Fire in Philly
4:57 p.m. – E-mail from my friend and colleague Anthony Curatolo.
SUBJECT: “Get On It”
BODY: “STEVENS CANNED…OFFICIAL”
4:58-5:25 p.m. – Scour the internet, make calls, place some texts and try to gather my thoughts.
Could it be? Stevens really fired? Already? I know they’ve been horrible but I thought they played at least respectable last night.
Then I remember this was a team picked to win the Stanley Cup. Not play ‘respectable.’
5:25-5:31 p.m. – Log onto TSN.ca.
‘FIRED IN PHILLY’
5:31 p.m. – It’s official.
Stevens out the door and sources inform me that Peter Laviolette is the new man in Philly.
5:32 – 6:10 p.m. - I break the news as I appear on 1460 wifi-am sports talk radio in Philadelphia as a Flyers’ guest.
6:10 p.m. - present time – From the time I was off the air until the presser was the slowest hour and 50 minutes possible. So many questions ran through my head, couldn’t wait to get to Wachovia for the press conference. All kinds of rumors ran rapid and there he was…
…The 17th coach in franchise history; Peter Laviolette. Dressed in a crisp black suit, dark greasy hair and dark tie – ready to take on the world.
Laviolette said all the right things on a cool Friday night in south Philadelphia.
He spoke in a stern, meaningful tone.
"In Philly there's an expectation of success and I will do my best to fulfill that,” said Laviolette. "I want to see an aggressive style hockey in the offensive zone and get our D involved,” he added with the Flying ‘P’ gracefully hanging behind him.
To see and hear Laviolette refer to the Flyers as ‘us’ and ‘our’ finally made it sink it.
Peter Laviolette is the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers and John Stevens is not.
Chairman Ed Snider: nothing but good things about Stevens; President Peter Luukko: nothing but good things to say about Stevens. It was General Manager Paul Holmgren’s decision.
A decision that had to be made.
“This was a very difficult decision for me to make given my relationship with John. I want to thank him for his service to the Flyers organization over the years. However, in watching the team over the past few weeks I felt a new voice was needed in order to get us out of this and in the direction we expect,” said Holmgren.
“A new voice was needed” In my eyes, that is sugar coated, in a big way; he lost his team.
There is definitely a connection between Laviolette and Holmgren. They’ve worked together throughout the years with USA hockey and have been long-time friends.
The worst part, in my eyes, is that John Stevens was fired because he was simply too nice. The players no longer reacted to his voice and didn’t fear him. And that’s when things go bad. No matter how much Stevens was liked and respected; the bottom line is Flyers Nation wasn’t winning and a change was needed.
I wish nothing but the best for John Stevens, he’s been awesome to me as media member, Flyers fan and he is a stand-up professional. But in the cut-throat business of professional sports, the bottom line is ‘what have you done for me lately.’
But the future is now. Laviolette is the new man and he will try to take over what Stevens couldn’t.
The Flyers are 10th in the Eastern Conference and tied with the Rangers for last in the Atlantic Conference. I think Laviolette can turn that around.
He will compose a ‘run and gun’ offense, be fiery behind the bench and get his players to play for him. Holmgren made the right choice with this hiring. Laviolette brings his former assistant coach from Carolina, Kevin McCarthy (also long-time friend of Homer), they both won a cup in 2006 with Carolina.
Laviolette is a very talented coach and gets his teams to respond. The situation in Carolina was bad when he was fired - he has compiled winning regular season records for every NHL team he has coached, including a .683 winning percentage in 2005-06.
The 45-year-old, Laviolette, will make his debut behind the Flyers' bench on Saturday when the Flyers host the Washington Capitals. The Flyers have lost six of their last seven games and haven’t scored a goal in over eight periods (160+ minutes).
You can read all of those stats on other hockey sites; I am simply giving you my thoughts. I’m not going to bore you with stats and records and all of that stuff. Take it how you will; the Flyers made an upgrade behind the bench, bottom line.
One stat I will throw at you – this is the sixth head coach in the last nine years for the Orange-and-Black – does there come a time when it’s the product on the ice and not coaching? I can’t answer that, but I do know that the guys on the ice can show more fire. Laviolette should bring that out in them.
All-in-all, Laviolette was excited, but realizes the challenges at hand; he wasn’t overly enthused, rather a bit nervous, which in this case is a good thing.
One thing is for certain, Laviolette ended his press conference just like it began.
"Obviously this is a great opportunity. I am really excited," said Laviolette.
“Excited” was a term used more times than I could count.
NOTES: There was a rumor that Richards asked to turn-over his captaincy to Chris Pronger. Although I think Richards was rushed to wear the ‘C’ this is false. He is still the captain of the club. Also, I will be at Laviolette’s first game, tomorrow at the Wachovia Center. Like always, for fast information and breaking news, follow me on twitter here – www.twitter.com/DUSTINLEED