May 14, 2015
The Flyers are now closing in on a month without a head coach and besides reported contact with former Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins, little information has come out about what they're thinking. If he is indeed making moves, Ron Hextall has done a solid job of keeping that information behind the scenes.
The first domino to drop league-wide looks likely to be Todd McLellan to Edmonton (and Connor McDavid, him mostly), which is a move many originally wondered if the Flyers would consider. McLellan wasn't the top name on the market, but he was certainly second. While everyone else is angling for the biggest fish, the Oilers are likely to make a major hire with less competition than there would be otherwise. That's what Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes anyway. Here's what he said of McLellan to Edmonton on a Toronto radio station:
“I think it’s going to get done barring a major collapse”
Then what's the holdup?
“You don’t want to make the announcement while he’s coaching in Prague.”
McLellan is currently coaching Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and the rest of Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships in Prague. Also in Prague is that proverbial big fish: Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. After already meeting with Buffalo and Toronto, he'll be returning from the Czech Republic in a couple of days. This will leave about a week for the Flyers to meet with Babcock before the window to negotiate with other teams given by Detroit GM Ken Holland closes.
Friedman, who is well connected and respected, said that the Flyers are in the thick of the race for Babcock. In his "30 Thoughts" column, he listed Philadelphia as one of the top three contenders for the coach's services along with Buffalo (Jack Eichel) and Detroit (no place like home, especially when you make the playoffs every year):
Ron Hextall’s done a very good job of staying in the cone of silence. But his peers across the NHL believe he has been waiting for this, planning meticulously for the opportunity. You have to think Toronto will make the largest financial offer, but other teams think Philly is going to be up there, too.
What does Babcock think of Claude Giroux, Steve Mason, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and their young defencemen not yet in the NHL? Once news began to break that maybe Edmonton was out, Philly became a popular pick for Babcock’s destination.
If Hextall isn't able to land his man, the coaching pool becomes considerably deeper. It's not necessarily "Babcock or Bust," but the Flyers seem to be gunning for the best coach on the market.