After taking the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, the Flyers decided to part ways with head coach Peter Laviolette three games into the 2013 season. After his dismissal the Flyers have struggled to find success, and now four seasons removed Laviolette has now brought his third NHL team to a Stanley Cup Final. So was it a mistake to let Laviolette go or did the change benefit both parties?
When Laviolette was fired, it’s no secret he was on the hot seat. After missing the playoffs in the 2012 shortened lockout season, the team proceeded to have a poor start to the 2013 season which included a 1-5-1 preseason record followed by an 0-3 start to the regular season. Even with the success he experienced in his tenure as the Flyers coach, the team decided that this stretch was enough to dismiss him and start fresh in attempting to return to the playoffs.
However in 2013 the Flyers were bogged down by poor contracts and players, and its likely no coach could have taken this team to the Stanley Cup Finals. 20.25 million of the salary cap was being used for the contracts of Vincent Lecalvier, Scott Hartnell, Mark Streit, and Kimmo Timonen, who were all past 31 years old. Of course Timonen had a tremendous career with the Flyers, but at 38 he wasn’t producing like he did in earlier seasons. Further, clear unproductive players such as Jay Rosehill, Zac Rinaldo, and Luke Schenn were all logging minutes. Combining the mixture of slow veterans past their prime with players who clearly lacked hockey skill, and the team wasn’t going anywhere.
There were simply too many issues and problems with the team, and the departure of Laviolette you certainly couldn’t argue against then. General manager Paul Holmgren‘s win now method was destroying the team on the books, and it almost seems like the coaching switch was the first domino to kick Holmgren out of the general manager position. After Laviolette the Flyers have committed to Ron Hextall‘s method of rebuilding the team by acquiring prospects through the draft and making decisions that won’t mortgage the team’s future.
Further, the coaching contract of Laviolette was going to expire after the 2014 NHL season regardless. It’s unlikely that a coach of his caliber would stick with a rebuilding team, so it’s very likely the Flyers would have lost him in the offseason anyway. The early departure also allowed the Flyers to experiment with Craig Berube and Dave Hakstol as coaches. While Berube wasn’t able to find success, Hakstol still has the potential of being the future leader of the team.
The bottom line, is Laviolette is a fantastic NHL coach and his three Stanley Cup Finals appearances solidifies that. His time in Philadelphia had simply run his course and it wasn’t his fault for general manager Paul Holmgren’s poor decisions being reflected on the ice. While Laviolette is enjoying success now, the direction Flyers have taken since his departure has put them in a position to have a successful future.