It didn’t take long for new general manager Chuck Fletcher to make his first move.
Less than 24 hours after he got the job, Fletcher named Rick Wilson as an assistant coach Tuesday. He replaces Gord Murphy, who was fired last week.
The hiring was done in consultation with coach Dave Hakstol, who initiated contact with Wilson last week.
Wilson, 68, has 2,306 games of NHL regular-season coaching experience, spanning 30 seasons. He most recently was with Dallas, and spent 18 years there over two separate terms, including a stint last season. He was an assistant with the Stars when they won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and he is a former assistant at North Dakota, where years later Hakstol was the head coach for 11 seasons.
“I’ve known Rick for a long time, both professionally and personally,” Hakstol said.
Hakstol said Wilson brings a “wealth of experience and a “tremendous feel with defensemen and the entire D corps. He has an ability to communicate very well, and I think it goes beyond our corps of defensemen. I think he’ll have a great effect on our entire group and our coaching staff with the experience he has.”
The Flyers are allowing 3.52 goals per game, 28th in the 31-team league entering Tuesday.
Wilson was an NHL defenseman from 1973-77 (Montreal, St. Louis, Detroit) after a three-year career at North Dakota. He concluded his playing career with the AHL’s Philadelphia Firebirds in 1977-78.
During his coaching career, he was an assistant with the Islanders, Los Angeles, Minnesota (North Stars and Wild), Dallas, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. He was a head coach in Dallas for 32 games (13-11-7) in 2001-02. He was a Kings assistant when Flyers center Sean Couturier’s father, Sylvain, played for them in the early 1990s.
“The game runs in his veins,” Hakstol said.
The Flyers played one game without Murphy and defeated Pittsburgh on Saturday, 4-2. Assistant Kris Knoblauch handled the defensive coaching duties in that game.
Flyers defenseman Christian Folin spent parts of four seasons with the Wild when Fletcher was the general manager. Folin was signed by Fletcher as a free agent out of UMass-Lowell.
“The hockey world is pretty small and you never know what’s going to happen,” Folin said about being reunited. “... He really cares for the players, and it’s fun that he’s here."
When he played for the Wild, “we always had a real good team and we needed one or two more pieces, and he always found a way to add that, especially with [goalie Devan] Dubnyk that one year. We were really struggling, and he turned the season around for us.”
Goalie Brian Elliott, who has been sidelined by an apparent groin injury, took part in practice again and continues to make strides.
“Day by day, it’s been getting better. The test is to stay patient, and make sure you don’t rush it and take a step backward,” said Elliott, who hasn’t played since Nov. 15.