The Flyers won their second game on the bounce on Wednesday night, defeating the Golden Knights 2-1 behind a brilliant performance by Carter Hart, who stopped 47 of the 48 shots he faced.
The modest win streak is the team’s first since February 1, which is indicative of how badly the Orange and Black have struggled in 2021-2022. The team’s inability to either stay healthy or win games could jeopardize its search for its next head coach, as even the best candidates might see the post as a poisoned chalice.
NHL benches have the highest rate of turnover for any of the big four North American sports. In other leagues, lengthy rebuilds often excuse bad coaching records as a product of rotten rosters. That logic has allowed men like Zac Taylor and Brian Snitker to enjoy deep playoff runs despite grisly starts as shot callers in their respective sports.
In hockey, though, morale and momentum are so essential that a coach has “lost the locker room,” he ends up in the bread line at the first suggestion.
This cycle has cost the Flyers some very achieved coaches. Just ask Peter Laviolette and Craig Berube. “Lavy,” despite having led the Flyers into at least the second round in 3 of his 4 seasons at the helm, was axed just 3 games into the 2013-2014 season. His immediate replacement Berube was given just a single full season before being shown the door. Both have gone on to make appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals since their respective dismissals, with Berube winning the trophy in his maiden voyage with the Blues in 2018-2019.
If NHL teams, especially the Flyers, jettison their coaches at the first sign of trouble, how can a bad team expect to make a good hire? Prospective coaches would be forgiven for viewing the Flyers skeptically. The team will probably enter 2022-2023 with a new general manager and captain. Add in an old, expensive roster and a thin prospect pool, and you have the recipe for at least another 2 seasons of missing the playoffs. Scottie Bowman himself would be hard-pressed to change that. Why, then, should it be a certainty that the next coach has a short leash? Granted, Dave Hakstol and Alain Vigneault could not leave soon enough, but the Flyers have a trend of expecting glowing results from slim chances that goes back to Bill Barber’s time in charge.
Rick Tocchet is the painfully obvious choice to be the next coach of the Flyers. He’s a team legend that gained respectable results from terrible rosters with the Coyotes.
Moreover, his fire and character are attributes the franchise sorely needs.
It will be hard to coax Tocchet from his cushy TV gig with TNT, though, if the team does not guarantee him enough time to even have a chance at playoff success.
Featured Image: Ross Franklin/AP