Rick Tocchet Is a Perfect Fit for Flyers’ Coaching Vacancy

Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers have an important offseason, which just got even more hectic. They can add finding a new head coach to the list of things they have to do in an attempt to change the fortunes of the team next season. Mike Yeo was told that he would not remain the head coach of the Flyers, but Fletcher would love to keep him around in some role with the team.

Yeo got the interim tag after 22 games when Alain Vigneault went 8-10-4 and was fired. Yeo did no better, but it also wasn’t easy on him thrown in that situation with a banged up team. “He kept our players competing and playing hard to the end,” Fletcher said. But Yeo’s record was 17-36-7. The Flyers are going to need a coach who is tough but fair and creates an identity for the team that makes it tough on the opposing teams every game.

The Flyers’ roster has the skill set, it’s just a matter of putting it all together under the right leadership. That is where the next head coach comes in. As we’ve seen over the years and especially in 2021-22, a new voice behind the bench can change everything. From work ethic, to positioning, line combinations, and player utilization, a team can be turned around in a season or less. So, I present to you the argument that Rick Tocchet is the man for the job in Philadelphia.

Tocchet is Loved in Philadelphia

Who wouldn’t want to see Tocchet back in Philadelphia? He’s been itching to get back into the coaching game and has stated that numerous times on TNT where he’s currently a panelist. His ties to Philadelphia and the Flyers run deep, as he is a beloved player for what he was able to accomplish as a member of the team.

Tocchet was drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft and found his way onto the team a season later. In his rookie season, he performed well and immediately showed what type of player he was going to be — a physical one. That was the identity of the Flyers and he fit that to a tee.

Rick Tocchet Arizona Coyotes
Rick Tocchet former Arizona Coyotes coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Final and lost in 1985 and 1987, two of Tocchet’s first three seasons on the team. The second run to the Cup was where he really broke out offensively, scoring 11 goals and recording 21 points in 26 games.

The fan favourite played a total of 11 seasons with the Flyers over two stints in his career, one to start and one to end. He played the 16th most games and finished his career with the 15th most points in franchise history. He recorded 508 points in 621 games while with the Flyers and holds the team record for the most penalty minutes with 1,815.

Earlier this season, Tocchet was one of two members inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Brad Marsh, the Flyers Alumni President, had some words to say about Tocchet and the role he played in Philadelphia stating, “Rick Tocchet just identifies so much with the Flyers. He was drafted for a specific reason. He was tough. He was gritty. He could score. He played hard. He showed up… He is what the Philadelphia Flyers are all about.” He was on seven Flyers teams that made the postseason and they would most certainly like to return after failing to reach in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.

Maybe Tocchet wouldn’t be able to make every player as tough as he was, but he will instill a fight and make the entire team play tougher, regardless of the game or time in the season.

Tocchet’s Success as a Head Coach Can Benefit Flyers

Tocchet coached the Arizona Coyotes for the past four seasons before mutually parting ways with the organization. The team only made the playoffs once but he had a solid system in place and made the Coyotes hard to play against despite the lack of high-end talent on the roster. He is responsible for coaching the team to their only playoff appearance since 2011-12 and they did more than just make it; they knocked out the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round in four games before falling to the Colorado Avalanche in five games.

Assistant coach Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet, former Assistant Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

That team’s leading scorer was Nick Schmaltz with just 45 points, but the Coyotes’ defensive system was one of the best in the NHL. Despite just going 33-29-8, they ranked third-best in the league in goals against per game with 2.61. Comparing that team to the Flyers at full health, the projected Flyers team in 2022-23 is much better. Carter Hart rebounded nicely and is comparable to Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper has just been on better defensive teams to bolster his stats.

The Flyers will also have a younger team like the one the Coyotes had and Tocchet will be able to pick up where he left off. Not all coaches can make a huge difference, but his time in Arizona proves he can take a team that is counted out on paper and make them competitive. Plus there are similarities between those Coyotes and these Flyers.

The top four leading scorers on the 2019-20 Coyotes were 23 years of age or younger. The Flyers have already started to inject a ton of youth into their lineup, and young players are impressionable. They haven’t developed a particular style of play at the NHL level that they are accustomed to and Tocchet can teach them good habits and the system he wants with fewer problems. The Flyers have players like Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Bobby Brink, Cam York, Ronnie Attard, and Joel Farabee who are all 23 or younger. Mixed with a good core group of veterans and a solid goaltender, Tocchet can allow this team to exceed expectations and help the young players grow while staying competitive through every game.

The power play still needs work, which played a big part in the lack of scoring and the losses piling up for the Flyers. They ranked last in the NHL at a very low 12.6 percent and it factored into the team scoring the second-fewest goals in the NHL this season with just 210. Tocchet was in charge of the power play in Pittsburgh during the two Stanley Cup runs as an assistant coach, so he would be a successful candidate to sort things out on that end (“Rich Tocchet, John Tortorella among available coaching candidates Flyers could consider”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 3, 2022).

Finding the right head coach for the job ahead in Philadelphia will be just as important to any roster changes that may be made. Fletcher has a decision on his hands and Tocchet would be a great fit for the Flyers.

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