Peter Laviolette is an assistant coach of Team USA's 2014 Olympic Team. He was the head coach of the team in 2006. (AP)
The best thing that could have happened for Peter Laviolette was a little distraction from the boredom of a four-month long offseason.
Perhaps something like a Team USA orientation camp just prior to the start of Flyers rookie camp, which opens today at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
“The Olympic team is added work, but certainly welcomed by me,” Laviolette said. “I’m excited about it and the opportunity to go there and represent the United States. I think that is a great opportunity to do something good for our country and the sport of hockey. I’m really excited about that.”
That camp got Laviolette’s juices flowing again. Got him in the right frame of mind for this brief camp that leads directly into the Flyers’ full training camp next week (Sept. 12).
He'll go from Team USA to the Flyers without missing a beat.
“I did this before in 2006 from a head coaching role, and I understand the balance that needs to take place and didn’t seem to really affect anything we did with Carolina that year,” Laviolette said. “It starts to get you back into that [hockey mode]. There was stuff done before that with the Flyers, but I do think it puts you back into the rink with meetings and players there and we had to run systems meetings. It jump-starts you and gets you going for the season.”
It’s not very often the Flyers don’t make the playoffs. For Laviolette, summer began in early May and he couldn’t wait for it to end.
“It’s tough when you don’t get to do what you wanted and have to watch the playoffs,” he said.
“It doesn’t have the same meaning on the outside as when you are inside and competing. I think I found late spring and early summer to be hard to handle. It wasn’t the plan, the goal or where we wanted to be.
“After you get by that, for me, it was exciting knowing guys are coming back healthy from where we were last year. The man games we lost, it’s exciting guys are coming back full health for the most part.”
There are 25 rookies in this camp and one amateur tryout (defenseman Mark Nemec from Maine).
Assuming a full healthy Flyers roster -- including Claude Giroux -- there really aren’t any obvious holes to be filled where a rookie prospect could be plugged into the mix, but there will be at least one forward spot filled by some lucky player -- maybe Scott Laughton.
The question is, can Laughton stick around this time? Last year, he made it through five games before going back to Oshawa.
Laughton, Nick Cousins and Petr Straka are all hoping to do something now to get onto the Flyers' roster.
Who has the best shot?
“I would say Scott,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “We’ve got to give him an opportunity to see what he does. Give him some games, just based on what he did last year. The rest is up to the players and how they look.
“Some really stand out in the practices. We’ve got the rookie game with the Capitals, and we’ll continue to take looks at them.”
If Laughton and Tye McGinn, who is not in this camp, are both on the roster, that’s 14 forwards right there on the 23-man roster.
Defensively, Mark Alt might be the only blueliner capable of making things tough for someone but again, the coaching staff is hoping the blue line gets pushed. Alt could do that.
In Laviolette’s mind, some prospect just might surprise.
“For me to tell you there is no room on our team for them, I won’t do it,” Laviolette said. “I’m not gonna say that at all. Wouldn’t it be great if Player X came in and made it hard for us to do anything else?
“I know that would be a great thing. I don’t think that is the case -- there is no room. If someone can find themselves a spot, that is what training camp and exhibition games are all about.”
Defense is already overstocked -- a rarity for the Flyers -- with seven likely set to the roster: Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Erik Gustafsson, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros.
What happens to Bruno Gervais and Oliver Lauridsen? That’s the current log jam that makes Alt’s job in this rookie camp that much harder.
“It will play out,” Holmgren said. “It’s not a bad thing to have that many players and that much depth. As we saw last year, we ran into some issues through injuries. You never know.”