The more Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol sniffed around, the more they liked what was right under their noses.
There was no reason to turn them up at Ian Laperriere, Gord Murphy and Joe Mullen and make a change just for the sake of change. That would have been a sign of an organization throwing darts at potential solutions, failing to value years of good service, even a reflection of insecurity on the part of a new coach wanting his own guys just because they are his own guys.
“When Dave and I had our initial conversation, it was kind of like OK, let’s not make changes for the sake of making changes,” said Hextall Friday in announcing all three incumbent assistants have been retained. “Let’s make changes to get better.”
In hiring a college coach with zero professional experience, Hextall went as far out of the comfort net as a boss of an iconic franchise could go. A second-year GM had nothing more to prove about his intellect and courage in sweeping the staff clean. He also had no interest in forcing anyone on anybody.
“The one thing I told Dave right from the start was I don’t want to saddle you with a staff, I want you to be comfortable with everybody you’re working with,” said Hextall. “So by no means was it me saying, ‘Dave, let’s keep the same staff together.’
“As a matter of fact, we talked about the opposite – possibly making changes or bringing one or two guys back. But in the end we’re both comfortable with the same guys coming back.
“I think when you look at a staff, you want a defenseman (Murphy) to work with your defensemen. You want an offensive mind (Mullen) on your staff to help the power play and the offensive side of the game.
“The other guy is Lappy, who’s a really good guy. The players feel like they can go to him, he can explain nuances of the game; he can even be a little bit of a buffer between the head coach and the players.
“Dave did his due diligence and put one guy in place, shortly after another guy in place, and then the third guy. It wasn’t like ‘Okay, let’s bring them all back.’ It was kind of one piece at a time, and let’s piece it together and that’s the way it worked out.”
To stay inside? To look outside? It’s not worth the philosophical debate. Philosophically, the only thing that matters is that assistants carry out the philosophy of the head coach and that the coach respects their opinions.
Terry Murray, a three-time loyal, smart and experienced organizational servant who wound up the odd man out, has been a head NHL coach. Hakstol never has been so, of course, there would have been sounding-board value in that. But another neophyte Flyer coaching hire, Mike Keenan, had no such safety net in 1984 and hardly proved to need one.
Most important was that Hakstol found the guys with whom he was the most comfortable. To his credit, he set no quotas of new guys against old guys, his guys against Hextall’s guys, no agendas other than finding excellent coaches who were good fits.
The Flyers had three smart and hard working assistants last season. They will have them this year, too.