Blame the players, not the coach.
That was general manager Paul Holmgren’s message Thursday after the Flyers fledging playoff hopes faded a little more following a 5-2 loss to the Devils on Thursday.
Is Laviolette on the hot seat?
“I don’t think so,” Holmgren replied. “The coaches have done a good job. Right now, our team needs to play better. We’re making a lot of mistakes. A lot from our lack of competitiveness. Our team needs to compete better. I don't like the way we're playing right now, but I don't necessarily blame that on the coach.”
Asked if the Flyers continue to lose games in the manner they have, would he revisit thinking of making a coaching change, Holmgren replied, “I haven't even thought about it. You guys keep asking these questions about the coach and it hasn't even entered my mind.”
Holmgren said the “competitive” aspect is entirely on the players.
“They’re the ones on the ice,” he said. “I don’t think we can let the players off the hook here."
He also said the Flyers are losing too many “battles” on the ice for pucks, positioning, etc.
“It comes down to one-on-one battles,” he said. “If you don’t win some of those battles, you’re probably gonna lose.”
He pointed to the Devils loss as an example.
“If there’s a hundred puck battles [there], I don’t know if we won a handful of them,” he said. “That’s got to get better.”
The Flyers are mired as the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. They face the Devils again on Friday here.
“Nobody is really happy with the position we are in or the way we’ve played,” Holmgren said. “Get better quickly. Hopefully, that starts tomorrow. I’m not at that point, well, I’m not sure we’d ever make a big trade. I think that’s just speculation.”
Holmgren said he likes the makeup of the roster and doesn’t want to pull a trigger on a big deal to disrupt the entire team.
As for the Flyers playoff prospects, he’s not ready to concede.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us with the part of the schedule we’ve already played and the points we’ve missed out on attaining,” he said. "That’s a difficult task. It’s still something that could be done.”
Holmgren didn’t downplay the significance of not having Jaromir Jagr here and how he had helped Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell become better.
That said, “they’re not here,” Holmgren said. The players who are “have to do the job.”
It’s a given in pro sports, coaches have a short shelf life to win a championship, roughly five years.
Laviolette has been here parts of four years, as was Ken Hitchcock. Have the players tuned him out?
“Sometimes I don’t know what players think,” Holmgren said. “They should be thinking about doing their jobs more than anything. We’re in a situation where a lot of our players aren’t doing their jobs to the best of their ability. It needs to get better.”
Holmgren met with the players before practice earlier on Thursday. He walked around the room, talking with a stick in his hand.
Said one player, "I'm sure he wanted to spear every one of us."
Holmgren said Kimmo Timonen and Simon Gagne had maintenance days off the ice and that Luke Schenn still has the flu, but was feeling better. … Holmgren also said the flu might be spreading around the dressing room as Bruno Gervais was sick, as well, after the game but was feeling better on Thursday.