Fred Shero inducted to Hockey Hall of Fame

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Fred Shero inducted to Hockey Hall of Fame

Finally, Freddy the Fog gets his due.
 
Fred Shero, the greatest coach in Flyers history, has been voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
 
The announcement came Tuesday in Toronto.
 
“I am thrilled to hear that Fred Shero was elected to the HHOF,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. "There's no sense looking back as to why it didn't happen sooner, because today's a happy day to celebrate the fact that a guy that deserves it immensely has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame. It's a great day for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
 
Shero joins the 2013 class in the Builders Category, and only one coach is elected per year. The other nominee there was the late Pat Burns.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero -- son of Fred -- told CSNPhilly.com, "This is a great honor for my dad and our family since he isn't here for it. Better late than never! I have always appreciated your support of my father over the years. I am glad he has finally received his due. Hopefully it will open doors for other coaches on the builder category.

"He was always about his players, so I know he would want to thank them for making this happen. Also to Mr. Snider and Mr. (Keith) Allen for giving him his chance in the NHL back in 1971. I know people like them and Bob Clarke have pushed for this a long time." 

Joining Shero from the players' side was Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan. Geraldine Heaney, a 2002 Olympic gold medalist, became the third woman elected. Eric Lindros was again turned down.
 
Shero brought two Stanley Cups to the Flyers in 1974 and 1975, but his legacy as a coach far exceeds that.
 
“Win today and we walk together forever,” he scribbled on a blackboard before Game 6 of the Cup Final in 1974 against Boston.
 
Shero won that day, but would never know how difficult it would be to “win” a seat at the Hall of Fame years later.
 
It has taken decades for Shero to be inducted. He resigned from the Rangers 20 games into the 1981 season. That was the last time he coached.
 
Shero’s coaching career spanned a brief 10 year years in NHL, after nearly 15 as a successful minor league coach.
 
His achievements, well, they not only outlasted him but also will stand forever:
 
· Four Stanley Cup final appearances
· Two Cups
· First coach to employ systems
· First to hire assistant coaches
· First to employ in-season strength training
· First to breakdown film
· First to travel abroad to study Soviet influences
· Among the first to use morning skates
 
“The Hall of Fame is for people who have done things for the sport of hockey,” said Clarke, the greatest player Shero coached, for a series of stories in 2009 on CSNPhilly.com pushing for Shero’s induction. “Freddy did that. He was ahead of Roger Neilson for using video. He was ahead of other coaches for using system hockey. He won at them minor league and NHL level and he was way ahead of his time.
 
“Sometimes we forget. It’s not the National Hockey League Hall of Fame. It’s the Hockey Hall of Fame. That’s why Europeans are getting in and it’s why lots of outstanding minor leaguers from different eras never were thought about as being Hall of Famers, but probably should have been. Freddy’s NHL record is good enough to get in and put on his minor league record and he’s Hall of Fame material.”
 
Shero coached 734 NHL games and won 390. Two years after leaving the Rangers, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The disease eventually took his life in 1990.
 
Shero read books constantly. It was fabric for his coaching career.
 
“Some of the things he did at the time, players thought was off the wall,” recalled Lou Lamoriello, general manager of the New Jersey Devils. “But I believe, too, he was somewhat of a disciple of Lloyd Percival’s hockey handbook and I remember Fred talking about that on different occasions.”
 
Percival’s “The Hockey Handbook” was published in 1951, six years before Shero began his minor league coaching career. Shero reportedly memorized the book, and used it as tool for future study.
 
It was one of many books that influenced his life behind the bench. And not every book was on hockey, either.
 
“He was really big on John Wooden and had a lot of Wooden stuff around the house and books,” Ray Shero said.
 
“Dad saw how [Wooden] used his psychology of reading people at UCLA as applicable to hockey. My dad was pretty quiet, but if he trusted you, he would engage you and talk for hours about things. He was a big, big reader and even on Russian history. After the first Cup, he went to Russia and brought my mom for three weeks. He met with Boris Mikhailov and took Lou Vairo over there. It was a hockey seminar. He must have met with Viktor Tikhonov, too. He really loved it.”

Ray Shero called his father an innovator.

“He won a championship at every level he coached at. The contribution and innovation he made to the game, if you talk to the players who played for him and not me, he was ahead of his time," Ray Shero said. "He delved into the Soviet way of hockey way before when, the video, the assistant coaches. I have a lot of his stuff still today.
 
“Forty years into the future, some of the stuff he did was pretty amazing. I always thought he was deserving."
 
For a man who smoked too much and drank too much, Shero believed in fitness for his players. He introduced them to a funny looking machine. You might say it was the prehistoric predecessor to a Universal or Nautilus equipment.
 
“He had this contraption called The Apollo with ropes all over it,” Ray Shero recalled. “Guys would use it off ice. It was a tube with ropes, similar to bands we have now.”
 
Said Clarke, “We were the first team that had off-ice training with the Apollo machine, which was weight training. No one else was doing that.”
 
Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said that Shero had a unique way of motivating people simply by a touch.
 
“He was innovative in how he tried to motivate people,” Davidson said. “He could do things even through his hands. He would find ways to touch you on the bench [to send a message]. He was a man of few words.”
 
Clarke said Shero’s bench strategy was simply to keep players' minds in the game.
 
“He’d walk up and down the bench, ‘how much time left in the period,’ ” Clarke said. “Bleep Freddy, look it up yourself. But his game plan was, if there were five minutes left to play, this is how he wanted us to play. He wanted everyone to know how much time was left on the clock. None of us had ever seen this approach.”
 
Or his approach after losses.
 
“He would have 8 a.m. practices,” Clarke said. “If you lost a game, the next day practice was low key, almost lackadaisical. But if you won, he would work the hell out of you. He always felt if you were winning, you could get more work out of a man.
 
“If you were losing, your energy was low, and let’s get it back and not waste it in practice. But when we won, and we won a lot, we practiced. It’s the exact opposite philosophy of coaches today where if a team plays bad, they skate the hell out of you. He never did that. His practices were always for the purpose to get better.”

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.