Why now? Timing of Laviolette's firing debatable

Why now? Timing of Laviolette's firing debatable

Holmgren says it was a 'gut' decision to fire Laviolette

October 7, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Peter Laviolette's firing three games into the season was the shortest ever for an NHL coach. (AP)

The timing. That’s what everyone will focus on. That’s what everyone always focuses on.

When the Eagles fired Andy Reid, some people wondered what took so long. When the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel, some people wondered why the franchise didn’t let him finish out the season. When the Sixers parted company with Doug Collins -- well, that one probably happened right when everyone expected.

This was different. This was sudden. This was, quite literally, waking up to find out that the Flyers made major news Monday morning by pressing the ejector seat button and launching Peter Laviolette into the unemployment stratosphere (see story).

Laviolette is out after three games and three losses. According to Elias, it’s the quickest an NHL coach has ever been fired. The Flyers made history on Monday, though probably not the kind anyone will remember fondly.

“There’s no question in my mind, anybody looking at this from the outside looking in, would say that three games is totally unfair,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. “But, quite honestly, training camp was a disaster. I’ve been to 47 training camps and I’ve never seen one that I felt was worse.

“That’s not talking about Peter. That’s talking about our players, and it carried right on over to the first three games of the season. It’s not simply the three games you saw. There’s more to it than that. Basically, there are a lot of things I know that are private. Bottom line is, I have great respect for Peter Laviolette. I’m sorry this has happened to him. He’s a class act. He’s done a great job for us. He got us to the Stanley Cup Finals, within a game of winning the damn thing.”

General manager Paul Holmgren did some of the same -- lauded Laviolette while pushing him out and putting in Craig Berube. Holmgren said Laviolette “worked his ass off” for the Flyers while simultaneously saying that he had “concerns” about the direction of the team dating back to the end of last season.

Holmgren rattled off a number of reasons for the change, from the aforementioned training camp issues to the team’s slow start to perhaps needing a “fresh voice” and “fresh perspective.” Ultimately, Holmgren said it was a “gut feeling.” He said that several times.

The question remains: Why now? Why didn’t Holmgren’s gut bother him this much after the Flyers missed the playoffs last season? Why did his gut start making noise after just three games this season?

As Holmgren acknowledged, “0-3 is 0-3. We still got a long way to go in terms of the season. But it was more about how we played. It was unacceptable. We don’t look like a team at all.”

Maybe not, but they do look like a team that changed a coach quicker than any NHL organization ever had. Laviolette was just the second man to coach the Flyers in parts of five seasons. He was right at the top in terms of tenure, which goes a long way toward explaining the short shelf-life of that position for that franchise. Berube is the 11th coach in the last two decades.

If it seemed to you like there were points when Snider and Holmgren and the rest defended the organization against the perception that they’re constantly kicking coaches to the curb, you aren’t alone. There were some tense moments during the press conference. Afterward, Snider tried to explain why Laviolette was held responsible for players who hadn’t performed.

“Unfortunately, in the business we’re in, the only way to find out [about the players] is to make a change,” Snider said. “You can’t get rid of all the players. This is why coaches lose their jobs and sometimes lose them because of the players, but we don’t know that until we make a change. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. We think our players are better than they’ve looked.”

So, someone asked Snider, you fire the coach because you can’t get rid of the players?

“Right,” Snider replied. “You show me a way to do that, we’ll be glad to do that instead.”

Coaches get fired frequently in all sports, but especially in the NHL. The timing, though. The timing is really the thing here.

Was it fair to fire Laviolette just three games into the season? Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko considered the question for a moment before responding.

“I don’t know that there’s ever a good time to fire someone,” he said.