By: Max Wolpoff
After writing a 4,000-word, 20-page final paper for one of my classes with four pages of cited work, it was time to unearth myself from beneath the mountains of paper and check the latest news.
Turns out, the Philadelphia Flyers overreacted to being ten points out of a playoff spot in mid-December and fired head coach Dave Hakstol. On Sunday, when rumors of this first started to swirl, recently-fired Joel Quennville was floated as the replacement. Seems obvious: a Stanley Cup-winning head coach, a team desparate for a change to spark a late run, a new general manager in Chuck Fletcher antsy to make a move, and plenty of talent among the roster for something to be worked out.
Within hours, the Quennville rumors were shot down, and the Flyer Faithful went to sleep Sunday night happy that the Eagles beat the Rams, but with the hockey team surrounded by questions. Early Monday, the confirmation came that Hakstol was gone, and the head coach of their American Hockey League affiliate in nearby Lehigh Valley, Scott Gordon, would be the interim head coach.
Fletcher gave a press conference after the announcement, where he said, among other things, “At this point, everyone is a candidate.”
He proceeded to talk about the recall of Carter Hart and injury trouble with Brian Elliot, but, wait a minute, I am sorry, did he just say “everyone is a candidate” to be the new head coach?
My tired brain hit upon a great idea, one nobody will believe to be sincere and yet will definetly make you laugh: I, Max Wolpoff, should be the next head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
I can already hear people who know me asking, “but, Max, you’re a Capitals fan; why would they hire you?” So? Like everyone on the Flyers now grew up cheering for the Broad Street Bullies back when people could catch the “Philly Flu”? Give me a break. Previous fandoms do not determine where I will put my best efforts.
First, I am cheap. At 22-years-old, with no prior coaching experience, and no playing experience short of getting trucked in public skates with my brother, I am the cheapest hire on the market. Barry Trotz signed a signed a five-year deal this offseason worth at least $4 million a season to coach the New York Islanders, so that is the floor for Stanley Cup-coaches. Quennville is still technically available, but he made $6 million with the Chicago Blackhawks before they canned him.
Mr. Fletcher, you barely even have to pay me. I will only demand that I at least make player-minimum of $650,000 a year. After that, you now have actual dollars freed up to spend on free agents in the offseason that you would not have otherwise in hiring a more experienced, and more expensive, head coach.
If you think my age is a deterrent, fear not! The Flyers have an average age on their NHL roster of 26.3 years of age. Many of their best players — Shane Gostisbehere (25), Ivan Povorov (21), and Nolan Patrick (20) — are under that average, closer to my age. I can relate to these players in a way that a fifty-year-old man could not. For instance, I could use Fortnite lingo during practice and game-planning to make sure they understand what I want them to do.
As for my assistants, all I ask is that you let my brother run the penalty kill. Neither of us understand much about hockey strategy, except for the tutorials we got playing the NHL video game series through the years. Anyway, he is a great motivator, knows just about every fact about the sport you might be able to find, and his rugged look will harken back to the time everyone seems to be stuck in in Flyer-land when they last won the Stanley Cup riding a bunch of goons and a great goalie (their old GM, by the way).
Do not think of my pending journalism degree from Boston University and broadcasting experience as a negative. I view it like this: I have mastered the art of coach-speak hearing so many old white men say basically the same things after each win and loss.
“We need to get pucks in deep, set the tone, play our game, stop making stupid mistakes, and stay out of the box.” Any of those buzz phrases ring a bell? That is probably because near every coach uses them regardless of result. If it was a win, the phrases take on the past tense. A loss, time to invoke the future tense.
I also understand that the hockey press is looking for an easy story following each game, and leans on the coach to provide a calm analysis of why the team won or lost. What the press really wants, though, is something to talk about. Knowing my tendency to ramble and use analogies, your city’s writers will love me. And, the best part is, my education from a research university like BU gives me a historical archive to draw from for obscure references that the promotional staff can run with on social media.
I will be the greatest sports radio guest Philadelphia has ever known. Given a question about a player or something from the last game, I can answer it quickly before going off on a completely unrelated story about the card games I played with my friends from high school. Why does that matter? It adds flavor to the airwaves. People now suddenly want to know why I play this crude card game instead of asking why the Flyers sit 29th in power-play efficiency and third-worst in goals-allowed per game. See? I can control the story.
That research-first approach from BU feeds into how I approach work, as well. Prior to making an argument in the paper I brought up in the first paragraph, I made sure to find and curate the informaton I would use before forming a sentence. Too often, people rely on the “eye test” and their experience-trained “instinct” to judge play and players. I have a fact-based approach that will counteract the presence of Old School hockey thinking.
Oh, and could you let one of my friends from home be your team’s staff writer? He is a wizard at finding stories from seemingly nothing, and a good interviewer. Like I, he will take a bit to get used to cheering for the Flyers, but a job is a job and we will do it well.
Have you seen my Instagram? I will easily be the sharpest-dressed coach the league has seen since Don Cherry coached the Boston Bruins.
And what other coaching candidate in North America will take every photo opportunity with Gritty, the best new mascot, without any prodding or pleading? Nobody, that is who.
Mr. Fletcher, I hope you understand this to be a sincere offer. I want to lead the orange and black back to the playoffs, and then onto the Stanley Cup where glory is set in silver every year (Like that metaphor? I have thousands like it).