.

"I come in, I bring in my own computer, which is here (points to head). It's still working, it still goes at 33 speed unfortunately, but it's going," Wilson said. "And my video is here (points to eyes), so my visual. And I guess my analytics is my gut. To me, gut feel is just an accumulation of hundreds of thousands of experiences you've seen and then you draw something, and you don't even know where it all comes from, but you just say you have a gut feel. 

"That's what I believe. I don't know if all that is garbage, it probably is, but that's what I think and maybe that's what I can bring from my side to the young coaching staff."

Wilson, who will oversee the Flyers' blueliners, is a people person. He wants to listen to and learn from his defensemen as much as they do with him. He's known Hakstol for 15 years or so and was hired by Fletcher in Minnesota.

He had the itch to get back into coaching and the Flyers' potential helped make his decision.

"The competitive challenge was there with a team that I thought could go from where they are now to where they can be and should be," he said. "And I hopefully can be some sort of support to them and help.

"I've been in the business long enough — you don't think too much past each season. Everybody is under constant scrutiny and review. In that respect, I don't look too far ahead."

Like Wilson, Fletcher is just starting to acclimate himself to the Flyers' coaches. After Thursday's home game, the real evaluation should begin for Fletcher as the Flyers open a five-game road trip Saturday spanning eight days.

"I want it to work, I want to be successful with this group," Fletcher said. "It's not threats or anything, but if we don't have the solutions in-house, we'll look outside. There's no timetable for any of that, other than we're just trying to get better. 

"It will be great next week going on the road, Western Canada, we'll have time to go for some dinners, we have some back-to-backs, you have some late-night flights and you start to see people in their element."

Wilson has been around long enough to know the feeling of job pressure. Maybe he can help Hakstol, Knoblauch, Laperriere and Dillabaugh just as much as he helps the defensemen.

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The players have spoken: Gritty is NHL's top mascot by a landslide

The players have spoken: Gritty is NHL's top mascot by a landslide

VOORHEES, N.J. — Gritty for 2020!

Put the big orange fella on a ballot and the victory is likely a landslide.

Just recently the NHL polled over 500 current players around the league on a number of topics, including the best NHL team mascot, and the vote wasn’t remotely close. Gritty snagged nearly 70 percent of the votes. The next-closest mascot was the Maple Leafs' Carlton the Bear receiving just 2.7 percent of the vote.  

Consider it poetic justice for Gritty.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux was also mentioned as one of the league's best trash talkers, finishing fourth among the players with 4.8 percent of the votes. Boston’s Brad Marchand was the top trash talker receiving 21.3 percent of the votes.

Interestingly, Marchand was also recognized as the game’s worst trash talker, to which he gave thanks on Twitter.

Edmonton’s Connor McDavid was named the best forward, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman took the nod as top defenseman and Montreal’s Carey Price was the league’s top goaltender.

Here’s a look at some of the other poll results: 

• Who is the most underrated player? Aleksander Barkov, Florida

• Who would make the best TV analyst once they retire? P.K. Subban, Nashville

• Who would make the best NHL GM once they retire? Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh

• Who is the funniest player? Keith Yandle, Florida

• Which arena has the best atmosphere? T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas

• Which arena has the best ice? Bell Centre in Montreal

• Who is the best dressed player? Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

• Who has the best hair in the league? Erik Karlsson, San Jose

• Who is your favorite athlete outside of hockey? Tiger Woods

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Time for Flyers to face reality, start playing Samuel Morin and Cam Talbot

Time for Flyers to face reality, start playing Samuel Morin and Cam Talbot

VOORHEES, N.J. — It’s time for Scott Gordon and the Flyers to cash that reality check.

There will be no Stanley Cup playoffs in Philadelphia this season. After Tuesday night’s loss to Montreal, those who calculate the odds now put the Flyers’ chances at less than one percent.

If the Blue Jackets stay on their current pace of 94 points, the Flyers would need to earn 17 of a possible 18 points in their final nine games to overtake Columbus in the standings.

Still, it’s not enough for Gordon to think about next season, considering the coach himself may not be here next season either.

“We’re in the same shoes that we’re in yesterday,” Gordon said. “Nothing’s changed as far as the ladder we have to climb here. We’re six points behind going into it and we’re still six points behind. Is it possible that Columbus can go on a three-game losing streak and we go on a three-game winning streak? I think that’s very possible. So, until that element changes it will be status quo.”

Of course, it’s not just the Blue Jackets the Flyers have to catch, but also the Canadiens who increased the margin over Philadelphia to five points.

Even if the Flyers fail to gain or even lose any ground in the standings, they won’t “officially” be eliminated until the first week of April.

In other words, don’t expect to see Samuel Morin suit up in Chicago or possibly anytime soon, and for those who are forecasting what this team could look like come next season, there’s a degree of frustration attached to that.

“Honestly, I’d love to play all of these games if it was me,” Morin said. “We’ll see what happens but, obviously, if we’re still in the playoff position I don’t think I’m going to get in. It’s just the way it is right now for me. I just can’t really do anything about it, right?” 

Morin is playing out the first year of a three-year extension he signed last summer, and is one of five defensemen under contract for next season. However, since Morin is no longer waiver exempt, he can’t be shuffled between the Phantoms and Flyers without passing through waivers. With just three NHL games under his belt, the 6-foot-7 defenseman needs all the experience he can get moving forward.

“I’ve been doing this since training camp to be honest with you,” Morin said. “I know a lot of guys could not do this, and keep a good mindset. It’s pretty hard watching all of hockey and not playing.”

Same can be said for pending free agent goaltender Cam Talbot, whom the Flyers acquired in a trade for Anthony Stolarz on Feb. 16. Talbot appears to be the perfect complement to Carter Hart heading into next season, but he has no indication that’s the case. 

There have been no preliminary discussions regarding a new contract even as he’s moved his family into Dale Weise’s South Jersey home on a temporary basis until he knows what the future holds.

Visa issues held up some prime opportunities for Talbot in late February, which in turn, has limited him to just 93 minutes of action since the trade. Eventually, the Flyers need to make a determination regarding a solid, competent backup to Hart.

However, I don’t think Talbot would have waived his no-trade clause if he could have foreseen the current situation.

And the longer it drags out, the more frustrations will amplify for those who are already looking ahead to 2019-20.

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