It’s almost May, and people are already wondering about next season in Philadelphia, and for good reason.
The Flyers have a void at head coach.
Craig Berube spent almost two full seasons as head coach of the Flyers posting a record of 75-58-28. That obviously doesn’t tell the whole story. As his tenure was coming to a close, relationships became strained, blame was being put in the wrong places, and he was losing his credibility.
So what now?
Bring in a coach from the outside, not one who has any affiliation with the team. Why do the Flyers need someone from the outside? Take a look at Flyer coaches since the 2000-2001 season.
- Craig Ramsay: 28-20-5-0. Took over Roger Nielson’s spot when he left for health reasons, that same year Ramsay led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals. He was fired after the Flyers started the 2000 season 12-12-4-0. Had no prior affiliation with the team.
- Bill Barber: 73-40-17-6. Played for the Flyers for 12 seasons, coached in the farm system before taking the helm for the Flyers. The Flyers made the playoffs twice under him, losing in the first round both times. Won a Jack Adams trophy after taking over in the 2000-2001 season. Coached until the end of the 2001-2002 season. This was the only head coaching position he’s ever held.
- Ken Hitchcock: 131-73-28-22. Had a short stint as assistant coach of the Flyers early on in his career, otherwise had no prior
affiliation with the team. Won a division championship here, took the Flyers to the second round in his first season and coached the Flyers to game 7 of the Conference Finals in 2004 (which arguably the Flyers could have won without the plethora of injuries they sustained.). Was fired in 2006 ahead of the worst season in franchise history, mostly due to the Flyers falling victim to the new salary cap.
- John Stevens: 120-109-34. Drafted by the Flyers, played most of his career in the farm system. Led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Had a first round exit in 2009 despite a 99 point season, and was fired in the midst of the 2009-2010 season after a very disappointing start. Also the only head coaching job John Stevens has ever held.
- Peter Laviolette: 145-98-29. Had no prior affiliation with the Flyers. Won a Stanley Cup in 2006 as head coach of the Hurricanes. Took the Flyers from 10th in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff spot on the final day of the season, in a shootout. Coached the Flyers to an 0-3 series comeback against Boston, including coming back from down 3-0 in game 7. Took the team to game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against a Chicago team loaded with superstars. Led the Flyers to a division title in 2010-2011. Missed the playoffs in the lockout shortened season of 2013. Was fired after a franchise worst 0-3-0 start in 2013. Coached the 3rd most games in Flyers history.
- Craig Berube: 75-58-28.Had no prior experience as a head coach. Played for the Flyers and had over 3000 career penalty minutes. Took the Flyers to the playoffs, only to lose in 7 games to the New York Rangers. Did not make the playoffs in his first full season as head coach. Was fired following the 2014-2015 season.
The Outside Coach the Flyers Need
Take a look at the coaches above. Peter Laviolette brought the Flyers ever so close to a Stanley Cup. Ken Hitchcock did a great job while in Philadelphia. As mentioned above, if it weren’t for injuries, that team from 2004 could have very well won the Stanley Cup. Those two coaches are also the only two who didn’t have deep ties to the Flyers organization.
That tells you something.
So why is Mike Babcock the coach the Flyers need?
He utilizes the talent he has in the most effective way I have ever seen. He makes things work. If you look at the Flyers lineup and Red Wings roster on paper, I’d argue that the Flyers have significantly more offensive potential than the Red Wings do, yet fail to utilize it correctly.
Babcock knows where to put players, and how to use them. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are prime examples of this.
Speaking of young guys, the Flyers have a lot of those as well. If Tatar and Nyquist are any indication, Mike Babcock knows how to use his youth. With Gostisbehere, Morin, Alt, Manning, Laughton, and Leier all waiting in the wings, it would be a huge added bonus to have a coach that knows how to develop them the right way.
Another big point? There is almost always a good reason behind the decisions he makes. Do you think Steve Mason would have gone through the torture he did if Babcock was here? Would Sean Couturier finally be utilized correctly? Would Erik Gustafsson have been scratched for Hal Gill in a playoff game? The list could go on and on. Part of this is a result of my next point.
If it’s one thing Laviolette, Hitchcock, and Babcock have in common, it’s that they’ve been through it all. All three have been in multiple Stanley Cup Finals and all three have won Stanley Cups.
When you’re talking about coaches, that amount of experience is invaluable. Take Laviolette, for example. When the Flyers went down 3-0 in game 7 against the Boston Bruins, Laviolette called a time-out and knew how to connect with his players, calm them down, and explain to them the task at hand. That’s something that is hard to come by. And something the Flyers need again.
Mr. Sinder no doubt has the resources to throw a large sum of money Babcock’s way. The Flyers need to do that, it would benefit them for years to come.
Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.