Peter Laviolette was fired from the Flyers just three games into this season - faster than any other coach before. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
All right, so the Philadelphia Flyers are rapidly becoming a train wreck, one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NHL. But when it comes to setting a course, there are a lot of teams that could only aspire to be so dysfunctional.
The Flyers, of course, set a land-speed record for firing a coach out of the gate when Peter Laviolette was dismissed after just three games, all losses. Man, the guy only got to watch his team score one even-strength goal in 2013-14, which was probably part of the problem.
But what you didn’t have, and never do have, in Philadelphia is a management group that runs and hides. The Flyers immediately called a news conference to deal with the issue, one that included a fiery Ed Snider, defending the Flyers decision to bring in Craig Berube to replace Laviolette. When asked about the Flyers culture, Snider got is back up. As well he should have. There have not been too many times since the Flyers’ birth in 1967 when you have had to search for their identity.
“The culture is to win,” Snider said. “Thirty teams are trying to win the 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 we know what we’re dealing with.”
As a fan you have to ask yourself the following question: Would you rather see your team be proactive and perhaps foolish once in a while in the process of making firm, bold and risky decisions or would you rather your team take a slow, methodical and safe approach. The Flyers are nothing if not compelling all the time. They are willing to throw the dice more often than most teams and are a big market team that is unafraid of paying for its mistakes and paying more to try to fix them. The Vancouver Canucks could have addressed their goaltending issues by buying out Roberto Luongo for $23.9 million this summer and they decided to stay the course with a goaltender who has had a spotty history with them and has a contract that has become a millstone for the organization. The Flyers, meanwhile, swallowed hard and spent $23 million to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov. Have they found the answer in a tandem of Steve Mason and Ray Emery? Likely not, but they won’t stop trying.
And that was what this was all about. Being bold. Cutting your ties with someone over whom the Sword of Damocles was hanging and starting bold, new and fresh. Berube will provide a fresh voice to the players, who will likely respond to him in a positive way. Look for John Paddock to do the heavy lifting when it comes to tactics and doing something with a patchwork defensive corps that needs a lot of work. Ian Laperriere will be a constant reminder to those wearing the orange and black exactly what putting that uniform on stands for and the sacrifices they need to make every game.
For my money, Snider was worth the price of admission during the news conference. He remains unapologetic for being aggressive and proactive and while he claims the decision to fire Laviolette was GM Paul Holmgren’s, nothing this big gets done with the Flyers without significant input from the owner.
“We always try to make the team as good as we possibly can,” Snider said, “and sometimes we’re not right.”
That likely won’t stop the Flyers from continuing to make bold decisions. On occasion they will blow up and sometimes they’ll work out brilliantly. But the Flyers will never, ever be boring.