PHILADELPHIA – Nobody’s Happy.
After sitting back for a few hours and taking in what happened this morning, I think that’s the most apparent thing with the Flyers right now, and frankly, Flyers fans should look at this positively.
That’s not to say that firing a coach should ever be looked at is a good thing – especially a guy like Peter Laviolette, who does have a Stanley Cup on his resume, who got the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals a little more than three years ago and who has the third-most wins in franchise history.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Laviolette is an excellent coach with a solid track record, who no doubt will coach again in the NHL in the near future and likely with a good measure of success.
But what it does say is that the organization is willing to do whatever it takes to correct recurring errors or eradicate mistakes.
As a fan of a team, you can’t ask for a better starting point. Sure you can have higher expectations moving forward from there, and you can analyze the heck out of every management decision – positively or negatively – but the notion that the powers that be are mad as hell when the team doesn’t prosper and reacts by addressing things rather than let them fester is a sign that people like Chairman Ed Snider and general manager Paul Holmgren – and heck, new coach Craig Berube – aren’t just feeding you a line and that they mean what they say.
“The point is we’re happy to an extent that we’re in the playoffs most every year, and we’re happy to an extent that we’ve been in the Stanley Cup Finals many, many years when we didn’t win,” Snider said. “But we’re not thrilled, because we want to win a Stanley Cup. Everybody wants to win a Stanley Cup… Everybody. It isn’t easy.
“But we never let it slide. And we get criticized for it, rightly so, when you fire somebody after three games, and we expect criticism. We deserve it. But the bottom line is we’re trying to win. And that’s why it’s been done.
“Because all we want to do is win for this city, win for our fans and win for our organization. That’s what we’re trying to do. There’s no secret here, there’s no devious thing here. We feel horrible when you’ve got to fire a guy like Peter Laviolette. But the bottom line is we’re never going to quit. We’re always going to try to win.”
It was that same reasoning that the Flyers used when firing John Stevens and then replaced him with Laviolette back in December, 2009.
All that change did was lead to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance six months later.
That’s not to say that a change now is going to lead to the same result, although the Flyers would in fact be thrilled if that came to be, but it’s a similar situation – a team, not playing up to its ability needing a kick in the pants to get themselves together.
Sometimes, that’s what it takes – and the Flyers have a wealth of experience at stemming the tide when things aren’t going well.
“Right now, we're just not playing the way we have to play,” Holmgren said. “We're not playing well enough to win in the National Hockey League, and that has to change.”
You can’t change all the players, so you change the coach, even if he’s won more games than all but two other coaches in your franchise’s history.
And even if the timing seems a bit screwy – just three games into a season – You do it at this time to try and prevent the season from spiraling out of control.
“Look, there’s no question in my mind that anybody looking at this from the outside looking in would say that three games is totally unfair,” Snider said. “But quite honestly… training camp was a disaster. I’ve been at 47 training camps and I’ve never seen one that I thought was worse.
“Now that’s not talking about Peter, that’s talking about our players. And it carried right on over to the first three games of the season. It’s not simply the three games that we saw. There’s more to it than that.
“There’s a lot of things that I know that are private, but bottom line is that I have great respect for Peter Laviolette. I’m sorry this has happened to him. He’s a class act. He’s done a great job for us, got us to the Stanley Cup Finals, within [two games] of winning the damn thing. That’s why I love our culture, because we did get there.”
And that’s why there’s no reason to change the culture. In the 47-year history of the franchise, the Flyers have missed the playoffs just nine times.
Only seven other teams have missed the playoffs less than 10 times since 1967, and four of those teams – Nashville, Ottawa, San Jose and Minnesota – didn’t arrive in the league until between 1992-2000.
That leaves only Boston (five) and St. Louis (eight) with fewer seasons with playoff misses (Montreal, like the Flyers, has nine).
And sure, the Flyers have touted their record of being a consistently competitive team for years, and to some it might seem old hat, but while it is repetitive, it has serious substance.
In other words, would you rather have a track record like, say, the Carolina franchise, but has won a Cup more recently than the Flyers, but has missed the playoffs 20 times in their 34-year history?
Or, how about Tampa Bay, also with a Cup in the past decade, but has missed the playoffs 14 times in it’s 21-year history?
Or, maybe one of Buffalo, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, who have all been around for at least 40 years, and in that time have a combined 61 missed playoff seasons and zero Stanley Cups?
This is not meant as an indictment of any of those teams, because they go into every season with the same goal as the Flyers – to win a Stanley Cup – and yet, they’ve also come up empty, proving that Snider is right when he says it is a hard thing to accomplish.
A lot of actually reaching that goal has to do with constructing the right group of players and combining that with good coaching and a little bit of good fortune to make it come to pass.
The Flyers believe they have the right players at the current moment, but aren’t blinded by that thought process and could change that too if this stunner of a coaching change doesn’t snap them out of their doldrums.
“Unfortunately in the business we’re in, the only way to find out is to make a change,” Snider said. “You can’t get rid of all the players. This is why coaches lose their jobs, and sometimes lose them because of the players. But we don’t know that until we make a change. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. We think our players are better than they’ve looked.”
And if they’re not, rest assured, more change will come. Because it’s all about trying to win for the Philadelphia Flyers, and once you get over the shock of this decision, you’ll realize you wouldn’t want it any other way.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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