(Sports Network) - When the Philadelphia Flyers replaced veteran bench boss Ken Hitchcock with John Stevens on Sunday, it was a change of approach for the club. Instead of having a coach whose task is to push the team from mere contender to champion, Stevens was promoted to relate better to the team's future.
Stevens was head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL affiliate, from 2000 until he was promoted to an NHL assistant this past offseason. His stint behind the bench included the Phantoms' run to the 2005 Calder Cup, which occurred during the NHL lockout.
Looking at the Flyers' current roster, 12 players at one time or another spent time under Stevens' watch with the Phantoms. This includes guys like goaltender Antero Niittymaki, defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forwards Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger, each of whom are considered large parts of the club's road ahead.
Stevens will get to lead his team to game ice for the first time Thursday when the Flyers host Atlanta. It's the club's first game since the bombshell news conference that announced Hitchcock's firing and GM Bob Clarke's resignation. Clarke was replaced on an interim basis by Paul Holmgren.
Stevens will attempt to get the Flyers in the win column for only the second time this season. Philly has lost five straight in regulation for the first time since 2002, from March 28 to April 4.