Whether it was the teachings of legendary coach Roger Neilson or living up to the Flyers’ high standard of achievement, the Class of 2000 took lessons it learned and translated them into success down the road.
While falling a game short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final that year (Mr. Lindros, meet Mr. Stevens), it wasn’t for lack of how to play the game the right way.
It was an exciting hockey season in Philadelphia, filled with drama at every turn.
Neilson, stricken with cancer, gave way to Craig Ramsay just before the playoffs. Eric Lindros, recovering from one concussion, was given another by the hard-hitting Scott Stevens of the Devils, leaving the Flyers one win short of another shot at a championship.
Players came and went. Franchise stalwarts Rod Brind’Amour, Mark Recchi and Craig Berube were on board in the fall of 1999, although Brind’Amour left in a February, 2000 trade with Carolina for Keith Primeau.
Meanwhile, Rick Tocchet – starting his second tour of duty in Philadelphia – arrived a month later from a trade involving the Coyotes.
The point is, all four players spent some time playing for the Flyers that 1999-2000 season.
Some 20 years later, what do Brind’Amour, Berube, Tocchet and Recchi all have in common?
Well, the first three have been successful head coaches in the NHL and Recchi, a Hall of Fame player, is establishing himself as a possible head coach someday by way of working with the New Jersey Devils as an assistant coach.
Word came down on Thursday night that Brind’Amour, head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, had won the Jack Adams Award as 2020-21 NHL coach of the year.
Meanwhile, Berube (who maintains a residence in Bucks County) has already guided the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Tocchet, who just finished a four-year tenure as coach of the Coyotes, is now interviewing for several vacancies around the NHL and appears likely to get one.
Who would have thought that all these hard-edge players would one day be running the entire show for other franchises?
Actually, one of their teammates, Keith Jones, did.
Jones, now an analyst on both NBC national telecasts as well as here in the Philadelphia viewing area for the Flyers, says that smart hockey helped the Flyers push the eventual Cup champion Devils to a tight seventh game in the conference finals.
“No surprise that ‘Toc,’ ‘Chief,’ Rod and ‘Recs’ have gone on to have their successful careers,’’ Jones said. “They were all relentless in practice, had great work ethics and paid attention to detail.’’
Perhaps the biggest unexpected glory story involves Berube, who also had two stops with the Flyers during his playing career. He paid his dues by coaching at the minor league level and serving as an assistant under talented Flyers head coaches like Peter Laviolette.
Berube, one of the game’s all-time best fighters, showed there was a lot more going on upstairs besides wanting to beat up opponents during a too-short, two-year head coaching stint with the Flyers.
Clearly, Flyers management pulled the plug too soon. Berube spent a year scouting for Canada’s national team, took an assistant’s job with the Blues and then took over the operation when head coach Mike Yeo (now an assistant with the Flyers) was let go.
All Berube did was lead a last-place Blues team on a Cinderella trip to a totally surprising title.
Brind’Amour also has had a degree of success with the Hurricanes and Tocchet, coming off stints with Tampa Bay and Phoenix, probably would do well with another team in the right circumstances.
And Recchi is now on his second team as an assistant after a good run working with Mike Sullivan behind the Pittsburgh bench.
Going back to 2000, all these guys hung out together and it was practically hockey 24/7.
“They all enjoyed watching games when they weren’t playing,’’ Jones recalled. “They were constantly adjusting to the game as it evolved.
“And they also shared the ability to allow teammates to excel – and if they weren’t playing to their potential, they would push them to figure things out and get back on track.’’
A growing number of hockey people believe Brind’Amour could be on track for the Hall of Fame someday. As a player, he captained the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup (with Laviolette behind the bench) and as a coach, he’s winning awards.
Berube finally is getting appreciated for his talents. Tocchet also has Hall of Fame credentials although his hopes might be clouded by controversy from a betting scandal years ago.
In the final analysis, that 2000 quartet had a lot going for it and the future looks bright.
“Honesty is a trait they all shared,’’ Jones pointed out. “They were loaded with hockey sense and toughness, both physically and mentally.
“And, I might add, they were terrific teammates and friends.’’