Another one bites the dust.
The Flyers’ ugly 2021-22 season reached what they hope was rock bottom on Sunday night after a 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting at the Wells Fargo Center.
The next morning, news broke that head coach Alain Vigneault, along with assistant coach Michel Therrien, were fired. Mike Yeo, who was also an assistant coach under Vigneault, was promoted to head coach with an interim tag attached as the Flyers have not interviewed any other candidates leading up to Vigneault’s firing according to General Manager Chuck Fletcher. Yeo had served as head coach in Minnesota for nearly five years when Fletcher was the GM of the Wild. He also coached the St. Louis Blues for parts of three seasons.
A coaching change was probably a move that needed to be made but it was rather surprising it was done during the 20 hours or so between back-to-back games. But here we are, another coach running full circle through the revolving door of a franchise that has been stagnant in success over the last decade.
Just since 2014, the Flyers have run through Peter Laviolette, Craig Berube, Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon and Vigneault. In all fairness, Gordon was a short-term Band-Aid interim much like Yeo could shake to be. A Flyers press release on Monday stated Yeo would be the interim coach for Monday’s game against Colorado. It did not specify after that and Fletcher seemed willing to let Yeo determine his own future as the two fielded questions at a news conference on Monday. If the Flyers decide to bring in someone else this season full time, it would make seven head coaches since 2014.
Coaching doesn’t seem to be the problem.
After leaving Philly, Laviolette led the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup final in 2017. Berube won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. Hakstol is just getting started with the expansion Seattle Kraken. Vigneault, who has previously led two teams to the Cup final, will probably be given another shot, as coaching carousels continue to the end of time.
In fact, the Flyers have had four different Jack Adams winners (Fred Shero, Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan and Bill Barber), which is tied for the most in the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise. The Flyers have also employed two others who won the trophy elsewhere in Ken Hitchcock and Vigneault. If you take out guys who coached only one season in Philly, six of their 17 coaches were deemed the best coach in the league at some point in their career. It outshines team success by a mile.
It’s conceivable that the Flyers certainly needed a new voice, as the players seemed to be at odds with Vigneault. But a new coach probably isn’t going to magically dig this team out of the deep hole it created in the standings.
Currently, the eighth-place team in the Eastern Conference by points percentage is playing at a 95-point pace, which would mean the Flyers, at 8-10-4 through Sunday, would need to play at a 103-point pace over their remaining 60 games to hit 95 points. That doesn’t take into account the Pittsburgh Penguins in ninth despite playing large chunks without Sidney Crosby and the entire season so far without Evgeni Malkin. They would also have to hope the New York Islanders don’t catch fire behind them. The Flyers would need to make a huge jump earlier rather than later just to prove they are in the race before the March 21 trade deadline as they will need to make decisions on pending free agents Claude Giroux (if he waives his no-movement clause) and Rasmus Ristolainen. The Flyers also have a few smaller contracts for pending UFAs to consider with Nate Thompson, Nick Seeler, Justin Braun and Keith Yandle. Like Giroux, Yandle also has trade protection.
It can be tough to look season ticket holders in the eye this early in a season and tell them no help is coming. But the Flyers would be fools to try to slap more bandages on a bleeding product after already turning over 40 percent of the roster last offseason.
The player changes haven’t worked as a whole. And aside from pinning their hopes on recent first-round picks Cam York and Tyson Foerster and possibly second-rounder Wade Allison, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in the farm system.
The Flyers took the first step in admitting there is a big problem with the organization by firing Vigneault and eating more than $10 million over the next three years. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor move.
A decade worth of poor drafting, overvaluing player personnel and a lack of overall direction has gotten us to this point.
It’s unlikely another coaching change is going to change much of that. ••