For the first time since he became the Philadelphia Flyers’ interim coach on Dec. 6, Mike Yeo was visibly angry after the team’s latest loss.
“It’s not the first time, I can promise you that,” Yeo cracked after practice Friday in Voorhees.
Well, it was the first time he showed that side to the media. It was understandable because the Flyers had coughed up a late 4-3 lead by allowing two goals in 25 seconds in a 5-4 loss Thursday to Minnesota at a ghost town called the Wells Fargo Center.
The attendance was announced as 13,000-plus paid, but there were about 8,000 fans in the arena. The Flyers have lost 21 of their last 24, and this one, against the team he used to coach, may have caused Yeo more pain than any of them.
“I’m still angry today, to be honest with you,” Yeo said.
In some other defeats, he said, he was “more disappointed. I was expecting more and was disappointed we didn’t give more. The last game I was angry. I’m angry we don’t have a little more attitude to be able to close these games out, to be able to win these games.”
Yeo said the Flyers have done a good job “building habits to put us in a position to win,” but that “you have to be able to close it out. That’s the next step for us. We’re probably going to have to get a little bit dirty here and make sure we push this group to a real higher level of commitment and standards.”
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) March 4, 2022
He said he loves the players and is thankful for the opportunity, but he needs more commitment.
“We have to play with passion every night. We have to play with 100% commitment … If you don’t win and you’re doing those things, you can live with that.”
By getting “dirty, Yeo said, he meant that “obviously it’s going to have to be uncomfortable. We had an uncomfortable conversation today (with the players). We’re going to have to push each other, and players are going to have to hold each other accountable. We’re going to have to hold the players accountable.”
With the Flyers now relatively healthy except for Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis among their key players, there is a different outlook, Yeo said.
“We didn’t really have that luxury before. Now we have players coming back, and if guys aren’t doing the job, obviously the ice time is going to reflect that,” Yeo said. “This is not something we had at our disposal when we had 10 NHL players out of the lineup.”
Yeo said it’s not about the players buying in to his system. “It’s more about a winning attitude. Do you come to the rink and feel sorry for yourself? Do you come to the rink and say, ‘OK, there might be a trade in a week and see what happens then?’ Do you come to the rink and maybe say it’s not our night tonight?”
The Flyers must “embrace the opportunities,” Yeo said, adding that in some games the players haven’t given 100 percent effort. “And when you have that attitude that we’re not going to let anything stop us,” things will fall into place. “We’re not doing that right now. Not enough. That’s why we’re close to winning games, but we’re not winning games.”
Yeo said a winning attitude has to come from the players. The coaches “can provide direction … but they’re the ones who have to be the warriors.”
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) March 4, 2022
Kevin Hayes, sidelined since Jan. 17, says he is ready to return Saturday against visiting Chicago at 3 p.m. Yeo confirmed he will play.
“I love playing for this team. I love this city,” Hayes said, adding that fans should “bear with us” because better days are ahead.
Hayes said he was “really excited” to return. About two weeks ago, he said, the excitement started to grow when he learned a “real bad infection” in his groin had gone and he did not need surgery.
“He’s a guy who brings enthusiasm and some joy,” said Yeo, mindful the Flyers need all they can get. “A guy who’s going to try to make plays, and obviously a big body and a guy who can help you on both ends of the ice and special teams.”
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound center “played through a lot of pain and injury earlier in the year, and I’m hoping we can get a fully healthy Kevin Hayes back, because he will do an awful lot for us,” Yeo said.
Claude Giroux will move from center back to left wing on Saturday, Yeo said. Here are the expected lines:
Scott Laughton, elevated to the top unit, centering Giroux and Travis Konecny.
Derick Brassard, who struggled Thursday, centering Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson.
Hayes centering Oskar Lindblom and James van Riemsdyk.
Patrick Brown centering Max Willman and Zack MacEwen.
The fourth line is the only unit unchanged from Thursday’s loss.
Martin Jones will get the start in the nets on Saturday against Chicago. … Yeo said he was “hopeful” Justin Braun would play Saturday after leaving in the second period Thursday because of the flu. … Gerry Mayhew will come out of the lineup Saturday. … Yeo on the trade possibility and how it is affecting Giroux: “I think we can all see that it’s probably weighing on him.”