Flyers make change at top
Never bet against the folks in Vegas is the underlying message that comes with the news the Flyers have pulled the plug on Peter Laviolette just three games into the season. It’s believed the earliest firing at the start of a season in NHL history.
After all, they seemed to know it all along, predicting before the start of the season Lavy would the first NHL coach to be shown the door by a franchise never known for its patience.
So, after his team scored just three goals in three games — resulting in three losses — he’s history. Laviolette will be replaced by assistant coach Craig Berube. That makes Chip Kelly now the senior coach/manager in town.
“It’s a gut decision,’’ said GM Paul Holmgren, who decided on the flight home from Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Carolina, then met with Laviolette this morning before offering Berube the job. “From day one in training camp, I was concerned how the team looked.”
“Yes, 0-3 is 0-3 and we still have a long ways to go in the season, but it was more about how we played. It was unacceptable. We don’t look like a team at all.
“Right now, we’re not playing well enough to win in the National Hockey League and that’s got to change. I believe in our players, but I’m not gonna let them off the hook, because at the end of the day they didn’t do their job, either.
“Whether it’s fresh ideas or a new voice is up to Craig. But I just didn’t like the direction the team was heading.’’
The last time the Flyers dumped their coach in mid-stream was 2009 when John Stevens was sent packing in favor of Laviolette, who then guided them to the Stanley Cup Final. Undoubtedly Holmgren and longtime Flyers owner Ed Snider are hoping Berube, who becomes their 11th coach in the last 20 years, can match or even surpass that.
“Craig is one of the smartest hockey guys I’ve ever been around,’’ said Holmgren, who wouldn’t go into details but revealed Berube has been hired beyond this season. “He’s learned the coaching business over the last nine years.
“He demands respect and holds people accountable. I’m looking forward to Craig taking over the team.”
The 47-year-old Berube, who once made his NHL living as an enforcer, racking up 1,138 penalty minutes in six seasons here, takes over a team that has struggled offensively. He should know the feeling, having scored just 20 goals in his two stints here encompassing 323 games.
“I’ve always been a Flyer in my mind and now I’m the head coach,’’ said Berube, who played for five NHL teams over 17 seasons. “First of all we need to work on team defense.
“I don’t think we’re playing well without the puck and we need to compete a lot harder.’’
Berube named two others with Flyers connections, John Paddock and Ian Laperriere to his staff, replacing Kevin McCarthy who also was let go. Asked why his team felt the need to change coaches so frequently and usually stay within the organization when it does, Snider bristled.
“There was a reason each time,’’ said Snider. “The general manager, and Paul now, made the decision we needed coaching changes and made them.
“They work for the general manager and if the general manager feels he needs to make a change I approve it. Simple as that.
“Obviously, it may be a mistake but it wasn’t a mistake with Peter Laviolette. He did a very good job, but right now we’ve been struggling and feel we need a change.
“No, we haven’t won a championship, but we’ve been to the Stanley Cup Finals a lot of times and been to the playoffs a lot of times. Thirty teams are trying to win a Cup and we’re doing our damndest to do it. That’s our culture.
“We don’t need a fresh perspective. We have a pretty good culture and a good idea what we’re dealing with.’’
So, just as the folks in Vegas figured, Peter Laviolette is the first to go, victim of the Flyers second straight 0-3 start. The man who hired him, Paul Holmgren, remains, hoping a new voice will get through to save the season, which resumes Monday night against the Florida Panthers.
Otherwise one thing already seems perfectly clear. He’ll be the next to go.