When your power play is ranked only 23rd and your penalty kill is just 26th in the 31-team NHL, it’s time for a change.
Which is exactly what the Flyers did over the past few days.
On Monday, they announced that they had added veteran former head coaches Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo as assistants for head coach Alain Vigneault.
During a Wednesday media conference call from the upcoming World Championships (where he is head coach of Team Canada) in Europe, Vigneault disclosed he has created all new assignments on special teams.
Therrien, who ran benches in Montreal and Pittsburgh, takes over the power play from the departing Kris Knoblauch while Yeo, who headed operations in St. Louis and Minnesota, will oversee the penalty kill.
Also, Therrien will help instruct the forwards while Yeo works with the defense. Kim Dillabaugh remains as goaltending instructor, with Carter Hart (who is playing for Canada at the Worlds) as his prize pupil
Ian Laperriere moves from penalty kill duties to pre-scouting as well as observing games in an “eye in the sky’’ role from the press box.
Vigneault is confident Therrien and Yeo can bring a fresh approach to special teams, as well as even-strength play.
“No doubt with the staff we’re bringing to the forefront, there will be some adjustments as far as philosophy and what we need to do (on special teams),’’ Vigneault said. “I don’t want to get into specifics on a conference call but I have certain aspects of penalty killing that I believe in and that have been very effective in the past, like(wise) the power play.
“Mike Yeo will bring something to the table and so will Michel and Ian. I want to have the opportunity to sit down with my coaches and brainstorm and look at the personnel that we have and come up with the best possible plan on the power play and penalty kill which will help us.’’
Getting proven successful coaches like Therrien and Yeo on board was important to Vigneault.
“For me, I’ve always thought that the best way to do my job is to have the best possible people surrounding me and helping me and the organization,’’ Vigneault said.
“Michel and Mike were both available. I’ve known Michel for a long time and I know the type of hockey person he is. I know what he can bring.’’
Yeo and Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher worked together in Minnesota so that’s an obvious fit.
“I know what he (Yeo) can bring to our coaching group,’’ Vigneault said.
Vigneault said he has no qualms about hiring two guys who have had extensive previous head coaching experience. He said he won’t be “looking over his shoulder’’ in terms of job security.
“I’m not concerned about it at all,’’ Vigneault said. “I think the stronger the people you have around you, the more beneficial it is for everybody.
“Both Michel and Mike bring a tremendous amount of experience that I’m going to benefit from, that the players are going to benefit from. This is about giving our players coaching, about giving our players direction.
“They’ve both been coaches before. Nobody understands more what’s needed from an assistant than a head coach. They understand their roles, they know that part of being an assistant coach is being closer with the players, having an open mind to hear about their concerns.’’
Vigneault said one of the stipulations he had for accepting the position was to make sure both he and Fletcher agreed on assistant coaching candidates. So it sounds like everyone is comfortable with this arrangement.
Getting a chance to know Hart and Sean Couturier at the World Championships should be beneficial for all three men.
Hart will be backup to two-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender Matt Murray of the Penguins.
“I had a good conversation with Carter,’’ Vigneault said. “No doubt with the number of possible games – 10 games in 17 days, I’m definitely going to use two goaltenders.
“Once it starts, it’s who is playing the best. It’s not who’s ranked the highest, it’s who’s playing the best on any given night. Good internal competition is always great for players’ performances.’’
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