Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher stressed a “winning environment” is required to develop players. Ian Laperriere to the AHL could help prepare that culture.
Developing players is one of the many combined tasks in creating a winning culture. Over the past decade, the Philadelphia Flyers have the same identity crisis. In and out of playoff contention, this new Flyers regime needs to kick into high gear in 2021-2022. Player development, from Ron Hextall to Chuck Fletcher, carries a new forecast.
“I don’t think you can properly develop players unless you have a winning environment.”Chuck Fletcher; 6/7/21
Fletcher said that yesterday, justifying the coaching shakeup with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the opening in Philadelphia. Ian Laperriere is the new head coach of the Phantoms. His role on the Flyers bench opens. An early candidate to fill in as an assistant coach with Alain Vigneault is a former defenseman, Nick Schultz. Finishing in Philadelphia, Schultz etched a fifteen-year NHL career.
Laperriere is a mentor for players transitioning from the AHL to the NHL. Schultz, a defensive hand, could offer insight on how to provide help to Carter Hart. Together, this combination could work if the Flyers do indeed hire Schultz.
As a member of the bench, Schultz emphasizes the need for physicality and a two-hundred-foot game. Laperriere has worked alongside Vigneault as an assistant coach, making himself familiar with what the team needs.
Pressure is mounting to turn draft picks and prospects into stars, especially with three approaching their mid-thirties.
The Phantom Apprentice
Without a doubt, Scott Gordon left the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in pursuit of greener pastures. The Phantoms were an exciting fixture of the Philadelphia Flyers organization as rookies thrived and players made NHL debuts. Finishing with an 18-7-1-6 record, Lehigh Valley had their best season since 2017-2018.
Four seasons ago was also the last time the Phantoms played a playoff game. Gordon is moving on with his stock on the rise while setting an expectation for Lehigh Valley.
Ian Laperriere is stepping into a winning culture at the AHL level. His relationship with players could mold a close-knit locker room within the system. That kind of camaraderie enabled the Flyers to one of their best seasons in the last decade in 2019-2020. A “winning culture” isn’t just a buzzword.
Under this regime, the only way a winning culture exists is if the players within the system begin adapting the system installed on the ice. That’s the importance of Laperriere becoming the head coach after his time with Alain Vigneault. Preparation from the AHL to the NHL under a correlating coaching tree does a lot in building a young core. This AHL season matters, especially as prospects enter their second season with the Phantoms under a new coach. Laperriere accepting this role means the organization is buying into molding players for Vigneault.
Will former Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz have a role to play?
In 2019, the Philadelphia Flyers hired Nick Schultz as a player development coach. Formerly, Schultz played three seasons with the Flyers, his best run aside from a decade-long performance with the Minnesota Wild.
Already, Schultz had a hand in developing defensemen like Mark Friedman, Philippe Myers, and Samuel Morin. He’s even helped Shayne Gostisbehere rebound into his 2020-2021 role. More recently, names like Egor Zamula and Cam York show Schultz’s fingerprints.
All of those players mentioned, for the most part, were recently valuable in Philadelphia. That’s not a bad track record of defensive development before assuming an offer from the Flyers bench. York could find his way into the lineup for the opening night of the 2021-2022 season. With help from Chuck Fletcher in signing a top-pair defenseman, Schultz makes sense.
The defensive roll call doesn’t mean Schultz is deaf to the forwards either. Expect an emphasis on forwards who can win puck battles and offer physicality on the forecheck. After all, it is what Alain Vigneault wants, and that is Schultz’s brand of hockey.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre