Will Firing Laviolette Even Help?

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

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The last time the Philadelphia Flyers changed coaches midseason was back in late-2009. John Stevens, just signed to an extension the summer prior, was canned after his expected Stanley Cup contending team started 13-11-1. The lackadaisical Stevens was replaced with the heart nosed and fiery Peter Laviolette. Six months later, the Flyers were headed to the Stanley Cup Final despite an injury laden roster and a goalkeeper with cataracts. 

This morning, the Laviolette era came to an end. The 17th-coach in team history, Laviolette directed his units to postseason berths in three of his four seasons at the helm. Missing the postseason for the first time last year during the lockout shortened campaign. He will be replaced by Craig Berube, a former Flyer and a member of the Philadelphia coaching staff since 2006.

The real question this morning is whether or not this termination will make a major impact. After all, Laviolette did usher in three consecutive postseason berths (with five series victories during that span) prior to last season. “Lavi,” was always a fighter. His penchance for beating up Coke machines in the clubhouse or smacking Ville Leino on the head made him a fantastic fit for Philadelphia’s hard-nosed fans. We grew fond for our coach. Partly because he took a team with no direction to the Stanley Cup back in 2010, and partly because he has to deal with a General Manager with ADD. 

Coaching the Flyers could not have been easy the last few years. Laviolette went from a veteran team in 2010-2011 to a young, inexperienced bunch in 2012. Paul Holmgren’s decision to part ways with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the two figureheads of the franchise when Laviolette was hired, might have been inspired by his head coach’s inability to connect with either player. Regardless, the sheer magnitude of the deals coupled with the fact that the players received were far less recognized made Laviolette’s coaching job in 2012 all the more impressive. You couple this uncertainty with a celestially inspired goalkeeper with a five-hole the size of a watermelon tree, and it is amazing that the former Carolina Hurricanes’ general made it this far in the City of Brotherly Love.

After an 0-3 start, Holmgren said he made a “gut call” by firing Laviolette. The timing is certainly suspicious. If you were this unsure about the coach, why not fire him during the offseason instead of signing multiple veterans to long-term deals before leaving them on the doorstep of Craig Berube? 

No, the Flyers have not been playing to their capabilities. With just one goal in each of their first three games, the dump-and-grind system professed by their now former coach was as effective as birth control at a Tea Party convention. Superstar Claude Giroux, who may or may not still be bothered by a wrist injury, has been held scoreless through the season’s first three affairs. Something had to change eventually. But, it is certainly a surprise to see the pendulum swing so extremely this early. 

Holmgren didn’t do himself any favors here. If the team does not rebound by the end of the year and find themselves in the postseason under Berube, the GM’s head will be the next to roll. Last year, the Flyers had one of the best power plays in the league. But, their inability to score at even strength doomed them from start-to-finish. That epidemic has continued into this season, and was another huge reason why Laviolette is heading home from the Flyers’ complex for the final time. 

Will firing Laviolette help? Maybe. The defense and goaltending is still a concern. But, the offense, fueled by young stars with potential to dwarf the sun, will need to improve. If it was Laviolette’s system; the Flyers could shine. If it was the players, then Holmgren better join his now fired coach in upgrading his resumé for a long winter ahead. 

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