Philadelphia Flyers Sack Head Coach Peter Laviolette After Miserable Start



Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette

October 6, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Center. The Hurricanes defeated the Flyers 2-1. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Laviolette is out as the Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach after dropping the first three games of the young season. Assistant coach and former Flyers player Craig Berube is set to take over according to the team.

Laviolette spent four full seasons in Philly, winning at least one playoff series in three of those seasons. A Cup-winner in Carolina, the coach took the Flyers to the finals in 2010, but recent turmoil necessitated a change.

To call the Flyers under-achievers in 2013 would be an understatement. Despite trotting out a very talented lineup led by Claude Giroux, the Flyers failed to make the playoffs. With since-departed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in net, the team registered the NHL’s fifth worst goal-differential in 5-on-5 situations.

Despite the disappointment, the Flyers decided to give the Laviolette one more shot to do things right. To help him turn it around, the Flyers spent aggressively in the summer. The addition of Vinny Lecavalier, Mark Streit and Ray Emery was supposed to move things in the right direction.

In the season’s first week, things didn’t go as planned. In losses to Toronto, Montreal and Carolina, the Flyers totaled just three goals. At the opposite end of the ice, Steve Mason and Ray Emery conceded nine times. Though none of the losses came in blowout fashion, they provided plenty of damning evidence against Laviolette.

A lack of cohesion on offense has failed to highlight Philadelphia’s set of truly gifted forwards. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek have yet to get on the score sheet. In fact only five players on the team have registered a point. With their mix of speed, size and skill the Flyers should be an elite offensive team.

It’s actually quite surprising that the offense has been to blame this October. Last season the Flyers had the NHL’s ninth best offense and the league’s eighth worst defense. Though the Philadelphia D hasn’t been impressive by any stretch of the imagination, allowing nine goals in three games is hardly a reason to fire a coach.

When it comes down to it, Philadelphia is one of just six winless teams in the NHL as of October 7. They are one of just two clubs to play three games and still post a goose-egg in the points column. They share that unenviable characteristic with the woeful Buffalo Sabres.

It was obvious that Laviolette was on the hot seat entering the season, but the timing of the firing is still somewhat puzzling. Though the change seems very much necessary, one has to wonder if it should have happened sooner.

Making the move this early suggests that the Flyers had little or no confidence in their coach on opening night. If that is the case, they ought to have made a change in the off-season. If they still thought highly of Laviolette, then they should have given him eight to ten games to break-in his new-look team.

Making the move three games into the season simply adds to the team’s reputation for impulsive decision-making in the front office. Perhaps the move will finally make way for GM Paul Holmgren to face some long-deserved criticism.

Holmgren is the one who should accountable for the goaltending issues that plagued Laviolette throughout his time in Philly. The GM let Sergei Bobrovsky walk after the 2011-12 season only to give Ilya Bryzgalov a regrettable payday. Bobrovsky went on to win the Vezina Trophy last season in Columbus, while Bryzgalov played his way to a contract buy-out.

When considering the Flyers’ outlook for this season, we saw a team with loads of potential. The team might well have the components necessary to win on the ice. However, the culture within the organization has become so poisonous that it was impossible to call them playoff-bound.

It was unclear how the Flyers would implode, but it seemed certain that they eventually would. With that in mind, the appointment of Craig Berube as head coach is risky.

Berube spent the first five seasons of his NHL career with the Flyers. He returned to the organization in 2004 to play for the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, later becoming a coach for the Flyers’ farm team. After a few seasons as an assistant on Laviolette’s bench, there’s little to suggest that he will bring a marked change to the Flyers in his first season as an NHL bench boss.

Berube will not be strapped with the title of interim coach, meaning he is expected to be the man moving forward. With 79 games left, he still has plenty of time to turn things around. However, it is hard to believe that things will really change in Philadelphia. The clubs’ problems run well beyond the bench.

If Berube fails to take the black and orange into the postseason, he probably won’t be the only person fired.

Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013.