What Does Knoblauch Bring to Flyers?

Yesterday morning, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Philadelphia Flyers were looking at OHL head coach Kris Knoblauch to come in as an assistant coach. Knoblauch coached the Erie Otters to four consecutive 50 win seasons, working with talented stars like Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Taylor Raddysh and more. Less than two hours after the report, the Flyers made the announcement that he had been hired.

Impressive Coaching Resume

After three seasons of playoff losses in Erie, Knoblauch finally coached the Otters to an OHL title. This was to be expected, not only because of the talented roster but due to the fact that Knoblauch won a WHL title with Kootenay Ice in 2010-11. He knows what it takes to win. This season, Knoblauch’s Otters were expected to win the Memorial Cup with the abundance of talent they had. However, they lost 4-3 in the final game against the host Windsor Spitfires.

Knoblauch is a well-respected coach in the CHL and was expected to make the leap to (at least) the AHL next season. Fortunately for him, the Flyers had an interest and brought him in as head coach Dave Hakstol’s assistant. Knoblauch was also the recipient of the Matt Leyden Trophy in 2016, awarded to the OHL’s coach of the year.

The Youth Factor

Bringing in a coach who has worked alongside young players in the CHL is a huge benefit, especially with Knoblauch’s track record and because the Flyers are becoming a very young team. The oldest player on the roster is Valtteri Filppula at 33 years of age. Many former Otters players have given credit to Knoblauch’s for their development. Agent Jeff Jackson stated: “He teaches a culture of winning and speed and puck movement,” and he’s “been glad to send players like Connor McDavid, Travis Dermott, Taylor and Darren Raddysh and Alex DeBrincat to Erie.”

Knoblauch’s mindset is perfect for the Flyers. He installed an offensive system in Erie based on speed and skill which helped bring out the best in players. In four full seasons under Knoblauch, the Otters had a total of nine 100-point scorers and had a record of 204-58. He was also the assistant coach on Team Canada’s 2016-17 World Junior team that won the silver medal in Montreal.

Erie Otters, Kris Knobloch, OHL
Kris Knoblauch won his second career league title, first in the OHL.
(Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Special Teams Tweaks

The new assistant coach will try to bring some movement to the Flyers’ power play, which has been on the decline. In the last five seasons, the Flyers have maintained a very good power play, but teams are starting to figure out the system. Giroux is the go-to guy on the man advantage and will normally look for the one-timer or the cross-ice pass. Once teams start moving around and limit the passing lanes, the Flyers tend to scramble. However, once they have control, they can really dominate and get good chances.

An area they need to improve in is zone entries. The Flyers often fail to enter the zone on the power play resulting in shorthanded goals against (they allowed nine last year) and a loss of momentum. This is where assistant coach Knoblauch’s expertise will come into play, hopefully getting a little more movement out of the first unit.

Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek have been tearing up the league over the past week. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The second power play group is rather embarrassing and Flyers fans are hoping for a big change. Will Konecny be the Giroux of the second unit? A lot of questions arise when talking about the second unit and hopefully, Knoblauch will be able the answer them.

The Flyers seem to be making the right moves and Ron Hextall is confident in his group. They should be a consistent playoff team in the next couple of years.