With a season start of 3 straight losses, the Flyers were quickly calling for change. Monday morning the Flyers held a press conference announcing that head coach Peter Laviolette was released and his assistant coach, Craig Berube, would be taking over. In the short press conference we got a glimpse of how the team got to be a kind of joke to fans and the league with Chairman Ed Snider’s anger and quick defensiveness of the culture he’s helped bring about with the quickly famous line “We don’t need a fresh perspective”.
Snider’s misguided anger aside; Berube’s hiring caused a slight controversy, with a lot of people wondering if the team would respond to Berube as a head coach. When a team fires their coach to inspire a change usually the idea is for a CHANGE. Moving Berube up was a questionable move because of familiarity with the team alone. When a new coach is brought in players have no idea how that coach feels about them or if their jobs are safe, to keep their roster spot every man will work harder and prove that they deserve to stay on, when the Flyers fired Stevens and brought in Laviolette there was an obvious change in play, but with Berube that uncertainty isn’t there. These players know him, hell they even like him which doesn’t exactly make it seem like they’ll be fighting for a job. On the other hand people pointed out his extensive experience as coach/assistant coach and his Flyers mindset and feel like it’s his time to step up; but maybe he should be stepping up somewhere else.
We look to Berube’s first game for a sign of what’s to come and gauge whether he can turn the team around early. Fans were relieved when the Flyers managed a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers, but it didn’t come easy and the only reason they stayed ahead was because of solid goaltending from Steve Mason. Other than the score, not much looked different about the Flyers. There was minimal Flyers possession in the whole game and passes still failed to hit their mark over and over leading to a lot of turnovers and Panthers offensive surges. They still were barely able to clear the puck from their end of the ice and let’s not even get started on the miserable power play work (how is “everyone stand on the blue line then we’ll pass it backwards” considered a viable strategy for a power play rush?) In fact the only thing that was obviously different about the beginning of the Berube era was the line combinations. But we won so something must be different right? Not so much. The game winning goal only happened because Thomas was injured leaving the net wide open, Coburn’s goal didn’t seem much like an improvement goal to me as it did a lucky break. Besides that, the Flyers couldn’t capitalize on the power plays, didn’t have a lot of chances, couldn’t clear the zone and the defense had a couple of breakdowns that were only saved by Mason so this game could have easily gone the other way.
It’s still early and this might be a bit critical of Berube, after all he only had 1 day to work with the team, but as of now it doesn’t seem like system that got Laviolette fired went with him. I do believe that there’s still hope for Berube to keep the wins coming, but that’s only if the Laviolete fog is cleared from this team.