Kim Dillabaugh

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's breakdown of Flyers' 2019-20 coaching staff

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's breakdown of Flyers' 2019-20 coaching staff

Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault built a 2019-20 staff with a mixture of head coaching experience and Flyers experience.

"We're all in this for the same thing and that's to win," Vigneault said Wednesday in a conference call. "I believe that Chuck and I have put a solid staff together that's going to permit us to do this."

After speaking with Vigneault, here are five takeaways on the coaches:

1. 'This was myself and Chuck'

Fletcher and Vigneault worked together in naming the coaching staff. Both the general manager and head coach were going to have input.

As they came together and highlighted Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo as candidates, it's clear who likely made which suggestion. 

Vigneault said he has known the 55-year-old Therrien "for a long time." 

"I know the type of hockey person he is, I know the type of person he is, I know what he can bring," Vigneault said.

Fletcher gave the 45-year-old Yeo his first NHL head coaching job back in 2011 with the Wild.

"I've known Mike Yeo through coaching against him, but Chuck Fletcher had a real good relationship with him," Vigneault said. "I felt real strongly about what he could bring to our coaching group."

The fact that both Fletcher and Vigneault could listen to each other's suggestions in constructing the staff is a major positive for the GM-coach relationship. Fletcher is a big listener and Vigneault values advice, as well. It's why both targeted experienced guys for the staff.

2. Role changes

When the Flyers announced the additions of Therrien and Yeo, it would have been surprising if either of the two guys with a combined 1,296 games of head coaching experience wouldn't oversee a special teams unit.

That means the role of Ian Laperriere — who was brought back along with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh — was going to change. Laperriere will no longer be in charge of the Flyers' penalty kill, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the NHL in each of the past five seasons.

Yeo will coach the penalty kill and defensemen, while Therrien will lead the power play and work with the forwards. Laperriere's focus will shift to pre-scouting and focusing on the next opponent. He will move from the bench to the booth during games.

"I've always been a believer that the coach that's running the defense should be running the penalty killing also, and the coach that's doing the power play is a little bit closer with the forwards," Vigneault said. "That's how I've always spread my roles and my tasks in the past and that's how I'm doing it this year."

3. 'Faith in Ian Laperriere'

Vigneault spoke highly of Laperriere, who has often been the subject of criticism for the Flyers' penalty kill struggles, a unit that has ranked 30th in the NHL since 2014-15.

Vigneault and Fletcher likely heard plenty of good things about Laperriere. He has great relationships with the players, has been around the current roster and knows the organization. He can still help in a lot of areas and the Flyers saw that.

"This is about me bringing in people that bring different characteristics, different qualities to the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've got a lot of faith in Ian Laperriere. I had a good talk with him and I know what he can bring to the Flyers. He's a true Flyer, he wants to be here, he wants to help the team in any way he can. 

"After thinking it through and talking with Chuck, I felt we needed an eye in the sky that was relaying what he was seeing to one of the coaches and that coach is going to be Michel Therrien. And I needed somebody to help us out with our advanced scouting, and that's going to be Ian."

4. 'The two best candidates'

What Vigneault really liked about hiring two former head coaches as assistants is that Therrien and Yeo know what is needed from those roles. A former head coach understands what works with an assistant, which made Therrien and Yeo popular choices.

"I felt that both Mike and Michel were the two best candidates right now that were available to do this job," Vigneault said. "If you look at my pedigree and the coaches that I've worked with in the past, I've always worked with strong, capable coaches."

Following the regular season, Fletcher lamented "bad habits" on the ice that resulted in the Flyers' inconsistency and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. The Flyers believe Therrien and Yeo will go a long way in cleaning things up by working closely with the team's personnel.

"This is about giving our players coaching, this is about giving our players direction," Vigneault said. "Both guys, they've been head coaches before. Nobody understands more of what's needed from an assistant than a head coach. So they understand their roles, they know that part of being an assistant is being closer with the players, you have to have an open mind about hearing their concerns sometimes and they bring different situations to me, and it's my job as the head coach to handle the different situations. 

"That experience that both of those guys are going to bring is going to be beneficial throughout the organization — not just me, but to the pro scouting, to the management staff and especially to the players."

5. Special adjustments

The Flyers' power-play percentage of 17.1 this season was the club's worst mark since 2010-11, when the unit was at 16.6.  The Flyers' penalty kill, despite significant improvement down the stretch, finished 26th at 78.5 percent. 

"No doubt that with the stuff that we're bringing to the forefront here, there will be some adjustments as far as philosophies and what we need to do," Vigneault said of the special teams. "I don't want to get into the specifics here on a conference call, but I have certain aspects of penalty killing that I believe in, that have been very effective in the past, just like power play. 

"But I also know Mike Yeo will bring something to the table, as will Michel Therrien and Ian Laperriere. So I want to have the opportunity to sit down with my coaches and brainstorm and look at the personnel that we have at our availability and come up with the best possible system for the power play and penalty killing that will help us."

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Flyers hire Michel Therrien, Mike Yeo as assistant coaches

Flyers hire Michel Therrien, Mike Yeo as assistant coaches

Alain Vigneault has his coaching staff.

The Flyers on Monday announced the club's coaches for the 2019-20 season and a handful of things stand out.

It's clear general manager Chuck Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers wanted to bring on some experience. They hired Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo as new assistant coaches. Therrien has 814 games of NHL head coaching experience, while Yeo owns 482 and was the bench boss for parts of five seasons with the Wild under Fletcher.

Therrien and Yeo both have backgrounds with the Penguins. Therrien led Pittsburgh to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, a season in which Yeo was his assistant. Therrien has 71 games of playoff experience between stints with the Penguins and Canadiens. So, between Vigneault and Therrien, that's three Stanley Cup Final appearances. Yeo was on Pittsburgh's staff when the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup. His head coaching experience came under Fletcher in Minnesota and with the Blues. Overall, he owns 39 games of postseason experience.

Three coaches will be retained: Ian Laperriere, Kim Dillabaugh and Adam Patterson. Laperriere oversaw the Flyers' penalty kill but it's uncertain if he'll continue with those responsibilities. Dillabaugh is the Flyers' goaltending coach and Vigneault was impressed by his work with Carter Hart, while Patterson is the Flyers' video coach.

"I am excited to add Michel and Mike on our coaching staff to work alongside Ian Laperriere, Kim Dillabaugh and Adam Patterson," Vigneault said in a statement released by the Flyers. "Both men have enjoyed success at all levels throughout their coaching careers, including working together at the NHL level. Each brings a considerable amount of experience and knowledge to our group, which I have no doubt will help lead our team to immediate success."

While the Flyers' penalty kill has ranked in the bottom 10 of the NHL in each of the past five seasons under Laperriere, he relates well with the players and can be a help to the new assistants in understanding the roster.

Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson are not returning. Knoblauch, who was previously coaching in junior hockey, was brought on board during June 2017 and coached the Flyers' power play. Out of retirement, Rick Wilson joined the Flyers in December of this season and worked with the defensemen.

Scott Gordon has decided to stay in the organization. After serving as the Flyers' interim head coach from Dec. 17 to the end of the season, Gordon will return to his previous post as head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, which Fletcher said he more than earned. Kerry Huffman, who led the Phantoms when Gordon was summoned by the Flyers, will be an assistant in Lehigh Valley.

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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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