Just over three years ago, Michel Therrien was fired as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens for the second time. Fourteen months later, Alain Vigneault saw his tenure as head coach of the New York Rangers come to an end; and later that year, the St. Louis Blues abruptly relieved Mike Yeo of his head coaching duties. By April 2018 all three men were out of a job.
Today, that unlikely collection of former coaches are driving the surging Philadelphia Flyers into the postseason. With Vigneault in charge, followed closely by Yeo and Therrien, as well as Ian Laperriere, the Flyers have built their 2019-20 coaching staff almost from scratch.
Regardless of their success this season, hiring three former head coaches onto one staff raised questions and doubt. However, general manager Chuck Fletcher’s coaching experiment has yielded tremendous success, which is not to be overlooked.
You’d think three former head coaches would add up to too many cooks in the kitchen. Many expected it to take time for them to mesh before coexisting successfully.
However, things have progressed much quicker than expected. Each coach has stepped into a unique role that fills a different set of responsibilities, all
Despite some bumps in the road early on, each coach has settled in and found success in their specified departments. Therrien has found a way to get the Flyers’ power play back on course amid a recent offensive explosion. Their 20.8% success rate with the man advantage through 69 games is a notable improvement from the 17.1% they finished with last season; their power play ranks 14th in the league this season.
Yeo, on the other hand, has had a strong grasp of the defense and penalty kill from the get-go, making the blue line one of the most improved elements of the team. With the 11th-ranked penalty kill, Yeo has helped the team rise from a 26th-place finish and 78.5% penalty kill rate in 2018-19.
All in all, there was plenty of room for the Flyers to improve considering how mediocre they were last season. There’s plenty to be optimistic about regarding Vigneault, Therrien, and Yeo’s success in meshing different styles of coaching under one roof. Considering it’s just the beginning, it’s impressive they’ve been able to combine Therrien’s offensive creativity and experience with top talent with Yeo’s opportunistic defensive strategy all within the construct of Vigneault’s leadership.
Room For Improvement
The most exciting part of the Flyers’ new and improved coaching staff is that it’s only their first season together. Depending on how the Flyers finish, all three will likely be back next season. Consistency, especially in coaching, has been absent from the franchise for years and this staff could bring it back to Philadelphia.
With over 2,500 games of NHL head coaching experience across eight different franchises, 1,341 combined wins, and several trips to the Stanley Cup Final between them, the Flyers’ staff has plenty of credibility when it comes to creating a winning culture within a franchise.
Cohesion, accountability, and constant improvement have all become defining elements of Vigneault’s team in Philadelphia. The players have clearly bought into his system and the coaching assistants are playing a critical role in reinforcing that system.
The Flyers had no identity at the beginning of the season, and that has quickly turned around thanks to Vigneault and his staff. From his emphasis on accountability to Therrien and Yeo’s individual coaching styles on offense and defense, each coach has instilled aspects of their previous roles into a Flyers system desperate for improvement.
Although we still have to get through the remainder of the regular season and playoffs for the 2019-20 season, there’s no harm in looking ahead to what might happen in the offseason.
What’s most nerve-racking about the coaching staff is that any assistant could be plucked for a head coaching job with another team. It’s worth wondering how comfortable Therrien and Yeo are as assistants.
As the NHL consistently recycles head coaches, either one could earn a head coaching role this offseason. However, the culture and success they’ve built in less than a season should be reason to believe they’d want to stay in Philadelphia.
Both Yeo and Therrien have rediscovered their groove under Vigneault with every coach pulling their weight and working in perfect harmony with one another.
Fletcher’s gamble with this staff is paying off faster than any of us could’ve predicted or expected. If the Flyers are able to pull off an improbable run in the playoffs, this golden coaching staff could be around for years.