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Coaching Changes Add Depth

by Drew Rifkin / Philadelphia Flyers
In an off-season that will hopefully bring exciting changes to the Philadelphia Flyers roster, the Flyers have also made changes to their coaching staff. Yesterday at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren announced that current Philadelphia Phantoms Assistant Coach and NHL Hall of Famer Joe Mullen and former Flyer and Vancouver Canucks Assistant Coach Jack McIlhargey will join the Flyers coaching staff as assistants to Head Coach John Stevens.

Holmgren also named Craig Berube head coach of the Phantoms. With Berube returning to the Phantoms’ bench, Phantoms Coach Kjell Samuelsson was named associate coach, and longtime Phantoms goalie Neil Little will join Berube and Samuelsson as the goaltending coach.

All in all, Holmgren could not be happier with the coaching staffs he has assembled.

“I am extremely excited about both of these staffs moving forward,” Holmgren said. “I think both Jack and Joey give John (Stevens) and Terry Murray some real ammunition back there from experience, from enthusiasm and from knowledge of the game on both the defensive and offensive side. And with moving Craig back to the Phantoms, I think it’s just a continuation of what we started last fall when Craig and Kjell were there together. Also adding Neil to their staff was really important because we have so many young goaltenders coming up.”

Stevens also seemed pleased with the changes to his and the Phantoms’ staff.

“First of all, Craig going back with Sammy (Samuelsson), I think it starts there,” Stevens, said. “We have to develop our young players and put a philosophy in place from top to bottom and by adding Jack McIlhargey we have added experience. Joey Mullen has an offensive mind, which is very good for our team. These changes are only going to make us better and it really rounds out our staff and prepares us to get off to a great start and do good things next year.” 

Stevens and his new staff have already began talking about assigning responsibilities. Terry Murray will be in charge of pre-scouting and the penalty kill. Jack McIlhargey will assist Stevens with post-game review, and Joey Mullen will have input on the offense, and rightfully so as he scored 502 goals in his NHL career. Mullen will also focus on improving the Flyers’ power play.

During the games, Mullen will be Stevens’ “eye in the sky,” as he will be up in the press box, communicating with McIlhargey via headset, who will be on the bench with Stevens and Assistant Coach Terry Murray. 

As for Berube, he understands how important his staff’s role is in helping the Flyers of tomorrow.

“It’s my job and Sammy and Litts (Neil Little) to do the job and get those guys prepared for the NHL,” said Berube.

Comcast-Spectacor President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Luukko, who also attended the press conference, put it best.

“With the salary cap today and the fact that we do have some great young prospects, our Phantoms and Flyers almost have to be one team,” Luukko said. “With John and Chief (Berube) working so closely together, the players will be hearing the same message. For our young defensemen to be working in particular with Kjell as they grow, I think is so important with his experience. And then the depth at the higher level with the experience of Jack and Terry and Joe, I think it’s a great support so that John can manage the whole situation.”
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