Peter Laviolette, the fiery coach whose 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 after his team started the year with three straight losses. He had a 145-98-29 record since being hired early in the 2009-210 season.
In 2013, the Flyers missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
“From my own point of view, 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, the Flyers’ chairman.
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.
“Unfortunately, my fears were realized in the first three games _ scoring one goal in each game. And looking disorganized,” Snider added. “If it wasn’t for our goalies, I think it could have been a lot worse.”
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 fired.
Holmgren said Berube will bring a more defensive-minded approach to the team. Berube recieved a multi-year pact, but the length of the deal was still being finalized, said Peter Luukko, the president of Comcast-Spectacor, the Flyers' parent company.
Laviolette took over for the fired John Stevens into 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 the 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.