Well, here we are.
The Flyers have lost 8 games in a row, punctuated by a loss to the arch rival Penguins in overtime, on a goal scored by Sidney Crosby, because of course it was. The Flyers have not exactly played like a team who is capable of losing so many games in succession, they had the lead at some point in five of those games, and have gotten points in eight of the last eleven played. The goaltending from specifically Brian Elliot has been better, the secondary scoring seems to have awoken a little bit since Nolan Patrick’s return, and the top line is still chugging along. The little things have been the downfall of the Flyers throughout the drought: Penalty Killing, Defensive Zone coverage, and line combinations have all been thorns in the Flyers’ collective side throughout the skid.
The onus of the blame for this falls on the coaching staff, and as much as this point has been reiterated to near-exhaustion throughout the season so far, there really needs to be a change. Dave Hakstol and his staff (outside of Power Play coach Kris Knoblauch), java failed on almost every level of coaching this season.
First off, the lines. The lines that Hakstol assembles seem to be drawn out of a hat at random. The logical choices and decision making are left behind in favour of Hakstol’s own sullied eye tests, which have shown him, apparently, that having both Dale Weise and Jori Lethera in the lineup is a good idea when in reality it just slows the team down monumentally. In addition to this problem is Hakstol’s inability to be a motivator. Previous Flyers coaches showed anger or passion during moments of adversity or lacklustre effort, and most of the time, it did lead to an improvement in play, or at the very least effort (See: Laviolette, Peter). Hakstol has continuously opted for the “deer in the headlights” approach, where he stands on his perch at the bench looking blankly across the ice, seemingly confused as to why his team is struggling so mightily. I am not going to go as far as to say that Hakstol has already lost the locker room, but I will say that I believe he gives nothing for the players to feed off of emotionally, which may as well be the same thing. Hakstol may as well be the NHL version of Chip Kelly at this juncture, and he needs to go before any drastic changes can be made.
In addition to Hakstol, Ian Laperriere , the Flyers penalty kill coach, also needs to go. The Flyers penalty kill has looked disorganized, disoriented, and most importantly, totally inept throughout the entire season. Some of these troubles can be chalked up to the personnel not being consistent, as there has been multiple switches from Hakstol, who has tried desperately to improve by constantly changing the lines. However, the problem more seems to be organization than the actual players themselves, and for that reason, it looks like Lappy’s time has run out.