Flyers

The uncanny resemblance between Dave Hakstol and Chip Kelly

usa-dave-hakstol-chip-kelly-flyers-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

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.

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

A young Flyers defenseman cracked the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list, but it's not exactly who you are thinking.

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, was listed Sunday night as the league's 17th best blueliner as NHL Network continued its nine-part series looking at the game's top players.

That's not a slight to Gostisbehere by any means, but many would argue that Provorov's overall game is far more in tune of a top-tier player than Gostisbehere.

Here is NHL Network Ken Daneyko's explanation for "Ghost," who ranks right behind Boston's Torey Krug and ahead of Carolina's Dougie Hamilton:

"He really came into his own last year. This kid is dynamic, and for me, I think there are some defensive liabilities, but because how offensive the game has become and defensemen being part of that offense, Gostisbehere can do it all. He's shifty and can make a pass in the blink of an eye for a great scoring chance."

Gostisbehere had a frustrating sophomore season in 2016-17 after exploding onto the scene in 2015-16. Last season, though, he rebounded in grand fashion.

The 25-year-old finished fourth in the NHL among defensemen in points with 65. He led all defensemen in power-play points (33) and was tied for the league lead with seven power-play goals.

His offensive production returned — actually increased substantially — to his rookie season level, when he scored at a 0.72 points per game clip in 2015-16. Last season that number was 0.83.

But Gostisbehre's defensive game began to round into place. He credited that to "a little more snot," but the player we saw in his own end was far better than what we've seen before.

We can chalk some of that up to Dave Hakstol putting Gostisbehere with Provorov in late December. The pair became dynamic because, at any moment, either could jump up in the offensive zone and create, but Provorov was the pair's anchor.

“He’s a 1,000 of years better than me defensively,” Gostisbehere said in April. “We use that to our advantage and it really showed as a pair. Provy’s very good defensively, but offensively, he took another step.

"He’s probably one of the best, if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL.”

Provorov did not totally get snubbed by the NHL Network. Daneyko had Provorov on the bubble and if we return to this list after the 2018-19 season, it's safe to say Provorov will likely, at least, make the leap.

"For such a young age, poise, good in all three zones and only getting better," Daneyko said of Provorov. "He moves the puck and has good offensive instinct. He's going to be a real good player for a long time."

Provorov, 21, was tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals in his second NHL campaign but didn't post ludicrous overall numbers — just 41 points and not many on the power play.

But Provorov played the tough, shutdown minutes (see story). He led the team in ice time with 24:09 per game, more than 2 1/2 minutes more than Sean Couturier's 21:35 and 2 minutes and 42 seconds more than Gostisbehere.

We're splitting hairs here, really. Lists are lists and a good list often creates debate. Does it matter that Gostisbehere, not Provorov, made the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list? Not really, but it's still a neat honor.

If anything, it's another testament that the Flyers are doing things right even if the process at the rink is slower than fans would like.

More on the Flyers

Flyers featured heavily on NBC national broadcast schedule

usa_claudegiroux_seancouturier.jpg
USA Today Images

Flyers featured heavily on NBC national broadcast schedule

NBC Sports on Monday revealed its 2018-19 national broadcast schedule and the Flyers, per usual, are heavily featured.

The Flyers will have 17 games aired on either NBC or NBCSN in 2018-19. It's important to note, though, that some of the NBCSN games will be blacked out locally and air on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The local TV broadcast schedule typically comes out in early September. The full 2018-19 schedule was released in June (see Flyers highlights here).

Still, the Flyers will be featured in six major national TV games — four on NBC and two on NBCSN's "Wednesday Night Hockey" games.

Wednesday Night Hockey

Both of the Flyers' "Wednesday Night Hockey" games will be home games.

Jan. 16, 2019: The Flyers will host the Boston Bruins for their first appearance on the NBCSN's signature hockey night.

March 6, 2019: The defending Stanley Cup champions Washington Capitals come to Philly for a tilt against the Flyers.

NHL on NBC

The Flyers will be on NBC four times, including the 2019 NHL Stadium Series showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.

Nov. 23, 2018, 1 p.m.: The Flyers host the New York Rangers on Black Friday — it will be the first of 13 NHL games aired on NBC in 2018-19.

Feb. 23, 2019, 8 p.m.: Yep, Flyers-Pens are going back outside. This time, at the Linc. It'll be on NBC in primetime.

March 24, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: The Flyers will face the Capitals in Washington.

March 31, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Back-to-back Sundays the Flyers will be on NBC. This time, they're playing the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Flyers' full national TV schedule

Oct. 4, 2018, 10 p.m.: Flyers at Golden Knights (NBCSN)

Oct. 9, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Sharks (NBCSN)

Nov. 21, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Sabres (NBCSN)

• Nov. 23, 2018, 1 p.m.: Flyers vs. Rangers (NBC)

Dec. 27, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Lightning (NBCSN)

Jan. 8, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Capitals (NBCSN)

Jan. 16, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Bruins (NBCSN)

Jan. 28, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Jets (NBCSN)

• Jan. 29, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Rangers (NBCSN)

Feb. 11, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Penguins (NBCSN)

Feb. 17, 2019, 6 p.m.: Flyers at Red Wings (NBCSN)

Feb. 23, 2019, 8 p.m.: Flyers vs. Penguins (NBC)

Feb. 26, 2019, 7 p.m.: Flyers vs. Sabres (NBCSN)

March 6, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Capitals (NBCSN)

March 17, 2019, 7:30 p.m.: Flyers at Penguins (NBCSN)

March 24, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Flyers at Capitals (NBC)

March 31, 2019, 12:30 p.m.: Flyers vs. Rangers (NBC)

More on the Flyers