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May 27, 2022

Flyers coaching search: Barry Trotz has interview, Flames' Kirk Muller has interest

The Flyers have also reportedly interviewed Pittsburgh assistant Mike Vellucci

Flyers NHL
Kirk-Muller-Calagry-Flames-Assistant-Coach-NHL.jpg Matt Blewett/USA TODAY Sports

Calgary Flames assistant Kirk Muller could be in the running for the Flyers' coaching vacancy.

Barry Trotz has had his interview with the Flyers, per Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman on Friday's edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast

The Flyers have also interviewed Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Mike Vellucci, according to Friedman, and have interest in Calgary assistant Kirk Muller too, who should start getting interviews now that the Flames have been eliminated from the playoffs. 

Trotz still stands as the top free-agent coach available after he was fired by the New York Islanders earlier this month. Several teams have been reported to have interest along with the Flyers — Detroit, Vegas, and Winnipeg — but Marek said Friday that he doesn't get the sense that Trotz is anywhere close to a decision. 

The Flyers aren't rushing to any decision either. 

They've already interviewed former New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, per ESPN's Kevin Weekes, are believed to talk to former Flyer Rick Tocchet at some point, and likely have St. Louis assistant and former Dallas head coach Jim Montgomery on their radar, though the Blues are still alive in the playoffs as of Friday afternoon.

Here's a little background on two of the lesser known head coach candidates:

Mike Vellucci (Penguins)

Vellucci, 55, has spent the past two seasons in Pittsburgh working with its forwards and penalty-killing units (the Penguins' PK was third in the league this season at 84.4% and the Flyers were 26th at 75.7%). 

He's been around hockey for years as a junior and minor league coach and executive but would be looking at his first go as a head coach in the NHL.

Vellucci was the head coach and general manager for the OHL's former Plymouth Whalers from 2001-2014, leading the team to the league championship in 2007 and winning coach of the year twice in 2007 and 2013. He left to be the assistant GM and director of hockey operations for the Carolina Hurricanes but took over as the head coach for their AHL affiliate in Charlotte in 2017. 

The minor-league club went on to clinch the best regular-season record and win the Calder Cup championship in 2019. Vellucci then left to coach Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Kirk Muller (Flames)

Muller, 56, has traveled around the league as an assistant coach since starting with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006. 

He had one run as head coach for the Carolina Hurricanes from 2011-14, going 80-80-27 and never reaching the playoffs before being let go and returning to the assistant role with St. Louis and then Montreal again until February of last season — though he did briefly assume head coaching responsibilities for the Canadiens in the 2020 bubble series against the Flyers after Claude Julien went home to address chest pains. 

Muller joined Darryl Sutter's staff in Calgary last summer and helped turn a team that was middling in 2020-21 into a Pacific Division winner in 2021-22. 

Friedman said on 32 Thoughts Wednesday that people around the league have looked at the improvement in Calgary's forward depth, especially center Elias Lindholm, who potted a career-high 42 goals this season, and they believe Muller had a lot to do with that. 

He also said that he believes Winnipeg has interest in Muller too and reiterated the Jets' and Flyers' positioning on Friday's show. 

Things seem to be ramping up, but there's still likely a ways to go.

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