'Forward Thinker' Kris Knoblauch Great Fit for Dave Hakstol, Flyers, Erie GM Says - NBC 10 Philadelphia

'Forward Thinker' Kris Knoblauch Great Fit for Dave Hakstol, Flyers, Erie GM Says

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    'Forward Thinker' Kris Knoblauch Great Fit for Dave Hakstol, Flyers, Erie GM Says
    CSNPhilly.com
    'Forward thinker' Kris Knoblauch great fit for Dave Hakstol, Flyers, Erie GM says

    When Kris Knoblauch informed Erie Otters' general manager Dave Brown this week he was taking a job with the Flyers, Brown started laughing.
     
    "What's so funny?" Knoblauch asked.  
     
    "You just want to go to a team where you look like the head coach," Brown recalled Thursday to CSNPhilly.com.
     
    Indeed.

    If you place photos of Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol and Knoblauch side-by-side, they could pass as brothers.
     
    "They look like twins," Brown said.

    The Flyers hired the 38-year-old Knoblauch on Wednesday as Hakstol's assistant coach, replacing Joe Mullen (see story).

    Knoblauch's focus will be the Flyers' erratic power play, which saw much success during the 10 years Mullen was here but faltered badly in the second half of last season. The Flyers failed to make the playoffs.

    Brown has no doubts Knoblauch will fix the Flyers' PP because his unit with the Otters ranked either first or second in the OHL over the last four seasons. Erie became one of the best clubs in junior hockey during this time.

    Knoblauch's Otters is the only club in OHL history to have four consecutive 50-win seasons.

    "Kris is a forward thinker," Brown said. "He is someone open to a new idea and always looking for new ways to generate offense. He understands his players' wants and needs.
     
    "A lot goes into Kris in how he gets them to open up and listen to what he wants them to get done. He talks to them to find out what they think will work … he's not a guy who jams things down your throat. When he makes suggestions, he is more likely to listen."
     
    Craig Button, a TSN analyst who is familiar with CHL coaches as well as top draft prospects, said Knoblauch represents another move by Flyers general manager Ron Hextall toward progressive thinking.
     
    What does Button like best about Knoblauch?
     
    "How about everything," Button said. "Where to start? One, he is smart. He's intuitive. He's a very clear communicator. He understands and knows that things don't always go as planned. He takes responsibility. He doesn't blame.
     
    "He's creative and always looking for solutions. He's in control, but collaborative. Knows that others may have a better solution or improvement. He cedes the spotlight. It's never about him.

    "He's confident in his abilities and lets actions speak for themselves. He's highly competitive. Don't let his calm demeanor define him. Still, waters run deep."
     
    Knoblauch's Western Canada upbringing is in play when dealing with his players.
     
    "He is a teacher by trade and the perfect teacher-turned-coach would be Kris Knoblauch," Brown said. "At first, he comes across pretty quiet.
     
    "He's that Saskatchewan guy with great core values and always transferring those over to his players to learn, not just what is on the ice but what is off the ice."
     
    Knoblauch will be the youngest assistant coach on Hakstol's staff. He's said to have the ability to build strong relationships with young players.

    Hextall saw those same attributes in Hakstol when he hired him two years ago.

    Yet Hakstol struggled last season in handling some of his younger Flyers. In particular, the multiple benchings of Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny. Even some of the slightly older veterans didn't like some of Hakstol's moves as well.

    Knoblauch's presence - even as an even younger coach than Hakstol, 48 - allows for another younger voice on the staff to handle players during difficult times.
     
    "Kris relates to this generation of player," Button said. "He is absolutely loved by his players, but they also know he will hold them accountable."

    Brown added Knoblauch had a knack for figuring out how to handle situations that would arise on some of his teams that included star players such as Connor McDavid, now with the Edmonton Oilers.
     
    "Kris has no problem diffusing a situation by having a sit-down meeting with guys and saying, this is what I need from you and spelling out expectations," Brown said.
     
    Knoblauch created detailed player profiles to get inside of a player's makeup to figure out how they could maximize their potential without setting unrealistic expectations.
     
    "Kris sets very attainable goals," Brown said. "What he was so good at here was setting realistic expectations, which built confidence. That is where he excels."
     
    One area where he will be tested immediately is gaining acceptance by the Flyers' older veterans. As with Hakstol, Knoblauch never played in NHL nor held an NHL job of any kind.
     
    "That may be a hurdle at first," Brown said. "Building trust with your players first and foremost is critical and he is very big at doing that. Once that happens, a lot of hurdles he would face will be eliminated for Kris."