Flyers insist coach Laviolette doesn't deserve blame

Flyers insist coach Laviolette doesn't deserve blame

March 14, 2013, 11:30 am
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NEWARK, N.J. -- A sense of doom has been hanging over the Flyers’ collective heads for a while now.
 
They've suffered four critical losses over the last five games to teams ahead of them in Eastern Conference standings, and it's made for uncomfortable post-game moments.
 
Management – and that includes general manager Paul Holmgren, team president Peter Luukko and, ultimately, club chairman Ed Snider - have three choices:
 
•  agree there is little to be done now in a lockout-shortened season and make adjustments over the summer

•  shake up the dressing room with a major trade and hope it sparks a playoff run    

•  fire coach Peter Laviolette
 
From the players' perspective, they say this is on them, not Laviolette, and the coach shouldn’t take the fall.
 
“It's not something that we sit here and talk about,” Danny Briere said on Wednesday. “Everybody is aware that we're not where we should be or we haven't played as well as should have in the early part of the season. We're aware of that, but, look, it's a business. I think most teams in our situation, when you're expected to win, are not going to be happy and looking to make change if they can improve.
 
“It's not any different, but we're not sitting here waiting for something to happen. We're trying to do it ourselves.”
 
Scott Hartnell says that Laviolette has left no stone unturned in trying to find answers as to why this team plays below expectations.
 
“Lavy's emotional,” Hartnell said. “He's intense. He thinks the game really well. His bench awareness is great. It's definitely not his fault. I think a lot of guys have a lot of respect for him.”
 
Laviolette was told the players have his back after Wednesday’s loss at Prudential Center.
 
“Does that make me feel good? No,” he said. “We needed to win a hockey game tonight. We're all in here trying to win a game. We weren't successful.”
 
Injuries have plagued the Flyers from the start and have made it difficult to find cohesion, especially on a rebuilt defense that has proven it’s nowhere near as strong as it was last season or the year before.
 
If Laviolette is to accept blame for the Flyers' looking bad on the ice, then Holmgren has to take the larger share for a poor offseason in which the sum of the parts leaving the Flyers was greater than those coming in.
 
There was no comprehensive plan after the Flyers failed to land Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Shea Weber. It was all or nothing.
 
Anyone who thought the Flyers' defense was stronger and offensive firepower was deeper when this season began is overlooking reality.
 
Too many men on the ice. Bad decisions in front of the net. Neutral zone turnovers. Risky plays at the point. Bad bounces. No “jam” at the start while the other team beats them to every puck even though the club has had days between games.
 
That’s the reality. And it’s been that for a while now.
 
While Holmgren and Luukko support Laviolette, that doesn’t mean Snider, who’s grown restless at not winning that ever-elusive third Stanley Cup, doesn’t raise his voice and demand a coaching change if the Flyers can’t, at least, make a competitive run for a playoff spot.
 
“It's not his [Laviolette's] fault,” Kimmo Timonen said. “We play the game. It's always easy to blame the coach. He only places the system down and we have to execute the system. If we don't, then that's our fault. So it shouldn't be his fault.”
 
Briere agrees and cautions people need to remember the success the franchise has enjoyed under a coach who will pass Ken Hitchcock (130 wins) this season as the fourth, winningest in franchise history.
 
“That's definitely not the problem,” Briere said. “It's not what we're looking at, it's not what we want, it's not what we expect. You know, we'd have some really good seasons with Lavy. It's definitely not where the problem lies.
 
“It's the players. We have to play better. We have to execute and make the plays. We've talked about it. We've been too inconsistent. We've made too many mistakes that have cost us games. That's where the problems is.”
 
The players keep talking about turning it around and rising to the occasion in critical games that matter, yet it’s been all talk, no action on the ice.
 
In 2009-10, the Flyers sunk to 14th in the Eastern Conference on Dec. 25 in Game 35. They began 13-11-1 under John Stevens who was fired on Dec. 3, 2009.
 
They finished 28-24-5 under Laviolette to earn a playoff spot on the final day of the season, then went on an amazing playoff run into the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.
 
Thursday, after Game 28 of the 2013 season, they remain 11th with a 12-15-1 record. With 20 games left, there is nothing to suggest the Flyers are going to make a playoff run, yet mathematically, they are still alive.
 
“We need to go out and execute what we have to do,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “There’s a plan out there we need to follow and sometimes we get away from it. It cost us another two points.”
 
Briere hasn’t given up, mostly because he remembers the spring of  2010.
 
“I don't know if there was a good thing that it clicked, but I know we got on a roll,” he said. “We were 14th in the conference, then we climbed back up winning games and gaining a lot of confidence. Hopefully, we can do that again.”
 
Timonen says at this point, it’s in the players’ hands. He doesn’t worry about who might be traded or who might lose their job.
 
“I don't think about it,” he said. “We shouldn't be thinking about that. We should be thinking about how we're going to beat the New Jersey Devils. If we start thinking about issues [with] what's going on off the ice, it's not going to help us. What happens, happens. It's not really in our hands. What matters is what we do on the ice.”

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