Three games: Why the Flyers made a coaching change so quickly

Paul Bereswill

Missing the postseason, Paul Holmgren's job status, a weak training camp and a poor start to the season: How it all came together to lead to a Flyers coaching change.

You've probably seen a lot of talk about "Flyer culture" and Ed Snider talking about not needing "a fresh perspective" in Philadelphia. Those were the quotes that made headlines Monday, but the more interesting talking point from the chairman might be this one, via CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio:

"I thought our training camp, quite frankly, was one of the worst training camps I had ever seen," club chairman Ed Snider said.

"Not talking about wins or losses. There was nothing exciting. Nobody shined. Nobody looked good. I couldn't point to one thing as a positive and I was personally worried. Unfortunately, my worries were realized in the first three games."

I hate the thought of reading too much into anything that happens before the season starts, I really do. I've said several times before that I feel like training camp and the preseason is pretty much a waste of time when it comes to trying to get a good read on teams and even players (and I still feel that way).

But part of why I feel that way is because training camp is a time where positives are always accentuated. Think about it: When was the last time you read a quote anything like that one from Ed Snider? From good teams to shitty teams alike, training camps are always full of good reports about guys who were impressive in practice. Canned quotes during the month of September are usually pretty positive, even when a team is losing preseason games.

It's not much of a secret that the team had an underwhelming training camp. The third-line winger spot that seemed to have a dozen different candidates ended up being given to Max Talbot after nobody else emerged to take it. But to hear that acknowledged point-blank is different, and maybe does say something about where Peter Laviolette's relationship with this team was.

I don't like the thought that this decision was made in part because the team had a bad training camp, but having a bad training camp is a really hard thing to do. If what Snider's saying is true, maybe there's something to it.

All that said, though, one oft-repeated refrain from yesterday is relevant here: If "nobody looked good", how much of that is on the coach for not getting his guys into shape to play, and how much of that is on the guys picking the players for not having enough talent there to fill out a competitive roster from top to bottom?

It's some of both, for sure. How much of each it is, well ... that's the million dollar question.

***

A lot of the heat is certainly on Paul Holmgren, and that's part of why this decision came so quickly. If a decision wasn't made quickly and things continued to go south this season, it would only cement Homer's fate. Ron Hextall peers over his shoulder everyday and he can see the writing on the wall just as much as we all can.

Holmgren needs the playoffs this season for his own job security, and if he knew after training camp and three games that Laviolette didn't have control of the team, it would make sense to make a move quickly.

We've already talked about the timing of the coaching change a bit, but Elliotte Friedman of CBC has some more thoughts.

Holmgren admitted Monday he did briefly consider the idea [of firing Laviolette in the offseason]. But he thought "it was important Laviolette get another shot with a training camp." It became very clear, however, the GM and Flyers owner Ed Snider quickly realized that wasn't going to fix the team's problems.

--snip--

The evidence is pretty compelling that, even if Holmgren made the change in the summer, Craig Berube had a serious shot at being the replacement anyway.

There is no interim tag here (cue the "You're always an interim coach in Philadelphia" jokes). Berube certainly fits the "once a Flyer, always a Flyer" mould, but it's unfair to paint him solely with that brush.

It's kind of crazy that Holmgren and the management team wouldn't let things play out any longer than training camp and three games after giving Holmgren and the management team Laviolette a vote of confidence last summer, but when you factor in Holmgren's job status with missing the playoffs last year and a weak training camp, it starts to make more sense.

That the team clearly had Berube in mind dating back to last year only furthers that point: They had essentially hand-picked Laviolette's replacement going into the season and were confident enough in him that they were willing to give him the job quite quickly.

The one question remains: If you really like him that much, why not give him the reins months ago? I get that he's already got a level of familiarity with the roster, being an assistant coach and all, so the learning curve isn't THAT big. But if he's truly going to implement systemic change, every minute and day he gets to do that helps.

All of that said, it's nice to see smart, respected national writers like Friedman giving some credence to Berube as a guy whose qualifications go beyond being an assistant coach for with the Flyers for a couple of years.

Here's to hoping he's right, both for the Flyers sake and the sake of Holmgren's job.

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