The Flyers Are Following The Defensive Blueprint

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If you take a look around the NHL, you’ll find one common theme. The most successful teams, have a stud defensive core. You see teams like the L.A Kings (Doughty, Muzzin, Voynov), Blackhawks (Keith, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook), Rangers (McDonagh, Staal), Blues (Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk), Ducks (Fowler, Lindholm, Vatanen) and Capitals (Green, Carlson, Alzner), who all have a stud defensive core. Another common theme amongst these teams, is that they are all primarily young. Anaheim, New York, Washington and St. Louis only have three defenseman over the age of 30, similar to the LA Kings (who only have two defenders under 30).

Every team that I have mentioned, has enjoyed recent success. The Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups in five seasons, the Kings have snagged two championships in the last four seasons. Anaheim and the Rangers have consistently been challenging for Lord Stanley’s Cup over the past 3-4 seasons, and while the Blues have come up short in the playoffs, they’ve been one of the best regular season teams in the NHL. My point here, is that in order for a team to be successful in the NHL, a team must build a successful defensive core. Ron Hextall and the Flyers seem like they are on thei way to following this blueprint for success.

When you look at the Flyers at this current moment, you see a relatively old team (average age of 28), that is in disarray. The offense has become a laughing-stock, the defense is just as bad, if not worse than the offense, and only one-half of our goaltending tandem is worth even looking at. However, if you dig down into the Flyers farm system, you’ll see some promise on the backend. Reinforcements are coming, and they are coming in numbers. On the NHL roster, there are currently three defenseman under the age of 28 (Luke Schenn, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas). One is coming off of an injury, one is currently unsigned, and the third is just flat-out, not good. It’s the worst kept secret in hockey, that the Flyers defense needs help….badly. For that help, fans need look no further than the AHL and CHL.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms currently hold a number of the Flyers defensive prospects. Former Union College standout Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Mark Alt, Brandon Manning, and Jesper Pettersson all reside in the Phantoms locker room. “Ghost” is looked at as one of the two “defensive cornerstones” of this team’s future. With speed being arguably his best asset, Gostisbehere is thought of as an offensive specialist, possessing incredible puck-moving skills.  In three seasons at Union College, he tallied 22 goals, and 60 assists for a total of 80 points.  Shayne got a small taste of what to expect in Philly, having played in two games with the Flyers this season, before making his way back down to Lehigh Valley, where he suffered a season-ending torn ACL.  He’s a prime candidate to crack the Flyers roster out of training camp.

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The Flyers hire Dave Hakstol as their new head coach

This morning, Flyers’ general manager Ron Hextall formally announced the hiring of University of North Dakota head coach Dake Hakstol as the team’s newest head coach, the 19th head coach in team history. In 11 seasons with North Dakota, Hakstol accumulated a very-impressive win-loss record of 289-143-43. In addition to his 289 wins there, he also made the NCAA tournament each season and reached the Frozen Four seven times. With the hire, he becomes the third head coach in NHL history to go from the collegiate level straight to the NHL, without any prior NHL coaching experience.

“Dave brings a wealth of head coaching experience and success to the Philadelphia Flyers organization,” GM Ron Hextall said. “He’s a proven winner and we are pleased to have him become part of the Flyers family.” The Flyers fired Craig Berube on April 17, after the team failed to qualify for the playoffs. After this season ended, the Flyers missed the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

Former Flyers’ head coach, who took the team to two Stanley Cup Finals (in 1985 and 1987) and with whom Ron Hextall played for from 1986-88, Mike Keenan also was a college coach, before he made his way into the NHL coaching ranks (although he didn’t go straight from the NCAA level to the NHL level, like Hakstol has). Point being, it goes to show that college coaches can be a breath of fresh air, and they’re practically the same type of coach as an assistant NHL coach (or a minor-league coach) that became an NHL rookie coach later on in their career.

Comcast Sportsnet aired a 12 PM press conference, to announce and take questions about the hiring, in which Hextall said that right away he and Hakstol would work on putting together the latter’s staff. It remains to be seen as to whether or not assistant coaches Gord Murphy, Joe Mullen and Ian Laperriere will be retained or not this summer, before the season starts, seeing as how they were assistants on former Flyers’ coach Craig Berube’s staff. Usually, new head coaches like to put together their own staffs, instead of retaining the previous coach’s. We’ll see what happens.

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The Mike Babcock Sweepstake’s

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If you haven’t heard by now the Flyers are front runners for the signing of Detroit Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock. What’s so special about that? He’s currently considered one of the greatest coaches in the NHL and clearly one of the most valuable on the market. If you don’t believe that here is a brief run-down of his coaching resume: In 950 games coached he has a remarkable record of 537 wins, 285 losses, and only 19 ties. He has been to three Stanley Cup finals; 2003 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, lost to the Devils, 2008 with the Wings, defeated the Penguins, and lost to the Penguins in a rematch the very next year. He may be one for three in cup appearances, however he became the first and continues to be the only coach in NHL history to join the “Triple Gold Club” back in 2008.  This club is one of the most sought after for hockey coaches and players, as they are awarded for winning an Olympic Gold, the Stanley Cup, and World Championship (IIHF) gold medal, three of the highest achievements  in professional hockey.

The speculation continues to grow as Babcock’s signing deadline nears it close. The Red Wings organization has been given him time to speak outside the organization until May 25th, which is only ten days away. Many teams who were originally in the running are now out, including possibly the heavier favorite Oilers, giving the Flyers an even better chance at landing coach.

Will Hextall make the bold move and sign the soon to be highest paid coach (approximately $4.5 mill) in the NHL? We have ten more days to speculate. Do you Flyers fans feel as though he would be an appropriate fit to lead this club to the Stanley Cup? Let us know by giving us your thoughts in our comments section below or voice your opinion via Twitter with the TSP team and myself @joey_boosh and @talksportsphila!

The Flyers Future is Very Bright

After the firing of head coach Craig Berube on April 17th, the Flyers made it blatantly clear that they were moving in a different direction. Prior to that, general manager Ron Hextall traded veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen to Chicago, and defenseman Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay, in order to receive draft picks in return and give the two a chance at a Stanley Cup win- both Tampa Bay and Chicago are in the Conference Finals now.

Timonen was shipped to Chicago on February 27th for a 2015 second-round pick and a 2016 conditional fourth-round pick. Since Chicago’s won two playoff rounds with Timonen playing in at least half of the games, the conditional 2016 fourth round pick has been upgraded to a 2016 third rounder. That pick can be upgraded again to a 2016 second rounder if Chicago reaches the Stanley Cup Final. On March 2nd, Coburn was shipped to the Lightning for defenseman Radko Gudas, and two 2015 draft picks (a first and third rounder).

Hextall has done a phenomenal job making the right moves for the organization, bringing in draft picks, and alleviating cap space, which has been, and continues to be, a huge problem for the team recently.

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft’s in just over a month from now, on June 26th in Florida, and currently, the Flyers have the seventh-overall pick, and two first-round picks (the other one coming from the Coburn trade). They not only have a chance at bringing aboard a highly-skilled player in the draft, but perhaps they could even move up in the draft and increase their chances for success in the future even more.

Now, perhaps most importantly, we’ll move on to the flurry of high-quality prospects the Flyers have at the moment.

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“Hollywood” Stalemate

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In the final week of April we found out who the four Cole Hamels candidates were (Cardinal, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox). We now know that the ideal candidates are the Red Sox and Dodgers, primarily because they have the 2nd & 3rd best farm systems in the MLB, which is an area the Phillies clearly need to replenish.

Both teams can offer highly-touted outfielders and catchers, two areas the Phillies seem to be the most interested in retooling off the bat. All signs are pointing heavily in favor of the Sox because there are still talks in potentially packaging both Hamels and Red Sox ex-closer Jonathan Papelbon.

As mentioned the Sox starting rotation posted the league’s worst ERA in the month of April and continue to find themselves struggling, after being swept by their arch nemesis New York Yankees, this past weekend. Their current closer, Koji Uehara was off to a rough, has turned things around since the first two weeks, however it’s been reported that his velocity continues to decrease, and he also finds himself most likely in the final stages of his career after turning 40 years of age last month.

This may be the perfect opportunity for the Red Sox to re-unite with their highly coveted th (1)closer of the past, who is off to a stellar start. In ten attempts he has recorded five saves with an ERA of .087, 11 K’s and a WHIP of .0.77. Love him or hate him, he’s been phenomenal, unfortunately the Phillies as a whole have not.

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