Top Shelf: Flyers make Lavvy their latest fall guy
By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It was no secret Peter Laviolette was on the hot seat in Philadelphia, but what transpired Monday in the City of Brotherly Love was nothing short of farce.
Laviolette entered this season facing an uphill battle to save his job. As it turns out, the climb was steeper than anybody expected, as the Flyers only needed to see 180 minutes of hockey in the new season to determine "Lavvy" was no longer the head coach for them.
On Monday, with his team 0-3-0 in the early stages of an 82-game slate, the Flyers announced they had fired Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube, who will see his first action as an NHL head coach in Tuesday's home game against Florida.
By firing Laviolette just three games into the season, the Flyers are confirming the notion of the franchise as a reactionary one with little concern for the patience it takes to build a winner. Ed Snider, the chairman and longtime owner of the Flyers, is the impetus behind this strategy, as he continues his quest to deliver a third Stanley Cup title (and first since the mid 1970s) to Philadelphia.
Laviolette took over behind the Flyers bench in December 2009 and was perhaps a victim of his own early success. He guided the club to a surprising Stanley Cup Finals appearance in his first season with the Flyers and was given a multi-year contract extension in August 2012. However, everything began to sour when the Flyers stumbled during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, failing to make the playoffs with a 23-22-3 record.
The poor showing in 2013 led many to believe the Flyers would fire Laviolette last spring, but he was able to keep his job. The fair question to ask now is why bring a guy back if he's going to get just three games to prove himself in the next season? It's a fair question, but one the Philadelphia organization has little interest in answering.
It's not that the Flyers were wrong to fire Laviolette. The team has gone downhill since making the Cup Finals in the spring of 2010, but when a club pulls the plug on a coach so early into a season, it's hard not to see it as the sign of a team with oversized expectations. Philadelphia spends so much time convincing itself that another Stanley Cup is always just around the corner that it can't help but make drastic decisions when it falls short of achieving those goals.
In some ways, Snider's zero tolerance policy on losing is noble but more often than not it's misguided and damaging to the franchise he so dearly loves. Yet, it was apparent at Monday's press conference scheduled to discuss the firing that Snider is more than a little proud of his team's reputation for being impatient.
Although Snider admitted his team "rightly" deserves criticism for firing a head coach only three games into the season, he seemed unapologetic about the reasoning behind such bold decisions.
"All we want to do is win for this city, win for our fans and win for our organization," Snider said. "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."
One hopes Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was paying close attention to those words because his head could be the next one on Snider's chopping block if the wins don't start coming soon. In fact, if this early coaching switch doesn't start producing better results, it's not crazy to think Holmgren could be out of a job before the calendar flips to November.
If Holmgren is offered up as another sacrifice, the club is expected to hand the GM role to Ron Hextall, who, like Berube and Holmgren, has a history as a player in Philadelphia, something the fired Laviolette didn't have. After all, Snider has been criticized for creating an old boys' club in Philly, as the team overwhelmingly fills open spots within the organization with ex-Flyers.
Perhaps Hextall, a member of the Flyers' Hall of Fame, will eventually offer a fresh perspective to the city he called home for many years. Although the former feisty goaltender is most closely identified with the Philadelphia franchise, Hextall did serve under Dean Lombardi as an assistant GM in Los Angeles and that partnership helped produce a Stanley Cup in 2013.
While in L.A., Hextall watched first-hand as the Flyers traded away captain Mike Richards to the Kings. That move and the acquisition of another former Flyers forward, Jeff Carter, were huge for L.A., and both players helped the Kings win a Stanley Cup less than a year after they were banished from Philadelphia.
The trading of Carter, Richards and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 after being dealt from the Flyers to Columbus over the previous offseason, are symbols of Philadelphia's impatience and rash decision-making. Firing Laviolette just three games into a season did little to change that perception.
The saddest thing about Laviolette's dismissal isn't the firing itself. Laviolette won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and had no small amount of success during his tenure in Philly. He will almost certainly land on his feet.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are doomed to fail if they can't acknowledge the error of their recent ways. It seems if a plan doesn't materialize immediately, then they can't tear it up fast enough in order to draw up a new one.
They say patience is a virtue, but it's one the Flyers don't seem to value all that much.
10/08 14:56:31 ET