The Philadelphia Flyers elected to go a different coaching direction after their eighth consecutive loss and relieved head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien of their positions. This winless stretch saw the Flyers get a measly two points in the standings and also lose four in a row in regulation.
Mike Yeo was named interim head coach for the Flyers before the team’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The losing streak is now at nine games, with still just two points, and a minus-26 goal differential.
There had to be a change since the excuse of having a few players injured was only part of the reason for the recent failures. A change was needed after a bad previous season where the Flyers missed the playoffs and now with the start this year.
Despite all that, it won’t be easy, but there is hope that the Flyers’ season can be saved. The team is only 23 games into an 82-game season, that’s 59 games to go. In recent years, we’ve seen worse odds overcome feats greater than nine points back of a wildcard spot with two games in hand.
How the Flyers’ Players Will React
Depending on your role on the team, a coaching change can be taken in different ways. Young players working hard and struggling for ice time and even games can get more of a shot with a new coach. The coach may not have watched every game this season closely and will want to judge everyone for himself once he is on the scene. This includes practice and games.
Opportunity is huge in the NHL, and different linemates or a new team can do wonders for a player’s career and allow them to reach their full potential. On a team like the Flyers where the lines are pretty spread out and players are able to move up and down the lines easily, this should help Yeo in testing his own line combinations and giving more players a chance.
Veterans and players on expiring contracts might see a change as a wake-up call in that they will take responsibility as a leader for the team’s failures and the firing of a coach. A number of reasons should cause the Flyers to at the very least compete harder and that will lead to more wins. Once the wins come, the confidence shoots up and a confident team is a fun team to play on and a tough one to play against.
Similar Coaching Changes Around the NHL
Sometimes teams are quick to change their coaching staff when something isn’t working out, others wait until there’s a clear picture that a change is needed. The Flyers have the on-ice talent to compete with anyone in the league when healthy, and after an above-average early start to the season, things have gotten derailed.
Sometimes what a coach is preaching just isn’t resonating with his players, and other times, the players and coach just don’t have a good dynamic. After a good amount of changes to the Flyers’ roster since they won the Metropolitan Division two seasons ago, Vigneault may have fallen out of touch or lost his control over the room after all the losses.
We’ve already seen a few coaching changes this season from some other struggling teams that were projected to be a lot better than they have shown, and it’s worked out for them so far. Time will tell, but history is on the side of the Flyers to at least end their slide and get themselves into a better position.
Derek King – Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks were the first team to fire their coach this season after a franchise-worst start to their season. There could have been a number of reasons why former head coach Jeremy Colliton lost the room, but with a lot of players tied up to big contracts and the season very young, there was no need to panic and start selling. A coaching change was needed for this team to go in a new direction as they try to find their identity after the dynasty has ended.
Colliton was fired on Nov. 6 and replaced by Derek King from their American Hockey League (AHL) team on an interim basis. After a 1-9-2 start, the Blackhawks have since posted a record of 8-4-0 and won four consecutive games following the coaching change. King has done a lot differently, and most of the time, that’s what a team and players need to succeed and feel confident. The hole they dug was deep, but they have managed to climb their way back to within eight points of a wildcard spot in just 12 games. They still have 58 to go.
Bruce Boudreau – Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks are another team this season that has massively underperformed from their pre-season expectations. Sure, the defence was expected to struggle, but with the additions of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland, and the emergence of Vasily Podkolzin, the offence wasn’t supposed to have any difficulty scoring.
Nothing has seemed to work in favour of the Canucks, and they elected to clean house and bring in Bruce Boudreau, who has a history of success. In the first game as head coach, the Canucks recorded their most dominant and lopsided win of the season. The offence was clicking and they recorded their first shutout of the season, finally giving Thatcher Demko some support.
Craig Berube – St. Louis Blues
You might remember the hype around the St. Louis Blues after they acquired Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres in a huge trade during the offseason. The season didn’t get off to the best of starts, and it took until the Blues were 7-9-3 to fire, funny enough, Yeo, and hire Craig Berube.
The Blues went on to make the playoffs and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, snapping the second-longest active Cup drought. Berube was then awarded a three-year contract as the permanent head coach and the Blues have made the playoffs the following two seasons.
A coaching change can sometimes be all a team needs to point them in the right direction and start winning games. It is a wake-up call to the players to let them know more changes might be coming if there’s no progress, while others see it as an opportunity to impress their new coach and play harder. Hopefully, the trend continues and we see the Flyers make a quick turnaround with lots of games left in their season.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.