Peter Laviolette is known as a demanding coach who instills an up-tempo, puck-pursuit system in his teams. His system emphasizes conditioning because players are expected to keep their feet moving all over the ice. Players are expected to hit the blue line with speed, battle aggressively for pucks along the wall, actively cycle the puck in the offensive zone, win races for loose pucks all over the ice, back-check aggressively as they fore-check, and so on.
While I am not a professional athlete, I am very active in terms of working out. I usually engage in various forms of exercise six days a week, but I make sure to vary my routines. This is because I have learned firsthand how repetitive exercises – in which one pushes one’s body to the limit – can have negative consequences. At best, it leads to fatigue. At worst, it leads to injury.
Given the Flyers’ severe drop-off of late, I could not help but wonder whether or not it had to do with fatigue brought on in part by Peter Laviolette’s very demanding system of play. So I decided to look at his record as a head coach in the NHL and see how his teams started out each season (Games 1-47) and how they finished (Games 48-82).
The results may surprise you. The good news: We may get to step back from the ledge after all.
Before you go racing over to hockey-reference.com and tell me that my numbers are wrong, let me explain how my standings system works. It is basically the same system Geoff uses when he calculates Power Rankings.
- First Column: Wins in Regulation and 5:00 OT Period.
- Second Column: Losses in Regulation and 5:00 OT Period.
- Third Column: Ties (2001-2004) / Shootout Appearances (2005-Present).
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how everyone has done under Laviolette.
FIRST 47 GAMES OF THE REGULAR SEASON:
- 2001-02 NYI: 24-16-5
- 2002-03 NYI: 21-19-5
- 2003-04 CAR: 7-9-1 *
- 2005-06 CAR: 29-14-4
- 2006-07 CAR: 24-20-3
- 2007-08 CAR: 21-24-2
- 2008-09 CAR: 11-12-2 #
- 2009-10 PHI: 9-11-2 $
- 2010-11 PHI: 30-13-4
FINAL 35 GAMES OF THE REGULAR SEASON:
- 2001-02 NYI: 18-14-3
- 2002-03 NYI: 13-15-7
- 2003-04 CAR: 13-17-5 *
- 2005-06 CAR: 15-14-6
- 2006-07 CAR: 16-17-2
- 2007-08 CAR: 18-12-5
- 2009-10 PHI: 17-16-2 $
- 2010-11 PHI: 14-15-6
PLAYOFFS?!?!? PLEASE, DO TALK ABOUT... PLAYOFFS:
- 2001-02 NYI: Lost 3-4 to Toronto in Conference Quarterfinals
- 2002-03 NYI: Lost 1-4 to Ottawa in Conference Quarterfinals
- 2003-04 CAR: Did Not Qualify
- 2005-06 CAR: WON STANLEY CUP
- 2006-07 CAR: Did Not Qualify
- 2007-08 CAR: Did Not Qualify
- 2009-10 PHI: Lost 2-4 to Chicago in Stanley Cup Finals
2010-11 PHI: Lost 0-4 to Boston in Conference Semifinals
* : Mid-Season Replacement for Paul Maurice; first-half record is from Games 31-47.
# : Fired 25 games into Regular Season.
$ : Mid-Season Replacement for John Stevens; first-half record is from Games 26-47.
WHAT’S GOIN’ ON? (In Marvin Gaye Voice)
- Peter Laviolette has coached six complete seasons. In three of them, his teams started strong and then dropped off - 2001-02 NYI, 2005-06 CAR, and 2010-11 PHI. Rate of occurrence: 50%
- For two of the other complete seasons that Laviolette has coached, teams that started off mediocre slightly dropped off - 2002-03 NYI and 2006-07 CAR. Rate of occurrence: 33.33%
- Only once during a full season coached did a mediocre Laviolette team improve – the 2007-08 Carolina Hurricanes. Rate of occurrence: 16.67%
- During his two seasons as a mid-season replacement, one team improved slightly (last year’s Flyers) and one pretty much stayed the same – the 2003-04 Carolina Hurricanes. In fact, those ‘Canes were probably his most consistent team. Fancy that.
If we look at all eight of the seasons where Laviolette coached into the post-season (not including 2008-09):
- Five of the teams dropped off to varying extents during the last 35 games. That’s 62.5% of the time.
- Twice, teams improved during those last 35 games. That’s 25% of the time.
- Once, a team remained consistent. That’s 12.5% of the time.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Laviolette’s up-tempo system may have something to do with the Flyers’ struggles. Given the fact that 62.5% of all Laviolette’s teams drop off over the last 35 games of the regular season, I don’t think it’s that far off to suggest something like this. Physical fatigue leads to injuries and mental mistakes, and we’ve been seeing both in spades lately. The mental part, in particular, may be why the Flyers can’t explain themselves after bad losses.
One more bit of hope: If the Flyers win their last two games this year, they’ll have the same record over their last 35 games that the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes did, and they turned out okay.
What do you all think?