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Candidates to be Flyers’ coach: Rick Tocchet

Throughout May and possibly into June, we’ll look at potential candidates for the Flyers’ head coaching vacancy.

“We’re going to sit down and try to build that ideal candidate profile and really keep all options open, maybe look at it from a little broader perspective,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said May 3. “Clearly we have to sit down and really drill down in terms of what we’re looking for. I’m sure there will be a lot of quality candidates we’ll speak to.”

We started our series with Barry Trotz. Next up, we look at Flyers Hall of Famer Rick Tocchet.

Why Tocchet would be a fit

There is undeniable optics to this head coaching hire for the Flyers. And bringing in Touch would be good optics.

Fans showed their frustration and fatigue this season by not showing up. Attendance seriously dwindled as the Flyers’ 25-46-11 season plodded to the finish line.

Hiring Tocchet, an adored former Flyer who understands what success looks like in Philadelphia, would seemingly reinvigorate the fan base before the first puck is even dropped.

As a player, Tocchet exhibited a unique blend of toughness and goal-scoring ability for parts of 11 seasons with the Flyers. He has faced the Oilers’ dynasty twice in the Stanley Cup Final as the Flyers lost to Edmonton during 1985 and 1987.

The 58-year-old has three Stanley Cup rings, all with the rival Penguins — one as a player and two as an assistant coach.

However, his bond with Philadelphia runs deep. Back in November of this season, he was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame alongside Paul Holmgren. During the pregame ceremony, the entire current Flyers team watched Tocchet’s speech from the bench.

“I’m sure the players will tell you, there’s no better place to play,” Tocchet said, pointing back to the Flyers’ bench. “Even the guys that came this year, it’s a great place to play.

“I don’t think there’s a better fan base in the NHL. You guys support the team, you guys want to win as bad as anybody.”

Tocchet understands today’s NHL and the importance of having guys play to their strengths. Players could relate to him, as well, given he has been through the wars in Philly.

At his last NHL stop, Tocchet did some good things in one of the NHL’s most challenging markets. With the Coyotes, Tocchet led them to 39 wins in 2018-19, currently the franchise’s most in the last 10 years.

In 2019-20 under Tocchet, Arizona made the expanded playoff field and won a qualifying round series over the Predators in the Western Conference bubble.

The Coyotes parted ways with Touch after a 24-26-6 finish in the shortened 2020-21 season.

Why Tocchet would not be a fit

Tocchet does not have the experience of other candidates or the established bench bosses in the league.

He coached the Lightning for parts of two seasons from 2008 to 2010 and then led the Coyotes through four seasons. His nine playoff games from him as an NHL head coach are fewer than Dave Hakstol’s 12. For sake of another comparison, Mike Yeo, the Flyers’ placeholder this season, has 39 postseason games on his résumé and three series victories. After finishing his interim duties, he was told he would not be back as the Flyers’ head coach.

So Tocchet is not a seasoned head coach and would be coming into a pressure-filled spot with an organization that has missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.

A few other aspects to consider:

Tocchet is currently a studio commentator for NHL on TNT and seems to be really enjoying it. Indications are that he wants to coach again, but you never know. He might not be in a rush to take the very next opening.

He is also a beloved former Flyer. When a beloved former Flyer takes on a management or coaching role in the organization, they do run the risk of diminishing their legacy in town.

One would think a competitive guy like Tocchet doesn’t care about that and would embrace the challenge.

After all, he never got a ring in Philly but came oh-so close.

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