When Glen Wesley hung up his skates after the 2007-08 season, many lamented the end of the bridge he represented from Hartford to Raleigh. But with associate coach Kevin McCarthy leaving Carolina Friday, the final ice-level transitional link to the Whalers era came to an end.
McCarthy, this his 18th straight season with the franchise and 12th as a coach, is joining ex-Carolina bench boss and new Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia, where the two will look to rekindle the magic that helped lead the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup.
McCarthy returns to the city where he began and later finished his NHL career as a defenseman. He played two years with the Flyers starting in 1977 before going to Vancouver, only to later return to the City of Brotherly Love for the 1985-86 season. He played just six games with the Flyers the next two years, spending most of his time with Flyers' AHL affiliate in Hershey.
He played one final season in Hershey in 1987-88, then joined the Bears coaching staff the following season. He served as Hershey's head coach in 1989-90, then spent two years in an executive scouting role before joining the Hartford Whalers as an assistant coach. He served four years as head coach for the Hartford/Carolina AHL affiliate, leading the Springfield Falcons and then New Haven Beast for two seasons each from 1995 to 1999. He joined the Carolina coaching staff for the 1999-2000 season, and has been an NHL assistant/associate coach in Raleigh for the past decade.
But McCarthy's role changed following Laviolette's dismissal as the Hurricanes head coach last season. With Ron Francis — who, like Wesley, is associated with the franchise's days in Hartford, but also did not have as long a tenure as McCarthy — joining fellow assistant Tom Rowe and returning head coach Paul Maurice on the bench, McCarthy was moved upstairs into the press box, serving as the Canes' "eye in the sky" — and voice in the ear of Francis. In joining Laviolette — who replaces John Stevens, himself a longtime member of one organization —McCarthy will return to ice level, replacing Flyers assistant Jack McIlhargey.
"We would like to thank Kevin for his contributions and time with the franchise, and again thank Peter for helping the team to the Stanley Cup," Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford said in a press release. "I am happy that Kevin has been given an opportunity to rejoin both Peter and his good friend [Flyers GM] Paul Holmgren in Philadelphia."
As for Laviolette, his return to coaching comes one year and one day after he was dismissed by the Hurricanes. Carolina gave Philadelphia permission to speak to Laviolette, who still had more than a year and a half remaining on the five-year contract he received following Carolina's Stanley Cup title in 2006.
Holmgren — who has played with, coached and coached aside McCarthy in Philadelphia and Hartford over the past 30 years — made the move to replace Stevens with the Flyers in a six-losses-in-seven-games skid.
"Peter Laviolette brings experience along with a different approach to the game," Holmgren is quoted as saying on the Flyers' official site. "We look forward to him putting his stamp on the team quickly and getting our team headed in the right direction."
Laviolette, who has been mentioned for nearly every coaching vacancy over the past year, was excited to finally get his chance to return to an NHL bench.
"Obviously this is a great opportunity. I am really excited," Laviolette said in the same article. "The Flyers are an organization that has a lot of tradition and a lot of history. This is just an exciting time for me and my family and we are really looking forward to it."
It is Laviolette's third head coaching stop. Prior to coaching Carolina, he was the Islanders' head coach for two seasons in 2001-02 and 2002-03. He replaced Maurice during the 2003-04 season, then was himself replaced by Maurice last year after Carolina continued their post-Cup mediocrity.
The Canes will host the Flyers Dec. 26 at the RBC Center.
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