clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chuck Fletcher is searching for “the ideal candidate”

Flyers General Manager doesn’t say much, but drops hints about the importance of the coaching hire.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The biggest thing to come out of today’s Chuck Fletcher press conference is that the organization’s focus is on finding and hiring the next coach. As a professional recruiter, I have had to listen to a million hiring managers attempt to talk about building an “ideal candidate profile” and the experience can be just as painful as what we just heard from Fletcher.

Hiring everyday accountants, customer service specialists, teachers, trash collectors, any kind of hiring is an immensely difficult thing to do right now. If you are Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers, it’s even more difficult to hire someone where there are only 32 available positions because the byproduct of such a specialized role is there is then a microscopic candidate pool. This is why we see the same 10 guys going through coaching jobs like musical chairs.

Cycling through the same small pool of “qualified candidates” (i.e. dudes that have already done the job before) is extremely problmatic. However, the Flyers and the rest of the NHL are businesses. More specifically, businesses that top-down, bottom-up, and every way in-between are remarkably risk adverse. Of course there are more people that could be NHL head coaches, but the fact of the matter is that there is very little incentive for Fletcher to take on that risk by going outside of the pre-known existing pool of candidates especially since a lot of Fletcher’s corporate maneuvering to keep his job is by presenting himself as “not being Ron Hextall,” the guy who hired an outsider in Dave Hakstol (fart noise).

Often times when you speak with someone about building “an ideal candidate profile” the conversation sounds just like the press conference that Chuck had in that the hiring manager won’t say specifically what or who they want because quite frankly, if Chuck already knew that, he would already be talking to that person. What ends up happening is that this becomes an exercise of definition by negation. When Chuck says things like:

“We really struggled defending all the time.”

“We didn’t have the puck enough.”

“ We didn’t have puck control.”

“We needed better defensive zone exits.”

Meandering statements like these begin to give you an idea of what Chuck’s pain points are. If he is talking about these things publically, these are the things that keep him up night. From a recruiting standpoint, it is abundantly clear that any viable candidate is going to have to sell themselves as being the person to fix the back end first, which then immediately brings to mind names like John Tortorella (cringe), or a Mike Babcock (kill me now).

But Charles Two Trades said more than this:

“We need to get younger.”

“We need to be more talented.”

Both of these statements would contradict any sort of Tortorella or Babcock team. The “ideal candidate profile” is now someone that can implement a sound defensive structure, while also embracing youth and a more talented modern style of hockey. This is where it gets interesting because someone who fits this profile would be like John Cooper or Mike Sullivan - both guys who are firmly ensconced with their teams.

The other major part to consider is not any one specific clue Fletcher dropped, but how careful he was in answering questions about his current players. More specifically, it was no accident that he had positive things to say about Ivan Provorov, or that he was optimistic about Ryan Ellis. Point being is that a big part of an NHL coach’s job is being the Principal of adult high school and making sure everyone’s feelings and egos are congruent with the rest of the team.

So, we are looking for someone who has defensive structure, isn’t a disaster at special teams, and can get the youths to do cool stuff. Who then do we look to?

Well let’s go through some names and see where they do and don’t fit.

Rick Tochett: The man can definitely handle fragile egos as he is famous for getting the most out of Phil Kessel. Furthermore, he has demonstrated that he can get top-end production from top-end talent as he was able to elevate Steven Stamkos in his time in Tampa and guys like Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby while in Pittsburgh. It is however, difficult to say how good he is as a tactician because most of his head coaching experience was with the Coyotes who are technically an NHL team.

Travis Green: Immediate matches to the profile for Green are that he has shown to be great at getting though to the talented youths. Not sure if he was coaching through TikTok, but he got so much out of Ellias Petterson, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boesser that you could argue that those players haven’t been the same since he’s left. Although, it’s tough to tell what kind of coach he will be because he too has been weighed down subpar NHL players like Jay Beagle or Antione Russell that he has forced in his lineup.

Luke Richardson: If that isn’t a name you haven’t heard or even thought about in a very long time, I don’t blame you. But, the fact of the matter is that LUUUUKKKKKEEEEEE has been paying his dues and working his way up the coaching ranks for the past 10+ years and has been a head coach at the AHL level for 4 of those years. He was even a logical successor to the Candiens head coaching job before Marty St. Louis jumped the line. Richardson checks the boxes of having (sort of) done the job before and experience with the youths. He of course, like Tochett, checks possibly the most important box in this search: was a previous Flyer.

Rickard Gronborg: This is the hipster, outside the box, low probability pick. That being said, Gronberg has loads of international head coaching experience, an excellent tactician who’s Swedish National teams have proven to perform defensively and offensively, and has proven to be a worldclass developer of talent having influence on just about every good Swedish player to come out of that country over the last 15 years.

There are of course other names out there. Names that we aren’t thinking of or may not even know. But if I had to guess based off of the pain points that Fletcher just talked about, one of Tochett, Green, Richardson, or Gronborg could fit into Chuck’s “ideal candidate profile.”

At very least, as we say in the talent acquisition world, “let me know what you think about this first slate of candidates to help me callibrate the search moving forward.”