Mike Yeo’s first game as the Flyers’ interim head coach Monday had some good moments — Oskar Lindblom’s first goal of the season, the offense finally waking up to the tune of five goals, Claude Giroux scoring twice and playing with unbridled passion — but at the end of the night, the team’s losing streak was firmly intact.
Colorado 7, Flyers 5.
But, hey, Fred Shero’s first game as the Flyers’ coach ended with a loss 50 years ago, and he seemed to do all right.
» READ MORE: Flyers drop ninth straight with 7-5 loss to Avs
No one is saying Yeo will be the second coming of Shero, a Hockey Hall of Famer who led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups.
We are saying Yeo deserves some time before any judgment is made.
Named the interim coach Monday after Alain Vigneault was fired, Yeo will probably get the final 60 games before general manager Chuck Fletcher, the architect of this struggling team, decides whether he wants to keep him or go in another direction.
Patience will be required because Yeo is trying to implement a more attacking style that can sometimes sacrifice defensive principles.
That was apparent Monday, as the Flyers, losers of nine straight, were sloppy with the puck and committed too many penalties against the explosive Avs, who went 3 for 5 on the power play.
“I didn’t think we were just going to come here, snap our fingers, and everything was going to be great for us,” Yeo said. “After the game, my message to the players was that this is a period where we have to go to work and go to school.”
Colorado had 50 shots on goal, the second-most ever allowed by the Flyers in a home game in franchise history.
Players may have to stay after school for extra tutoring.
“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” said Sean Couturier, who centered a new top line that included Lindblom and Travis Konecny. “We need to possess the puck a little better. I thought our forecheck created turnovers at times, and at other times, we made mistakes. We have to stick together and good things will come.”
The first game under Yeo ended the same way as the last game of the Vigneault era — with the Flyers surrendering seven goals in a loss. It marked the first time since 1993 that the Flyers had allowed at least seven goals in consecutive games.
On the flip side, the Flyers scored more than three goals for the first time in 18 games — and they didn’t quit, like they did on Vigneault in the 7-1 loss Sunday to Tampa Bay that sealed his fate.
From here, the Flyers didn’t need a new coach. They need better personnel, better draft selections, more speed and youth, and more consistent goaltending.
In other words, Yeo has been dealt a difficult hand. Just like Scott Gordon when he was named the interim coach after Dave Hakstol was fired three years ago.
Gordon had developed most of the Flyers’ younger players in the minors, and shortly after he replaced Hakstol, he led the Orange and Black on an 18-4-2 run that put them back in the playoff hunt. But Gordon, predictably, was bypassed as Fletcher wanted his own guy. In 2015, Gordon had been hired to coach/ the AHL’s Phantoms by Ron Hextall, the Flyers’ previous GM.
So Fletcher went with Vigneault, a safe pick based on his experience and coaching record.
Yeo has a long history with Fletcher — they worked together both in Pittsburgh and Minnesota — and, because of that, he seemingly has a better chance to remain than Gordon did. That said, the Flyers would probably have to earn a playoff berth for Yeo to have the “interim” label removed and stick as head coach.
Giving the coach — whether it’s Yeo, Rick Tocchet, John Tortorella or an out-of-the-box choice like Danny Brière (currently President and Governor of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners, who are owned by Comcast Spectacor) — more young, speedy talent is more important than the identity of the person behind the bench.
It’s Fletcher’s job to get those type of players, to finally do a full rebuild, to trade some of his veterans for draft picks and make the future, not the present, the priority.
After yet another coaching change, the Flyers’ fifth in the last eight seasons, it is now Fletcher who is on the clock as much as Yeo.