Berube believes many coaches’ current playoff success can trace back to Flyers’ experience

Rick Tocchet

      On Friday, when Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet was named a finalist for the 2023-24 Jack Adams Award – presented to the head coach who has “contributed the most to the team’s success,” —  it served as a gentle reminder to Flyers fans.

      That is, as of Saturday afternoon, five coaches with past connections to the Philadelphia hockey team were still alive in this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

      In the Eastern Conference second round, you have former standout Flyers center Rod Brind’Amour leading his Carolina Hurricanes against the New York Rangers, guided by Flyers ex-bench boss Peter Laviolette.

      Meanwhile, Boston’s Jim Montgomery – the guy who once nicknamed teammate Eric Lindros’ line the “Legion of Doom” — was hoping to get his team past the pesky Toronto Maple Leafs in a Saturday night Game 7.

      Out west, Tocchet’s British Columbia outfit eliminated the  Nashville Predators in a 1-0 Game 6 win on Friday night for a spot in the second round against Edmonton, overseen by former Flyers assistant coach Kris Knoblauch.

      What gives? Is there something in the Philadelphia drinking water which helps the city keep churning out these brilliant strategists?

      Former Flyers coach Craig Berube, who later went on to lead the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup in 2019, played alongside Brind’Amour and Tocchet in the late ‘90s, worked as an assistant coach for Laviolette and is quite familiar with the work of Montgomery and Knoblauch.

      Berube says there just might be something to this somewhat unique fraternity of “brothers.”

      “I would say the organization – and this goes back to when I played  which had (GM Bob) Clarke, (assistant GM Paul) Holmgren and (team owner Ed) Mr. Snider — there was a culture that was there,” Berube said during a telephone interview. “That lasted a long time and I think it’s back again.

      “You come into the organization, it’s all about the team, about roles and doing your job. The Flyers were always known for character people and leadership. A lot of that rubbed off on the players. They saw the success, saw how things were done and I think that’s carried over in their lives.”

      Former Flyers, Berube maintains, don’t really appreciate what they had in Philadelphia until they’re gone.

      “It’s something that was missed when you were gone,” he said. “It  was different in other places. That culture, that identity that Clarke and Snider created, really instilled it in a person. That’s why I think a lot of these coaches came from experience with the Flyers.”

      For the Adams Award, Tocchet is up against Winnipeg’s Rick Bowness and Nashville’s Andrew Brunette.

      After previous coaching stops in Tampa Bay and Arizona, Tocchet appears to have landed in the right spot with the Canucks. Not many hockey observers picked the Canucks to win the Pacific Division but Tocchet did an amazing job with a restructured roster.

      “He was always a real smart guy as a player,” Berube said. “He knew about all the little things that needed to be done. He was aware of all the roles of each player and what they were supposed to do. And held people accountable to it. That’s why he’s such a good coach. He’s detailed but he talks to his players, too. That’s something he learned with the Flyers. The communication lines were always open, whether it was ‘Clarkie’ or ‘Homer.’ You knew where you stood all the time. You knew in your head what you needed to do to be a Flyer.”

      Laviolette never played for the Flyers but he did take them on an unlikely trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, the last time the orange, black and white played in the last round for the championship trophy.

      “He’s got a system that works and he’s stuck to his guns over the years,” Berube said. “He hasn’t changed much. He’s aggressive. Great coach, learned a lot from him.”

      Despite finishing just below the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division standings, the Hurricanes were listed as both the favorite to win this series and their second Stanley Cup. As a player, Brind’Amour led the ‘Canes to their initial championship in 2006.

      Carolina has been in serious contention for the Cup the past few seasons. Should the ‘Canes win, Brind’Amour would become the first person to capture the title as both a player and coach with the same team in hockey’s modern era.

      “Rod was a real team player,” Berube said. “First and foremost, a good teammate. Extremely hard worker. He demands hard work. Now the Hurricanes never get outworked. That’s their model. That’s the way Roddy was as a player, a trustworthy player, night in, night out.”

      Montgomery wasn’t the most talented player but he made it to the top through perseverance. Like Brind’Amour, he expects that of his players. He’s a good fit in Boston.

      “Jimmy coached with me in St. Louis,” Berube said. “Very positive, detailed guy. Knows the game extremely well. He was a good coach in Dallas. He paid his dues as a player, going back and forth from the minors. Communicates well and brings a lighter side to the team as well.”

      Knoblauch took over the Oilers early in the season and pushed them to a 46-18-5 mark the rest of the way. He was former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol’s assistant for two seasons (2017-19), then took over the Rangers’ AHL team, the Hartford Wolfpack.

      During his tenure with Hartford, former Rangers coach David Quinn contracted COVID-19 so Knoblauch was called up from the Wolfpack on March 17, 2021. His first game behind the New York bench was at Madison Square Garden against his former team, the Flyers. Final score: Rangers 9, Flyers 0.

      “They (the Oilers) have always been a star-driven team with (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl,” Berube said. “But he made other people feel important. It’s a more well-rounded team now.”

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.