Saying the Flyers had a rocky season on the power play last year would be a generous evaluation.
So here comes Rocky Thompson, who faces the tall order of resurrecting the club’s league-worst man advantage from 2021-22.
The Flyers hired Thompson as an assistant coach Thursday. Thompson, who turns 45 early next month and is 19 years younger than Flyers head coach John Tortorella, is expected to oversee the club’s power play and group of forwards.
“Rocky is an important addition to our staff and we are excited to start working with him,” Tortorella said in a statement released by the team. “He has a sharp mind and eye for the game but from the first time we sat down to speak it was clear that he brings enthusiasm and a high-level of energy needed for this job. His communication skills are going to be vital to our locker room.”
Thompson last coached on the Sharks’ staff in 2020-21. He did not return to San Jose last season because of a coronavirus vaccine matter.
“Due to a medical exemption that prevents me from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, under the new league protocols, I am not permitted to fulfill my duties on the Sharks coaching staff at this time,” Thompson said in a statement last September. “I will have no further comment on this matter.”
In his one season as an associate coach with the Sharks, San Jose’s power play ranked 29th at 14.1 percent.
Last season, the Flyers finished with an NHL-worst 12.6 power play percentage and dealt with ever-changing personnel on their units. Also, at different points, the man advantage was coached by Michel Therrien, Darryl Williams and John Torchetti.
“It’s been an issue since I’ve been here every day, the power play,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said on Nov. 30 of last season. “We talk about it internally. You guys ask about it. It’s been seven years, so it’s something that probably goes above and beyond the coaching.”
As head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves from 2017-18 to 2019-20, Thompson went 113-71-29. Chicago had a top-10 power play in each of his three seasons and made a run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
At the junior hockey level, Thompson led the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires to the 2017 Memorial Cup title.
When Tortorella won the 2004 Stanley Cup as head coach of the Lightning, Thompson was still playing at the AHL level.
The Flyers’ coaching staff appears to be set. Brad Shaw was brought on board earlier this month to oversee the penalty kill and defensemen. Williams (pre-scout, other duties), Kim Dillabaugh (goaltending) and Adam Patterson (video) round out the staff.
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