Peter Laviolette was introduced tonight as the seventeenth head coach in Philadelphia Flyers history. He'll be behind the bench for the first time tomorrow night as the Flyers host the Washington Capitals. Right off the bat, what can we expect out of the new bench boss?
The first and most important thing to know is that he cherishes an aggressive offensive style. It's how his teams have always run, and it's one of the first things he mentioned to the Philadelphia media when introduced to them Friday evening.
"Moving forward, I'd like to see a very aggressive brand of hockey," Laviolette said. "Aggressive in the offensive zone. Get our D activated, get our D moving."
About an hour before the press conference in which the new coach made that statement, Broad Street Hockey spoke with Bob Wage of 'Canes Country, a man who has seen obviously a lot of Laviolette over the last decade, considering he led the Hurricanes from 2003 to 2008. Almost verbatim with the coach, Wage detailed the type of system he implemented when he joined the Carolina organization.
"Laviolette instituted a new system, an aggressive system," Wage said, "and the Hurricanes went from being the lowest scoring team in the NHL (before his hiring) to a high scoring team. He loves to chase the puck and play at least a two man fore check."
That type of up-tempo hockey clearly worked for Carolina and helped them win a Stanley Cup under Laviolette in 2006. When you consider the scorers that were on that team, beyond Eric Staal, they were relatively mediocre. Who would you rather have, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, and Cory Stillman, or Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, and Mike Richards? The Flyers have much more talent up front than Laviolette ever had to deal with in Carolina, and this offense should absolutely flourish under his system.
Things weren't perfect in Carolina, though. Wage told us of the struggles Laviolette's Hurricanes had on the other side of the puck.
"The argument against him," Wage told us, "was that his system was weak defensively -- watch the odd man rushes coming at you -- and once the rest of the league figured it out, he did not have the ability to change it or adapt."
Fortunately for the Flyers, they also have a much better defensive squad than the 'Canes ever did. Let's play the game again: who would you rather have? Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Corvo, and Mike Commodore, or Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, and Matt Carle?
With an up-tempo offensive style, the opposition is going to get breaks in the opposite direction. It happens to every team that runs that kind of system. What you need to be successful while playing that type of game is a very strong blueline. The Flyers have just that. But even with a run-of-the-mill defense, the Hurricanes were able to play Laviolette's system on their way to second place in the Eastern Conference during the 2005-06 regular season and a Stanley Cup that postseason. That simple fact makes me confident that this current crop of Flyers will be just fine under their new coach on the ice.
Off the ice, of course, is where bigger questions are raised.
It's obvious the Flyers have leadership issues. That very well may be one of the major reasons John Stevens is no longer head coach, as many believed he wasn't hard enough with his players or brutally honest enough or however you want to put it. It seems Laviolette is the polar opposite.
"I think you have to be tough on players," he said Friday night in Philadelphia ."I want players playing hard. I want them running out the door and to play the game hard in a system that attacks the puck in all three zones."
In what could be read as a passing jab toward the problems that have plagued this Flyers team in the past, stupid penalties on the ice and excessive partying off of it, Laviolette continued the sentiment.
"If you can get a team that works hard and if you can get a team that's disciplined, not only in the penalty box, but disciplined in their life, disciplined in the system you put on the ice. And if you can get a team that cares about each other, there's nothing you can't do. I truly believe that."
Laviolette is certainly more vocal and more outward with his emotions than Stevens, and maybe that's a change that this young, sometimes seemingly disobedient group of Flyers needs. He'll hold them accountable at every turn and he'll make sure that when one player makes a mistake, everybody knows about it.
Will he be the right fit in Philadelphia? From a hockey perspective, it seems so. From an in-the-locker-room perspective, it remains to be seen. But take it from a Carolina fan who's seen this trick before.
"He is certainly his own man and might have a bit of an ego," Wage said, "but... he gets things done. I think he's a great fit for you guys, but he seems to wear out his welcome after a bit. Will he be your head coach five years from now? The odds are, no."
If the Flyers can win a Stanley Cup or two in the interim, then Peter Laviolette will be a success here.
Thanks to Bob from 'Canes Country for taking the time to quickly and effectively answering our questions Friday afternoon. If you'd like an interesting take inside the firing of Peter Laviolette in Carolina last December, read this post over at his site.