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Ousting John Stevens: Too soon, or a necessary decision?

The sole reason for this website is to mobilize the Flyers fan base and send a message to the Flyers organization. That message is that Head Coach John Stevens has had enough time to hone his coaching skills and mold this Flyers hockey team into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Instead, inconsistencies continue to plague Stevens and his players. And we're not talking about big name players going in and out of the lineup with injuries. We're talking about just about the entire squad falling asleep for 1-2 periods at a time, and then suddenly waking up in time to muster a late 3rd period effort that still falls short. They are the same issues from 2-3 years ago that still haven't been addressed, and they are reasons why this Flyers hockey team will not be able to contend with the NHL elites like the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been desimated [sic] by injuries all year long, yet still are sitting atop the Eastern Conference. It's called a "60 minute effort", and Stevens has yet to show that he can get that concept across to his team.

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In professional sports, the coach is always the scapegoat. No matter what the team or the situation, if a team is under performing, it's easier to say goodbye to one guy than to do so with a whole case of players. If the Flyers continue to play inconsistent hockey as they have over the last, oh, 100 regular season games or so, it's perfectly plausible to think John Stevens could be gone as the bench boss of this club.

And these rumors have circulated in the past, like when the team opened the season winless in their first six last season, or when they lost 10 straight the year before, or when the Flyers fell to Pittsburgh for the second season in a row. But never have the waves of discontent seemed as violent as they do now. The dissent seems louder now among Flyer fans, here on this site, in other places on the web (as evidenced by the above quote), and even in the media.

Over the weekend, Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer penned an opinion article that questioned Stevens ability to mold the Flyers into Stanley Cup contenders, using those same Penguins as an example.

If this inconsistency continues, the calls for coach John Stevens' job will grow louder. Last season's Penguins are the model franchise for getting results with an in-season coaching change. The Penguins were 27-25-5 and 10th in the Eastern Conference when coach Michel Therrien was fired in mid-February. Therrien's replacement, Dan Bylsma, led the Pens to an 18-3-4 regular-season finish, the fourth seeding, and the Stanley Cup.

It's a different situation here in Philly, though. In Pittsburgh, Therrien had lost his team. They simply didn't want to play for him and his defensive style was not suited to their talent. It would be a lot like if Ken Hitchcock were still around coaching this Flyers bunch. Carchidi even mentions that "the Flyers love playing for the hardworking Stevens," so how can a parallel be drawn here?

That's not to say there aren't legitimate questions to ask. The fact of the matter is -- and we all know it -- that this team has been unacceptable inconsistent since the start of last season and even before then. John Stevens has been the coach the entire time.  But Mike Richards has also been captain the entire time. And Jeff Carter has been his wing man. And Kimmo Timonen has been an assistant captain. And... well, you get the point. Could it be the players, not the coach?

It seems Daily News beat writer Frank Seravalli believes so. He wrote an opinion piece today defending Stevens, but it was one quote from an unnamed Flyers player that stands out.

"It's not Johnny," the player who asked not to be named told Seravalli. "We have a lot of problems right now. He's not one of them. His systems work. He is in our face when we're not doing what we're supposed to. He has a lot more fire than people know about. For whatever reason, we've let him down."

What could those reasons be? The injuries are the most obvious problem. Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Darroll Powe, Blair Betts, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen have all missed considerable time, forcing players like Jared Ross, David Laliberte, Andreas Nodl, Oskars Bartulis and Danny Syvret into the lineup. Some of those players have stunk up the joint while others have been serviceable, but it's still a dramatic drop in NHL talent.

The power play has failed them lately. The penalty kill has been terrible, too. And one could argue this team is built around superior special teams ability. When those units don't click, success probably isn't going to come. How is that Stevens fault?

The argument could be made, of course, that the inconsistency was there before the injuries and the recent struggles -- it's been here for years now. But who knows how much of that is truly Stevens fault. Could the team be too comfortable playing for Stevens? Could they need a shakeup in the so-called leadership group? Could the front office be the real problem, not giving Stevens the proper tools he needs?

I don't know if we'll ever know the answers to these questions. I just hope we don't toss out another coach just because it's the easy way out.