Gord Murphy

Flyers' 2019-20 coaching decisions crucial to a player like Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers' 2019-20 coaching decisions crucial to a player like Shayne Gostisbehere

VOORHEES, N.J. — In 2018-19, Shayne Gostisbehere played for two head coaches and two different assistant coaches that oversaw the Flyers' defensemen.

Who knows what the coaching staff will look like next season. A lot can change, just like it did this season when Dave Hakstol and Gord Murphy were fired at separate junctures and Scott Gordon and Rick Wilson were brought on board as replacements.

What's certain is that coaches and their philosophies are crucial to unfurling the best in Gostisbehere. His game is predicated around picking and choosing when to take risks offensively, which requires a freedom and trust from the coaching staff.

Gostisbehere did not have the year anyone expected. After putting up a career-high 65 points (13 goals, 52 assists), good for fourth best among NHL defensemen last season, the 25-year-old took a significant step back with 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) and a minus-20 mark in 2018-19.

During Sunday's cleanout day at Flyers Skate Zone, Gostisbehere did not blame his production on coaches or being banged up following a puck to the knee in late October.

The Flyers started slow (again). When Hakstol was fired, the team was 12-15-4 and allowing 3.74 goals per game, tied for second most in the NHL. The power play was struggling, ranked third to last in the league at 12.9 percent. Gostisbehere started the season paired with Ivan Provorov. By season's end, his role had changed a bunch, even coming off the top power-play unit for a stretch in January.

That will happen when a season doesn't go as planned for an entire team.

Obviously power play is a big thing, it's a big part of my game, but 5-on-5 play as well, I led the team [with a minus-20] again — that's something I'm not proud of, but you're eating empty nets, it is what it is, it's part of the game. I can do a lot of things. I started the year with Provy and by the end I was on the third pair. For me, I've got to look in the mirror, have a good summer and really bear down and get things going.

I learned a lot about myself mentally, it was a grind this season. Finding that consistency, that sweet spot, it's going to be what I'm going to be searching for this summer. Just being a good teammate, a good guy, even when things aren't going your way, you keep pushing and hopefully you can find that consistency.

However, discovering ways to accentuate Gostisbehere's strengths are important. There's too much ability to not view him as a focal point. It's why general manager Chuck Fletcher's coaching decision will be vital to a player like Gostisbehere, who excels when playing freely and confidently in a position with two sides of the coin.

Did he have the freedom to take chances from start to finish in 2018-19?

"With Hak, a little more probably," Gostisbehere said. "With Rick coming in and different coaches and whatnot, they tweaked the style — not just me personally, but how he wants the defense to play. I wouldn't say they put handcuffs on me or anything, but they pulled the reins back quite a bit just in what they wanted us to do collectively as a D core."

Gostisbehere supported Gordon, who came on in an interim basis.

"It was cool, it was different. A little different than Hak, for sure, he talked a little more," Gostisbehere said of Gordon. "System-wise, when he comes in the room, it's all systems and different faceoff plays. He was a good coach to have, a different coach. He really comes up and he talks, he's a normal guy. Not saying Hak wasn't, but as you guys can tell, they're a little different. He was a great coach."

During a game, Gordon was often seen communicating 1-on-1 with players.

"Mostly it was positive with Gordo. I don't mind it. I mean, if I make a mistake and a coach comes up to me on the bench and tells me about the mistake, like, no s---, I just made the mistake, I know," Gostisbehere said with a smile. "I don't really like that, but who would? But sometimes you need that kick in the ass, so I think for us, Gordo was a little animated at times, but he just wanted you to be your best player."

Getting the best out of Gostisbehere will go a long way for the 2019-20 Flyers.

"I'm going to be a different guy next year," Gostisbehere said. "I'm going to be definitely different in the way that I take my approach to the game and I'm just going to be the best player I can be — whoever the coach is."

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Report: Flyers bring in Rick Wilson as new assistant coach

Report: Flyers bring in Rick Wilson as new assistant coach

The Flyers are starting to fill some holes.

At least in the front office and on the coaching staff.

Not only did the Flyers name Chuck Fletcher their new general manager Monday (see story), but it also looks like the team has a new assistant coach.

Rick Wilson, a University of North Dakota product, will join Dave Hakstol's staff, according to a report Monday by Brad E. Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. A UND spokesman told NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk that Wilson has accepted a position but could not confirm it is with the Flyers.

The 68-year-old recently retired in May after 30 years of coaching in the NHL. Wilson played and coached at North Dakota, where Hakstol was the head coach for 11 years before the Flyers hired him in May 2015.

Wilson replaces Gord Murphy, who was fired last Wednesday along with assistant general manager Chris Pryor. Murphy oversaw the Flyers' defensemen.

"In discussion between Paul [Holmgren] and I, the decision was made based on what we felt was best for our group on the back end moving forward,” Hakstol said last week. “I don’t want to get into specific issues. It’s about the entire group.”

It will be interesting to see how long Wilson lasts with the Flyers. In fact, the future of the entire staff — Hakstol, Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies) — is up in the air with a new general manager taking the reins. Hakstol was consulted over the Murphy decision and he more than likely had a say in bringing on Wilson (see story).

Wilson has past coaching experience with the Islanders, Kings, North Stars, Stars, Lightning, Wild and Blues, according to the Grand Forks Herald

He won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 and played four seasons in the NHL from 1973 to 1977.

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Dave Hakstol's situation gets even weirder … and better?

Dave Hakstol's situation gets even weirder … and better?

What a bizarre and uneasy time for Dave Hakstol.

First, he finds out his future will be a can kicked down the road to a complete outsider after the axing of his previous boss.

Then, a day later, he's actually in consultation with Paul Holmgren about another shake-up, this one involving assistant coach Gord Murphy, who was fired Wednesday along with assistant general manager Chris Pryor.

With that, you wonder if Hakstol would have ever been in consultation over such a personnel move when Ron Hextall was running the show as general manager.

When the Flyers stumbled through the first two months of the season and saw glaring struggles in specific areas — special teams, goaltending, defensive play — the coaching staff of Hakstol, Murphy (defensemen), Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies) remained untouched.

Another slow start with a core group expected to make bigger strides this season would have suggested some sort of change, which often comes to a coaching staff.

Just two days after Hextall was removed from his GM chair, the Flyers made a change within their coaching group and Hakstol was consulted.

That says a lot.

Would Hakstol have made a switch earlier if consulted? It's fair to question.

Murphy and Laperriere were on staff prior to Hakstol's arrival. Fewer than two months after Hakstol was named head coach, Dillabaugh came to the Flyers from the Kings, where Hextall won a Stanley Cup as an assistant general manager. Knoblauch was brought on board in June 2017, a move Hakstol at least had discussions about with Hextall.

The defense has been one of many sore spots in 2018-19. The Flyers have allowed the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.59. They've allowed 86 goals through 24 contests compared to 73 in the first 24 last season.

Obviously, this doesn't fall on just the blueliners; it's on the forwards and goalies, too. But the defensemen haven't been great, while Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have experienced some surprising lumps after stud performances in 2017-18.

Holmgren on Tuesday sounded like he wanted to hear from Hakstol.

"I said if there was anything I could to help you do your job better, please feel free to come and talk to me about it," the Flyers' president said. "Talked a little bit about his staff moving forward, that was about it. He knows, we have the players know, the coaches know, we all know it's about winning. We haven't been winning enough games lately and we need to get back to work."

Ironically, with no GM in place, Hakstol has pull right now while his future is kicked like a can down the road.

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