This week, the Philadelphia Flyers added two new assistant coaches to their personnel. Flyers fans are likely familiar with both coaches, at least in name. With these hires, the Flyers are continuing to show a change in philosophy and a commitment to experience in all areas of coaching and management. So what are the Flyers getting with these two individuals?
Therrien was considered to be a candidate by many to potentially be the Flyers’ new head coach. Therrien has 12 years of head coaching experience with the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Flyers fans are likely familiar with the Therrien era as coach of the Penguins. Therrien has had much success in winning during the regular season and playoffs, though not winning a Cup. Therrien was notoriously fired midway through the year as Penguins’ head coach in 2009. After his removal, the Penguins went on to win a Cup under Dan Bylsma. In 2017, Therrien was fired just before the trade deadline and replaced by Claude Julien.
Similar to Vigneault, Therrien is known as a coach that is pro structure. However, he, at times, has been known to alienate players. Not known as a “players coach,” this hire is interesting as an assistant since often times assistant coaches at the NHL level are “defusers” for the head coach. While that role may still stick with Ian Laperriere, it should be noted that it is peculiar to hire a coach that at times is known as “hard” on his player as an assistant.
Therrien teams have also struggled on the power play over the years, so he is unlikely to be running that portion of special teams, another area that assistant coaches often specialize in. His Canadiens’ teams functioned well below league average in power play, so the Flyers will likely not utilize him in this regard. More than anything, it would appear Therrien may help this team out with defensive structures. Over the years, there have also been rumors that Therrien can “lose” key players. In other words, they tend to not buy into his philosophy after a while, or grow weary of his strategies and tactics. In many ways, these factors make this hire an interesting one.
Surprisingly, Yeo has similar coaching traits to Therrien as well. Yeo has 8 years of head coaching experience in the NHL. He has had little playoff success. Yeo was fired only 19 games into this season as coach of the St. Louis Blues. His work as their coach over the past few seasons was seen as a massive underachievement.
Also similar to Therrien, Yeo teams are more successful defensively and do not have strong special team numbers. In terms of power play numbers, Yeo teams were well below league average in all but one season as a head coach. Yeo will likely help with defensive structure, but his ability to influence a team offensively is also a question mark. Yeo does bring a wealth of experience and may be a coach who is more geared as a “players coach” than Therrien.
On the surface, these hires seem like a potential overreaction or an overcorrection to the past Flyers regime. While experience, structure, and defensive systems are important, the Flyers currently do not have a coach who seems to specialize in power play or offensive production. In an NHL where teams that are thriving at special teams, shot generation, and overall puck possession seem to be having the most success, these Flyers’ hires are a bit puzzling. While there isn’t a question that the Flyers will be a much more structured and systems-minded team, don’t be surprised to see the Flyers special teams suffer, specifically the power play. There is a chance the Flyers may hire a special consultant to help with the offensive side of things (teams like the LA Kings have done this in recent years). However, with the current coaching group, Flyers fans can expect a potentially less exciting brand of hockey than they saw under the Hakstol and Gordon eras.