From the rival to the Flyers' bench for this head coaching candidate?


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've looked at Barry TrotzRick TocchetPaul MauriceJim MontgomeryJohn TortorellaPeter DeBoerScott SandelinDavid Quinn and Kirk Muller. Next up in our series is Mike Vellucci, who has interviewed for the Flyers' job, according to a report Friday by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Why Vellucci would be a fit

As an assistant coach for the Penguins the last two seasons, Vellucci has been side by side with one of the best in the business. The 55-year-old has worked under Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh's two-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach.

While never having been an NHL bench boss, Vellucci has won titles at two different levels as a head coach.

He led the Charlotte Checkers — the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate — to the 2019 Calder Cup championship. Flyers forward Patrick Brown was the captain of that Charlotte club, which went 51-17-8 and saw Vellucci earn AHL Coach of the Year.

At the junior hockey ranks, Vellucci won the OHL championship in 2007 with the Plymouth Whalers as the team's general manager and head coach.

With the Penguins, Vellucci has overseen the club's penalty kill. Pittsburgh sported the NHL's third-best PK this season at 84.4 percent.

Over the last two seasons, the Flyers' penalty kill has ranked last in the NHL at 74.6 percent. Vellucci's insight and philosophy on the penalty kill should be appealing to the Flyers.

In a May 2021 article by ESPN's Emily Kaplan, Vellucci was praised for being a players' coach. After a 25-46-11 season and an expected influx of more youth, there will be plenty of teaching and developing with the Flyers next year. In theory, Vellucci could be a very good candidate to spark change in the Flyers' on-ice habits.

It also can't hurt that he has seen the Flyers 12 times over the last two seasons and is familiar with the Metropolitan Division.

Why Vellucci would not be a fit

The no head coaching experience at the NHL level might give the Flyers real pause.

After missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94, the Flyers are facing pressure to improve quickly. The precarious situation is calling for a coach that has been there, done that.

Fletcher is not in a position to take a sizable risk and summoning a first-time NHL head coach would qualify as a sizable risk.

The Flyers also have the task of rejuvenating their fan base next season. Bringing in a coach with pedigree and shine on his résumé would go a long way in doing so before the season opener arrives. It's fair to note Vellucci's name does not have near the cachet as other candidates on the market.

Some would argue the Flyers' roster needs a good kick in the butt. A demanding coach with presence has an easier and natural opportunity to provide it. Vellucci would be in a tough spot without a well-known track record.

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