This offseason for Flyers hockey is one of the most critical in recent memory. Chuck Fletcher has to get this one right…no pressure. After the NHL Draft lottery saw two teams in the Metropolitan Division get the first and second overall picks. This off-season even got more critical for Fletcher.
One wrong move and this could set the orange and black behind the New York Rangers, and New Jersey Devils for a few years. Both the Rangers and Devils will select 1 and 2 at this year’s NHL Draft. The good thing is Fletcher has some cap flexibility with close to $32 Million in cap space, and a ton of assets to use via trade if need be. However, the single most important decision of the off-season still looms, and that is selecting the next Coach of the orange and black.
When talking about the next Flyers Coach, Scott Gordon has to figure in somewhere. He would be the safe pick for sure, but I think the orange and black move on from him. They may place him back with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, as Gordon did say he would be willing to do that if the Flyers wanted to do that. It looks as though Fletcher wants a Defensive minded Coach, but one that is familiar with winning.
One cannot blame the Flyers for wanting a Defensive minded Coach with a winning formula. The orange and black finished with the third-worst Goals Against by allowing 280 goals, and tenth in SA by allowing 32.5 shots per game. Our Goaltenders should not be pelted with 30-40 shots a night, as the Team Defense should limit the number of shots taken at our netminders. Hopefully, the next Coach has success with breakouts, limiting shot attempts, and transitioning out of our Defensive Zone more smoothly.
This is a Young Defensive Corps, but they should be a little more consistent. At times they really struggled to get the puck off the wall, and out of the zone. The Flyers as a team were bad with board battles, and this lead to more Offensive Zone time for their opponents, as well. This is not just a two-man Defense, rather this is a five-man Defense. The Flyers just really seemed to struggle with outlets at times, and it hindered their Offensive game a bit.
Here is my list of potential candidates for the Head Coaching vacancy:
Darryl Sutter (If they can pry him out of retirement)
Fletcher might be waiting to see what transpires when the first round of the playoffs are complete. I’m hearing from a credible source that Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs could possibly be available if both teams suffer first-round exits.
Sandelin is an interesting choice as he just won his 3rd National Title, and second in as many years. Vigneault provides a winning culture but has failed to win the ultimate prize. Sutter is a proven winner, and Bylsma has won a Stanley Cup, as well, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Nelson and Keefe have done very well in the AHL. Nelson amassed a 133-78-17 record for the Grand Rapids, while leading the Griffins to 3 consecutive trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs, and the 2017 Calder Cup championship. Keefe coached the Marlies to a Calder Cup Championship in 2017-18. Tippett might be getting a little antsy, while waiting for the Coaching position of the new Seattle franchise.
Fletcher has many options to choose from, but this is the single most important decision he will have to make this off-season. A Coach can right the ship, and people in the hockey world are starting to see that with what Barry Trotz is doing with the New York Islanders.
Photo credit: Jose F. Morena/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP