Many of the hot topics aren’t trending in a new direction since Chuck Fletcher named Mike Yeo the interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
A mid-season coaching change is something Fletcher never wanted to do. He doesn’t buy into it. On the “John Kincade Show,” he admitted as much:
“I’ve been a manager for parts of fourteen seasons. This is only the second time I made an in-season coaching change. I generally don’t believe in them.”Chuck Fletcher; 12/8/2021
We would be foolish to believe the Flyers would suddenly right their wrongs because of a coaching change. The team started hot, then found themselves in the middle of another losing streak. Same with Yeo as Alain Vigneault. Both coaches are incorrect scapegoats for how the team is performing. To climb out of this hole, Philadelphia has to dig deeper to the root of all evil.
Vigneault coached 22 games. Yeo completed game 14 last night.
Did the powerplay improve? How dependent is the defense on Ryan Ellis’ status? Who are the players that need to represent new leadership? Let’s talk about that.
What Is This Powerplay?
Vigneault was responsible for the lineups on the ice before he was relieved of his head coach duty. He changed the powerplay group five times between a shutout victory over the Arizona Coyotes on November 2nd, 2021, and a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 18th, 2021. How were the powerplay units supposed to gather chemistry?
In 22 complete games coached by Vigneault in 2021-2022, the Philadelphia Flyers scored 13.4% (9/67) of powerplay chances. During a 14 game tenure under Yeo, they’re converting 22.2% (8/36) on the powerplay.
Head coaches create the lineups.
Consider that Yeo has had to battle the perils of COVID protocol. Vigneault did not. Patrick Brown made his Flyers debut after clearing protocol. Even so, he didn’t contribute to either powerplay unit.
Darryl Williams, hired while Vigneault was the head coach, curated the powerplay system after Michel Therrien’s dismissal. Williams was very familiar with Vigneault, working with him in New York and Vancouver. His powerplay is an improvement. He and Yeo preached a shoot-first approach. Therrien wanted creativity, often resulting in a turnover while searching for a peculiar read.
Dependent on Ellis
Yeo has yet to place Ryan Ellis in a lineup. When we think about the freefall of the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense, it’s hard to omit how long they’ve been without their expected top-pair. When he was in the lineup, Vigneault’s team was 2-1-1.
One of those victories includes the Boston Bruins. You can tell how badly the Flyers missed a defensive presence. Yeo continues to shuffle pairs to compensate for Ellis’ unavailability. He elevates the entire defense. If he were healthy, Keith Yandle would be bearable with Justin Braun.
Remember how stellar the defense was for the brief time Ellis played? We’re talking top five.
Fletcher traded for Ellis, Cam Atkinson, and Rasmus Ristolainen this past offseason. Ristolainen and Travis Sanheim held their own. Atkinson became the leader on the team in goals scored to date. Ivan Provorov needs his rightful partner, as does Yandle, for this to work.
On defense, Philadelphia is akin to Christmas lights; if one goes, they all go.
Leadership and Culture
When you think about the acquisitions from the 2021 offseason, veteran leadership was the shared trait. Ellis, Yandle, Atkinson, and Derick Brassard held leadership roles with a former team. Signing them should’ve changed the Philadelphia Flyers culture. Unfortunately, there seems to be more of a styles clash.
Braun recalled his time with the San Jose Sharks. He compared leadership styles between guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski:
“[Thornton] did a good job of holding guys accountable. You had guys like [Pavelski] who would just go out there and get the job done. We had that culture for a long time there, when I showed up. It was: ‘We’re gonna be tough to play at home. I think we need to get to a point where we’re like that here.”Justin Braun; 1/7/2022
Accountability has been a critical point of focus. Being tough to play at home is something Yeo stressed when he was appointed interim head coach. This era of Sharks hockey made a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
The once-proud Flyers culture is defeated in the arena and out of it.
There are some players Philadelphia can build a new culture around. We see the fire from Cam York, denying Brad Marchand of an empty-net goal with two seconds left. Joel Farabee is one of the most passionate forwards on the ice. Carter Hart is better than his record indicates, and Felix Sandstrom was very impressive in his NHL debut. Before the Flyers can take off again, expect a fire sale to rebrand hockey in Philadelphia.
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)