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The Flyers sent a message with their new coaching staff

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With the hirings of Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, a greater message has been sent to the team that mediocrity will not be tolerated.

When we were all finally made aware of the full 2019-2020 Flyers coaching staff of Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien, and Mike Yeo, I gotta say I wasn’t all that thrilled. The Vigneault hiring was something that grew on me in the following days, but the Therrien and Yeo hiring have taken a bit longer. But, putting my feelings of the individual coaches aside, I decided to look at the bigger picture surrounding these hires and the direction of the team as a whole.

Looking back at the coaching staff heading into the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers season, there were plenty of familiar faces. Dave Hakstol was entering his fourth season as head coach, Kris Knoblauch was entering his second season in control of the power play, and Ian Laperriere was entering his sixth season in control of the penalty kill. Well, a lot has changed since then, and a new message has been sent to the players.

We heard a lot last offseason that mediocrity would not be tolerated, and that the two first round exits in three seasons needed to be improved upon. However, little was done to actually ensure that would happen. The head coach remained and the assistants remained the same - despite Laperriere having coached one of the worst penalty kill units over the course of five seasons. The goalies remained the same despite both coming off of injury plagued seasons, and just one impact free agent was acquired.

With the hiring of Vigneault, Therrien, and Yeo there is a clear message being sent to the players and fans of this hockey team that results need to come. Scott Gordon’s performance in his few months as Flyers wasn’t horrendous by any means, and the team saw a brief resurgence in the immediate aftermath of his hiring. However, the success dwindled towards the end, and the already minuscule chance Gordon had of keeping the job faded entirely.

Vigneault has taken two teams to the Stanley Cup Final with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, and the New York Rangers in 2014. Therrien has taken one team to the Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008, and reached as far as the Eastern Conference Final with the Montreal Canadiens in 2014 losing to Vigneault’s Rangers. Mike Yeo has by far the least success out of the three coaches, but even he had the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs on a routine basis. Things surely did fall by the wayside in St. Louis culminating with his firing earlier this season, but he has had success at the NHL level.

While our minds want to focus on the coaches themselves and we should to a great extent, there’s a bigger message that is being sent especially with the assistants. It’s not so much that Therrien and Yeo were hired, it was that Laperriere and especially Knoblauch were fired. The former had only been in control of the power play for two seasons, but with how electric and dependable the Flyers power play had been under Joe Mullen, and how they plummeted under Knoblauch, change was needed. Seeing this happen only clarifies more that if performance is lacking, change will be made. That is what we worried about under Ron Hextall, is that he would never make the changes necessary to improve the team.

Therrien will look to restore the Flyers power play as one of the best in the NHL, in a role unfamiliar to him at the NHL level. In his coaching career, he’s never been anything but a head coach even at the CHL or AHL level. Therrien’s teams have never really been goal scoring machines, but we’ll see how he does with the job of handling the forwards and power play. This hire is a bit of a risk given Therrien’s past encounters with his players, including this rant shortly into his stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it seems to be a necessary one with how much of a lull this team can fall into at times.

As for Yeo, his experience as an assistant should prove helpful for the Flyers and hopefully will finally improve the lackluster penalty kill. Ever since the first full season of Ian Laperriere in complete control of the penalty kill in 2014-15, the Flyers have ranked 27th, 20th, 22nd, 29th, and 26th. Before then, the Flyers’ penalty kill was consistently in the top half of the league. Yeo controlled special teams when he was an assistant under Therrien and then Dan Bylsma before taking the head coaching position with the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate the Houston Aeros. Yeo improved the Penguins penalty kill as his time as assistant went on, to the point where the Pens were among the top 10 teams in the league on the PK.

These coaches have all had success at the NHL level, and barring complete and utter failures by these coaches, the players have been sent a message to step it up. Chuck Fletcher has made it abundantly clear that he will make changes if necessary, especially by trading fan-favorite Wayne Simmonds last season. All of us are tired of the mediocrity we’ve seen from this hockey team ever since 2010, and for the first time in a good while, it finally feels like management is as well.