Talk about a snap judgement – just 3 games into the 2013-14 NHL season, Peter Laviolette is now the former head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the fastest in-season termination in NHL history.
But was it justified? That is the bigger question. Surely, having won Lord Stanley’s Cup once before, he has credibility. Being on the coaching staff of the 2014 USA Olympic hockey team supports that fact. And, it wasn’t that long ago that Lavy had the Flyers in the Finals.
So, what happened? In short, I would say the message stopped getting through. That may be an oversimplification, but its possible. The other easy explanation? The Flyers were absolutely putrid in the preseason, and they continued the trend through the first three games of the regular season-three losses, with only three goals scored. Considering the forwards the Flyers put out in their top lines? That’s an ominous sign.
Ed Snider has been known to be an impetuous owner with his past moves, so how this one went down isn’t really stunning. But, all the same, you have to still question the logic being employed by both he and GM Paul Holmgren. You have a team coming off of a very disappointing 2013 lockout-shortened season. There were rumblings even following last year that Lavy was on thin ice, but yet he got a vote of confidence and stayed put.
Why would you do such a thing, and then not even a week into the new season, boot that same coach? Even for Snider and his brain trust, it really is baffling. Made more confusing by the fact that you are merely elevating longtime assistant Craig Berube. This isn’t a move like when the Flyers fired John Stevens mid-season and brought in Laviolette-someone with an established track record. Berube really doesn’t have a track record, having never been a head coach at the NHL level. That’s not to say elevating the Chief won’t work as head coach-he certainly could. But it’s a lot of pressure on a new coach, to come in and shake up these Flyers.
Thinking about it, maybe Peter Laviolette getting the ax was a merciful exit for him. This team surely has flaws and more than a few question marks. They came into the year with an uber-cheap goaltending tandem. They spent big in the off-season on Vinny LeCavalier and Mark Streit. But their defense is still very much an issue, and Pronger just isn’t coming back. In other words, their issues go well beyond the coaching, so it’s fair to wonder how much a coaching change could possibly help.
I certainly don’t envy the tasks left for Berube, but things may not be so bleak in Philly for so long. For one, they brought in former Flyer goalie Ron Hextall to serve as assistant GM. He was pretty handy in setting the LA Kings up, and the hope is he can boost the Flyers iffy farm system. If he can help them produce more-and better-homegrown defensemen and goalies, it will be worthwhile. Also, the speculation once that move was announced? That Holmgren was on the hot seat, and Hextall was the new GM in waiting. With Lavy’s firing, Homer is the last one left to be fired. If Berube doesn’t pan out, Paul will be gone sooner than later. Beyond the front office, the Flyers have top quality forwards in spades, both in the NHL and waiting in the wings. With a few tweaks and the right coach stirring things up, things could look a lot different-and a lot better. Berube-and the Philly faithful-are sure hoping that’s the case.