John Tortorella has met with the Philadelphia Flyers about their head-coaching job. They are also considering Barry Trotz (the best choice), and Rick Tocchet, among others.
But there is another much-needed hire that hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should.
I’m talking about the assistant coach who runs the power play.
The Flyers’ power play finished last in the NHL this season, clicking at a 12.6% rate, the second-worst in franchise history.
Philly’s penalty kill was almost as awful, finishing 26th in the 32-team league with a 75.7% success rate.
Former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock used to say that if your power play and penalty kill have a combined percentage of under 100, your team is in big trouble,
The Flyers’ combined rating was at 88.3%.
As Robert Preston once said in The Music Man: “trouble….trouble…trouble.”
Trouble with a capital “T.” That rhymes with P, and that stands for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Of the two special teams units, the power play was the biggest disappointment. Even when Claude Giroux was here, it was stagnant and predictable. The players over-passed the puck and looked for the perfect shot. There was no crispness, no rhythm.
Which brings us back to an underrated Flyers hiring of the guy who runs the power play.
Generally, the head coach gets to pick his assistants. Here’s hoping whoever gets the No. 1 job — and Tampa Bay assistant Derek Lalonde should be climbing on that list — has John LeClair and Joey Mullen on speed dial.
Both are now coaching in the new three-on-three league called 3ICE. Both excelled on the power play when they played. Mullen had some great years as the Flyers’ power-play coach before being dismissed by then-GM Ron Hextall after the 2016-17 season. That year, the Flyers had the league’s best power play (25%) in the season’s first two months, but dropped to 14th (19.5%) by the end of the season.
During Mullen’s nine years with the Flyers, the power play finished in the top-10 seven times; five times it was in the top-five.
He should have gotten a raise, not a pink slip.
Mark Recchi, who was fired as a New Jersey assistant earlier this month, is also available. He is a Hockey Hall of Famer who won three Stanley Cups as a player. Recchi knows a thing or two about what makes a good power play.
But his resume in two seasons with the Devils’ power play is weak. New Jersey was 28th this season (15.6%) and also 28th (14.2%) the previous year.
Torts is thankful
Tortorella, 63, is now an ESPN hockey analyst, and he told the network he was “very fortunate to have the opportunity” to be interviewed for the Philadelphia Flyers job.
He is a two-time Jack Adams winner as the coach of the year and has a Stanley Cup tittle with Tampa Bay (2004) on his resume. Tortorella would bring a much-needed, no-nonsense approach to the Flyers’ locker room.
In his end-of-season news conference last month, Flyers right winger Cam Atkinson, who played under Tortorella in Columbus, said Philly was “a pretty soft team” this season and that “it all starts with practice. You practice as you play. I learned that from John Tortorella. He was great in that aspect.”