Three Losses End Laviolette’s Tenure
Flyers Fire Coach After 4-Plus Years
In this Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 photo Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette watches from the bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. The Flyers fired coach Laviolette, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Philadelphia — Peter Laviolette, the fiery coach whose Philadelphia Flyers grew progressively worse after he directed them to an improbable run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, was fired Monday and replaced with one of his assistants, Craig Berube.
“I’m not going to let the players off the hook,” general manager Paul Holmgren said at news conference at the Wells Fargo Center. “Things have to get better, and they will.”
After serving parts of five seasons with the Flyers, the coach who implored his team to play with “jam” was jammed out the door following a 0-3 start this season. He had a 145-98-29 record since being hired early in the 2009-2010 season.
In 2013, the Flyers missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
“I really wasn’t happy with last year, but we blamed it on a lot of issues; we thought those issues were valid and thought Peter deserved an opportunity,” said Ed Snider, chairman of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast-Spectacor.
Snider said he received a call from Holmgren late Sunday — after the Flyers’ 2-1 loss in Carolina, the team Laviolette once coached to the Stanley Cup — and that he “approved” the GM’s decision to replace the coach.
Snider said he thought the Flyers’ performance in the lockout-shortened 2013 season was “an anomaly. He’s a great coach, a great guy; he works his butt off. But I thought our training camp, quite frankly, was one of the worst training camps I’ve ever seen. And I’m not talking about wins and losses. There was nothing exciting. Nobody shined. Nobody looked good. I couldn’t point to one thing that I thought was a positive coming out of training camp, and personally I was worried.”
The Flyers went 1-5-1 in the preseason.
Berube, 47, was in his seventh season as a Flyers assistant and 17th overall season with the club. He added Ian Laperriere and John Paddock as assistants. Joey Mullen and Jeff Reese will remain as assistants, and assistant Kevin McCarthy was let go.
For Berube, it was a bittersweet day.
“It’s not easy when a coach is let go,” he said. “Lavy’s been great to me. When he came here as a head coach, he kept me on his staff and we worked real close together and I learned a lot from him.”
Holmgren said Berube will bring a different approach.
“I think Craig believes everybody needs to play good defense, and that off that, they’re going to develop good offense,” Holmgren said. “ ... His idea of building offense from playing good defense is probably a different philosophy from what the players have heard the last four years.”
“It’s not so much a defensive-minded approach,” Berube said. “We want to be an aggressive hockey team on both sides of the puck, and for me, I don’t see our team doing a very good job without the puck. Everybody’s going to say you’ve only scored three goals in three games. You want to score more goals? Do your job without the puck. Put yourself in a position to defend and you’ll get turnovers and get more opportunities the other way.”
Holmgren said he had a “gut feeling” about making the change.
“We’re not playing well enough to win in the National Hockey League, and that has to change,” he said. “Whether it’s fresh ideas or a new voice, I’m not going to sit here and try to pinpoint that. That’s up to Craig. That’s his job. But I didn’t like the direction the team was heading, and I felt we needed a change.”
Holmgren said Laviolette, 48, “worked his hardest to try to get things turned around. He’s as frustrated as all of us right now. When I met with him this morning, he expressed his frustration about trying everything. He gave it all he could to try to get things turning around.”
Laviolette took over for the fired John Stevens early in the 2009-10 season. The Flyers earned a playoff berth on the final day of the season by winning a shootout as Brian Boucher outdueled Rangers star goalie Henrik Lundqvist. From there, the Flyers ousted favored New Jersey in the opening round, overcame a 3-0 series deficit to shock Boston, and wiped out Montreal to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Flyers lost in the Finals to Chicago, four games to two, dropping the decisive Game 6 in overtime as Patrick Kane’s shot from a bizarre angle got past goalie Michael Leighton.
That magic run - and especially how the team overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 of the Boston series, capping a wild four-game comeback - will be Laviolette’s legacy with the Flyers. He led Carolina to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Asked if the Flyers’ poor start was the players’ fault, Snider said, “That’s what we’re going to find out. Unfortunately, in the business we’re in, the only way to find out is to make a change. You can’t get rid of all the players. That’s why coaches lose their jobs, and sometimes you lose them “because of the players. But we don’t know that until you make a change.”
Added Snider: “Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. We think our players are better than they’ve looked.”
Holmgren said he didn’t believe the recent $3 million lawsuit Laviolette filed against Bank America was a distraction to the coach. He added that “all good coaches have a shelf life, and maybe this is just the thing with Peter.”