Flyers part with Laviolette after three games
Given the Philadelphia Flyers’ lacklustre play early in the season, Peter Laviolette’s firing was not altogether shocking.
But the veteran coach getting the hook after just three games provided some measure of surprise around the NHL.
“It’s one of those things that happens in sports and we’ve all been victims of it,” Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “I can’t say that I’m surprised that it’s happened. I’m surprised that it happened to him. I’m surprised that it happened so quickly.”
The Flyers went 0-3-0 against the Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes, scoring one goal in each game and giving up a total of nine. The last head coach to be let go this early in a season was Bill Gadsby, who was fired by the Detroit Red Wings after a 2-0 start in 1969.
Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren had a “fleeting thought” about firing Laviolette last season when the team didn’t make the playoffs but ultimately thought the man who led the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup final deserved another training camp. Owner Ed Snider told reporters at Wells Fargo Center that it was the worst training camp he had ever seen.
There was little doubt Laviolette was on a short leash. The online sportsbook Bodog set odds that made him the favourite to be the first NHL coach fired this season.
The Flyers have the reputation as a team that’s not afraid to make changes when things aren’t working.
Holmgren traded Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to Columbus after the 2010-11 season and signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a US$51-million, nine-year contract. This past summer the organization bought Bryzgalov out of the final seven years of that deal.
James van Riemsdyk was the Flyers’ No. 2 overall pick in 2007 and then signed a $25.5-million, six-year contract extension in the summer of 2011. He was traded to the Leafs for defenceman Luke Schenn at the 2012 draft. Van Riemsdyk didn’t really know what to make of the Flyers’ slow start and Laviolette’s firing.
“When stuff doesn’t go, I guess, the way they’re thinking it’ll go there, you obviously expect them to make changes,” he said.
Canadiens forward Daniel Briere, who spent the previous six seasons in Philadelphia, talked to Laviolette last week and was impressed with how the Flyers played in their opener against Toronto. Montreal beat the Flyers 4-1 at Bell Centre on Saturday night.
“I didn’t get a sense of any panic there,” Briere said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to anyone since these last two losses, but I imagine everyone’s a little surprised at what happened.”
Laviolette and the Flyers made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but turning things around in 2013-14 will fall on Craig Berube, who’s considered something of a players’ coach.