Florida Panthers

With Joel Quenneville off the board, where else could the Flyers look for a coach?

With Joel Quenneville off the board, where else could the Flyers look for a coach?

Updated: 2:02 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' offseason is already off to an undesirable start.

Not long after the Flyers skated off the Wells Fargo Center ice, we've learned that three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville is joining the Florida Panthers. 

Quenneville would have brought an excitement to Flyers Nation similar to the energy Bryce Harper has unleashed on Philadelphia. Quenneville is the next head coach of the Panthers, but it’s not because GM Dale Tallon beat Chuck Fletcher to the punch. 

Clearly the Flyers organization, from CEO Dave Scott on down, was locked into the idea of bringing Quenneville aboard. However, Tallon and Quenneville are good friends as Tallon promoted Quenneville to the position of head coach with the Blackhawks in 2008.

The Panthers reached out to the Blackhawks for permission to speak with Quenneville, but it’s believed the two sides had been in serious negotiations with a press conference scheduled for Monday.

With Quenneville out of the mix, Fletcher had better act quickly if he wants to get one of his desirable candidates. A quarter of NHL teams entered Sunday searching for a new head coach and it looks like Todd McLellan could be off the board, as well.

With Quenneville off the radar, where does Fletcher direct his search? 

Here are some potential candidates:

Dave Tippett — senior adviser to Seattle’s NHL team

Tippett was fired by the Arizona Coyotes following the 2016-17 season and five straight non-playoff appearances and replaced by Rick Tocchet.

Prior to the recent lockout, Tippett guided the then-Phoenix Coyotes to the Western Conference Final in 2012 after winning the Pacific Division. Between coaching stints with the Coyotes and Stars, Tippett’s teams reached the playoffs in eight of his first nine seasons.

What makes Tippett attractive?

The Flyers finished 29th in goals allowed, a number Fletcher has been adamant in cutting down. In the eight years Tippett’s teams made the playoffs, they finished third, second, sixth, fourth, sixth, third, 13th and fifth in overall team defense. That’s appealing for a team that was horrendous on the defensive side of the ice.

Alain Vigneault — head coach Team Canada’s World Championship team

Vigneault was relieved of his duties with the New York Rangers following the 2017-18 season after the team proceeded to sell off its best players as part of a rebuild on Broadway. The 57-year-old coach may have the opportunity to coach fellow French Canadians Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier at the upcoming World Championships.

What makes Vigneault attractive?

He’s a proven winner. Vigneault won six divisional titles in Vancouver, including a President’s Trophy with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. In his first season in New York, Vigneault led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years. He’s coached his teams to eight 100-point seasons over a 10-year period.

Guy Boucher — fired as Senators coach on March 1, 2019

Boucher was put in an untenable position after the Senators proceeded to sell off the organization’s best players, starting with defenseman Erik Karlsson last summer. Boucher has had a short shelf life, coaching just three seasons in Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Karlsson excelled in Boucher’s first season in Ottawa and perhaps hiring Boucher could be a way of luring Karlsson to Philadelphia, who the coach labeled "the best player in the world" in 2017.

What makes Boucher attractive?

He may be a short-term fix, but in his first full season with the Lightning in 2011 and the Senators in 2017, he guided both teams to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. The 1-3-1 neutral zone trap Boucher is known for is the same system the Flyers had success with this season under interim head coach Scott Gordon. 

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Flyers 'just collapsed' against Panthers, and Carter Hart couldn't do anything to stop it

Flyers 'just collapsed' against Panthers, and Carter Hart couldn't do anything to stop it

SUNRISE, Fla. — Earlier this month, it was the crusher in Calgary.

Now, just two and a half weeks later, we have the fiasco in Florida.

Good teams simply don’t wilt like the Flyers have time and time again. The Panthers, playing on back-to-back nights, got an unthinkable game-winning goal Saturday from Jonathan Huberdeau with 1:06 remaining in regulation to beat the Flyers, 2-1 (see observations).

It wasn’t so much what they did, but rather how they did it — on a set breakout from behind their own net. 

“When that happens," interim head coach Scott Gordon said, "you have to get into your routes and get into position, and they just took off.”

Somewhat confusing prior to the breakout was the positioning of the Flyers' personnel. Their best defensive forward and best defender on the ice, Sean Couturier, was stationed just in front of the Panthers' crease, roughly 180 feet away from his own net. 

You would think Couturier would have been better served near the blue line to cover any odd-man rush against the Panthers' most dangerous line. Once Jakub Voracek failed in his attempt to pick off the pass between the Panthers' blue line and the red line, you could sense the doom. 

“As soon as they fired it up the boards, they took off,” Gordon said. “I know we were in between, and I think Jake tried to pick it off on the wall and it got by him, and that’s how it happened. It’s a bit of a hope play by them. We don’t come up with it and it’s a 3-on-2 and maybe a potential icing.”

With Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau on the ice, it’s also a potential backbreaker. Voracek couldn’t recover in time, Couturier was too far away from his own net and Wayne Simmonds was still at the Panthers' blue line when the puck entered the Flyers' zone. 

Radko Gudas did a good job of riding the Panthers' lightning-quick winger Evgenii Dadonov out of the play, but once he left the puck for Barkov, it was tic-tac-toe — game over.

“I think we shot ourselves in the foot there. We had the game under our control there,” Gudas said. “We just collapsed. We just have to pay more attention to the details. A controlled breakout ends up in our net, that’s unacceptable especially with a minute left in the game.”

It felt like that Flames game all over again when the Flyers executed a series of breakdowns that led to Sean Monahan’s goal with seven seconds remaining, and once again, it was another outstanding effort from the goaltender that went wasted.

This may be Carter Hart’s biggest psychological challenge if he stays in Philadelphia for the remainder of this season.

“I felt confident in the net,” Hart said. “I saw the guy up top, Barkov, and then I saw Huberdeau on the back door as well. I think he just got it up over me on the glove side. Obviously, I’ll look at things tomorrow and review the game. I think I just need to bear down a little bit harder.”

I’m not sure how Hart bears down any harder than the effort he provided his teammates, stopping 34 shots and pitching a shutout through the first 53 minutes, but therein lies the concern for a 20-year-old rookie who deserved a much better fate.

Hart wants to shoulder the blame and take responsibility. On this team, that’s a tremendous load to carry. 

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Panthers 2, Flyers 1: A stumble before the finish line

Panthers 2, Flyers 1: A stumble before the finish line

BOX SCORE 

SUNRISE, Fla. — Apparently, the Flyers haven’t rid themselves of those last-minute collapses.

The Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau scored the game-winning goal Saturday night with 1:06 remaining in regulation as the Flyers fell, 2-1.

How well did Carter Hart perform in his first NHL start on the road and how did Jordan Weal perform filling in for Nolan Patrick?  

Here are my observations from the BB&T Center:

• The game-winning goal should really bother Scott Gordon, considering it was a breakout play from behind the Panthers net and the Flyers had time to set up their defense. The Panthers made it look way too easy as Radko Gudas did a solid job of riding Dadonov out of the play, but once again, the defense had no help from the Flyers' forwards.

• I felt if the Flyers could survive the first period, they would have a definite advantage in the latter half of the game with the Panthers playing on back-to-back nights. However, I thought Florida had the territorial advantage in the second period. It was still encouraging to see the Flyers hold the Panthers off the board through two periods with the help of their goaltending. Through two periods, Florida had 24 scoring chances. Simply way too many.

• You could sense from the opening ten minutes that Hart was locked in tracking the puck and rarely appeared to be off his angle. Secondly, Hart’s rebound control was outstanding. The Panthers had some wide open looks, but shot wide just about every time or whiffed on their shots.  

• Having played sparingly since Nov. 27, there was a lot to like about Jordan Weal’s game, especially in the opening period. He set up Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal by driving his man hard to the net, opening up a shooting lane. One his second shift, he wisely took a shot down low to create a rebound chance and was hard on pucks. All good signs in the offensive zone. He had a high-quality scoring chance late in the second period coming down the slot.  

Here’s Gostisbehere with his second goal in his last six games. I wonder if taking him off that top pairing has helped him relax and not be overburdened trying to shut down the other team’s top players paired with Ivan Provorov.

• The Flyers once again killed a 5-on-3 with Hart in net. They only had to dig in for 40 seconds as opposed to a full two minutes last week against the Predators. I don’t think the Flyers' PK was particularly stellar, it was more a product of the Panthers (especially Mike Hoffman), not coming within a country mile of hitting the net.

• The Flyers were playing with fire against the NHL’s second-ranked power play, and they needed to play cleanly in the final ten minutes. James van Riemsdyk's penalty was a sloppy penalty and one the refs were looking for after calling Huberdeau for holding 90 seconds earlier. There was nothing Hart could do on Hoffman’s goal.


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