Flyers Hire New Assistant Coach
News broke Sunday night that former-Canadiens head coach Michal Therrien has been named as assistant coach to Alain Vigneault. Therrien spent over three-and-a-half seasons in Montreal during his most recent stint with the franchise. He was hired in the summer of 2012 and was fired in mid-February, despite the Canadiens still holding first place in the Atlantic Division at the time. Therrien has coached 756 NHL games with a 375-284-26-73 record between his two stints with the Canadiens, sandwiched by a four-year stint with the Penguins in between. The official announcement has yet to be made, but the early assumption is he will replace Ian Laperriere as the man to run the penalty kill.
Matt Murray Named Starter for Team Canada
In an interesting decision, Team Canada assistant coach Alain Vigneault named Penguins goaltender the starter over Flyers rookie sensation Carter Hart. Now, Murray did finish the NHL season with slightly better numbers than Hart ( .919 SV% and 2.69 GAA to Hart’s .917 SV% and 2.83 GAA) and Murray is a veteran of 161 NHL games compared to Hart’s 31. Vigneault attributed the decision to Murray’s experience playing in high-pressure situations. Who knows if Hart will see much ice time, justified or not, but it probably isn’t the best first impression for Flyers fans who are still very much on the fence over his hiring.
Women’s Hockey Boycott
On Thursday, May 2, over 200 of the top female hockey players announced they plan to boycott playing as a way to establish a sustainable league. The news came just one day after the Canadien Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) ceased operations after 12 years of operation. The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) is the last remaining top-level league for women’s hockey in North America, which is currently struggling to support just five teams. In search of health insurance and livable wages, they won’t play for any North American team until there is solid framework for a sustainable league in place.
This is a bold move, as the NWHL was trying to capture an audience from the CWHL by establishing two Canadian teams, but the boycott will most likely affect business in a negative way, as the top stars will be nowhere to be found. There is more than likely one of two outcomes possible, the NHL steps in a provides founding sooner rather than later, or the NWHL suffers mightily from the boycott and the NHL will have to step in to save the league.
Either way, trying to establish any league in any sport other than the big four (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA) has and always will be a struggle. Though most of these women have experience fighting for better wages, as U.S. players had a labor dispute, and won, during the 2017 World Championships. It is going to be an interesting fight, but hopefully taking a stand now will pay off in the long run for the future of women’s hockey.
Revisiting the Justin Williams Trade
As the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2009, many Flyers fans see a few familiar faces on that roster. One is head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who spent parts of nine seasons with the Flyers during the 1990’s, and the other being 37-year-old former Flyers first-round pick Justin Williams. With the benefit of hindsight, the Flyers trading Justin Williams in January of 2004 is one of the worst trades in franchise history.
For a refresher, the Flyers traded Justin Williams to the Carolina Hurricanes on January 20, 2004 for defenseman Danny Markov. Markov played all of 34 regular season games for the Flyers before the installation of the salary cap forced the Flyers to trade him to the Predators after the lockout was over. Williams would go on to win a Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006, then after a trade to the LA Kings, won another two Cups in 2012 and 2014.
Justin Williams was drafted 28th overall in 2000 and struggled to fit in with the Flyers out of the gate. 28 games into his NHL career, the Flyers fired their head coach Craig Ramsey and soon after he would miss 19 games with a broken hand. His second coach, Bill Barber, only lasted 136 games behind the Flyers bench before being fired in April of 2002. Williams tore his ACL during his third season and missed (only) three months.
The Flyers dealt with more than their fair share of injuries during the 2003-04 season. 14 defenseman, five goalies, and 22 forwards dressed for the Flyers during the season. They were in need of defensive help as Eric Desjardins missed almost half the season, so they traded underperforming forward Justin Williams to the Carolina Hurricanes. Williams registered just 43 goals and 115 points in 226 games as a Flyer, and, during his first full season with Carolina, scored 31 goals and 76 points.
Now, there is no guarantee he would have followed the same career trajectory had he stayed with the Flyers, but that does not ease the “what if” questions that have risen from the Flyers fans over the years as we wonder what could’ve been.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)