Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and GM Paul Holmgren are nothing if not pragmatic. Sometimes that pragmatism hits the jackpot (Pronger, Chris) and sometimes it lands with a disastrous thud (Bryzgalov, Ilya). But the one thing you can say about Holmgren is that he does not do the dithering thing well at all.
So it should come as no surprise that Snider and Holmgren (these things always seem to be done in tandem in Philadelphia) pulled the chute on head coach Peter Laviolette after just three games, all losses for the beleaguered Flyers. Philadelphia, unlike a place such as Toronto, is actually one of those markets where the fans turn on the team and there is real pressure to win, not unconditional love for the heroes on the ice. Combine that with an owner and GM who seem to have all the patience of a toddler who wants a toy and you have a situation where Laviolette seemed destined to be fired.
That has certainly been the case since the start of the season. Laviolette was at the top of most pundits’ pre-season predictions to be the first coach fired. Is Laviolette a bad coach? Absolutely not. Just check the Stanley Cup under the 2005-06 season and you’ll find his name on it. But coaches such as Laviolette, who are more inclined to deliver a kick in the pants rather than a pat on the back, have a finite shelf life that is usually no more than three or four years. And since Laviolette was starting his fifth season with the Flyers, time was most certainly not on his side.
The Flyers, of course, had ample ammunition to make the move. They did not make the playoffs last year and in the three losses this season, nobody could blame the goaltending. The Flyers scored just three goals in their first three starts, two of them on the power play, and were outshot by an average of seven shots a game. Through their first 180 minutes of hockey, the Flyers had a lead for exactly 17 minutes and 13 seconds.
Look at the Flyers roster. They might not be the second coming of the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, but they’re better than that.
Will assistant coach Craig Berube be able to turn around the Flyer fortunes? It’s probably too early to tell, both in terms of the timing this season and in terms of Berube’s coaching acumen. But he has bled on the Flyers sweater and in that organization, that definitely means something. But it probably won’t be enough to save him if the Flyers continue to flounder and Snider and Holmgren develop an itchy trigger finger.