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Questions Facing the Flyers: The First Full Season Under Lavvy

Questions Facing the Flyers: The First Full Season Under Lavvy

Despite a surprisingly disappointing 2009-2010 regular season, the Flyers came together at exactly the right time and gave us a great run to the Stanley Cup Finals. As the 2010-2011 season approaches, we’ll take a look at some of the questions currently facing the team—questions which, should they be answered positively, could get them that one huge step further. Today, it’s what the impact of a full training camp, preseason, and regular season under head coach Peter Laviolette will mean.

John Stevens was a popular coach both with his players and within the organization, all the way to the top. He’d won a Calder Cup as a Phantoms player and as coach, the latter while guiding a few future stars in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Stevens also helped to quickly turn around a Flyers team that in 2006-2007 endured its worst-ever season, winning just 22 games. The following year, benefiting from a busy summer in trades and free agency, Stevens led the Flyers back to the playoffs and into the Eastern Conference Finals. However, after bowing out to the Penguins in back-to-back postseasons and getting off to a sluggish, uninspired start in 2009-2010, Stevens was fired after 26 games because the club thought it needed a change.

Some of Stevens’ players acknowledged that their play was the reason he’d lost his job, and they had a point. But what became clear after he was fired, even as the club continued the whole season at about the W-L pace it had set under Stevens, was that this particular group of players needed a different set of lungs behind the whistle at practice and a different voice behind the bench in games. 

Even before Stevens was fired, Peter Laviolette’s name was being whispered as a possible successor in Philadelphia. He’d already won a Stanley Cup in Carolina, but was currently out of coaching after being fired by the Hurricanes upon missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after their Cup-winning campaign. Twenty-five games into the 20008-2009 season, Laviolette was relieved of coaching duties with a 12-11-2 record; Stevens’ record when fired by the Flyers in 2009-2010? 13-11-1.

That about sums up how it works for coaches in the NHL. Keep winning, or a new voice will be sought.

Looking for that new voice, Paul Holmgren went with a man considered in some ways to be a polar opposite to Stevens and hired Laviolette out of the broadcast studio. Lavvy had no history with the franchise or these players. He owed them nothing individually. He was known as a fiery presence, a stark contrast to Stevens’ perceived (at least in public) stoicism and quieter ways. And he was also known as a strict coach with a high regard for conditioning and hard practices. With a team that was dramatically underperforming for both its skill level and salary commitment, all of this sounded to be exactly what the Flyers needed, although even after his firing, many fans continued to believe that the team’s shortcomings were not the fault of Stevens.

The team lacked chemistry, and stretches of dominance were followed by a few putrid games that would undo any progress and confidence. If a coaching change didn’t work, an off-season overhaul was increasingly likely.

Perceived as a coach who had little tolerance for lapses in discipline, and according to some who followed him in Carolina, no interest in fighting, it wasn’t immediately certain that Laviolette was going to be a perfect fit with this group of players. There were questions as to whether some guys (Dan Carcillo) would be watching from the press box or soon shipped off in a trade, as well as questions as to how the team would respond to seeing their friend-coach fired an outsider brought in.

Soon after Lavvy’s arrival came reports of strenuous practices and immediate implementation of a new, more physically demanding system. However, in his first appearance behind the Flyers’ bench, the team was dismantled by the Capitals, who benefited from a 9-minute powerplay at the hands of Carcillo. Meet the new boss…

Obviously, it was too early to judge Laviolette, but it was telling that Lavvy didn’t get rid of Carcillo or even rip him publicly. He knew it would take significantly longer than a few days to implement a new system and a new set of expectations, and he also knew how quickly a coach can lose his team. Lavvy won’t soon be mistaken for patient when it comes to losing games or making mental mistakes, but he had to endure both of them as the season went on, as well as a devastating slew of injuries. The Flyers were unable to keep a goalie healthy all season, and their record under Laviolette was actually a game under .500 if you count OTL’s as what they are—L’s.

Despite the disappointing run leading up to the final game of the regular season, Lavvy became very popular in Philadelphia. His penchant for calling timeouts, which are seldom used in hockey, at just the right moment showed his feel for the game and his ability to motivate players on a moment’s notice. Given the well-documented issues another coach in town has with using timeouts, this factor alone was enough to gain Lavvy immediate praise.

But heading into that final game of the season, some fans were actually hoping the Flyers wouldn’t make the playoffs. No one wanted them to back in, of course, but some thought there would be more of a spur to make more changes if the team were to miss the postseason (and its revenues) altogether, rather than be summarily dismissed in the opening round. Despite the knowledge that anything can happen once the second season starts, the team’s play as the season wound down wasn’t exactly inspiring.

But after a dramatic shootout win put the Flyers into an opening round series with the Devils, a new team came out of the tunnel. Perfectly happy to be the underdogs on paper, the Flyers knew they’d had the better of the Devils on the ice all season. We all know what happened from there.

The injuries that plagued the team in the regular season continued in the postseason. Centers, goalies, you name it. And yet with each trip to the press box or surgeon, another face would step up and fill the void immediately. Much of this speaks to the makeup of the guys in the jerseys, but given how uninspired these same guys previously were, it was apparent that they were playing for Lavvy as much as for themselves. It was one of the greatest postseasons in franchise history, even drawing praise for its place in history from hockey's most historic figure.

The question facing the team now is, was this a factor of the intensity and magic, if you will, of the NHL playoffs? Or was this a team finally clicking in a new system after several months of practicing and playing within it?

If it’s the latter, we could be in for a hell of an outstanding season.

It has been reported that the team was not in sufficient physical shape to play within Laviolette's system when the new coach arrived, requiring an intense in-season conditioning program. With a full off-season, camp, and preseason to command a different expectation of “game shape,” will the Flyers be that much better in 2010-2011 based on improved conditioning alone? If so, it would ideally be the solution to their tendency to wilt in games and in long stretches of the regular season. But it’s no given that the players will respond the same in October as they did in April, nor that the new faces will gel with the old. It all sounds great in theory, but after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons after his last trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, Laviolette would probably be the first to tell you how hard it is to get back the next season.

Hopefully the veteran coach has learned from his previous experiences in this regard, and his veteran players will build on theirs.

What do you think? Will a full season under Lavvy be the biggest key to another successful run, maybe one that results in a Cup?

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

NFL Notes: Court sets hearing over blocked suspension of Ezekiel Elliott

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NFL Notes: Court sets hearing over blocked suspension of Ezekiel Elliott

FRISCO, Texas -- A federal appeals court has set oral arguments for Oct. 2 in the NFL's bid to reinstate Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic case in Ohio, meaning the star Dallas Cowboys running back will play at least two more games.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans posted the notice Friday, clearing the way for last year's NFL rushing leader to play Monday night at Arizona and at home Oct. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.

The court is seeking briefs from both sides by Wednesday on the issue of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant's jurisdiction. The Texas judge granted Elliott's request for an injunction that blocked the NFL's suspension.

The NFL sought an emergency stay of Mazzant's injunction, hoping to put the suspension back in place while Elliott's case is in the courts.

Giants: Goodson, Hart out against Eagles
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Middle linebacker B.J. Goodson and right tackle Bobby Hart are going to miss the New York Giants game Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Goodson is out for the second straight game with a shin injury. Hart sprained his right ankle in the opener against Dallas. He started against Detroit but re-injured it.

Coach Ben McAdoo said Friday that backup linebacker J.T. Thomas also is out with a groin injury.

Tight end Evan Engram (concussion) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) are questionable for the Giants (0-2).

Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is not mentioned on the injury report, which means that he will play. He missed the season opener with a sprained left ankle and was limited against the Lions.

Vikings: Bradford ruled out against Bucs
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings say quarterback Sam Bradford will not play against Tampa Bay because of his ailing left knee.

Bradford was not at practice Friday after taking part in a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday and reporting progress from the week before.

ESPN reported that Bradford was traveling to seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who performed ligament reconstructions on the quarterback's knee in 2013 and 2014. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer declined to comment on the report.

Case Keenum will start Sunday against the Buccaneers, as he did last week at Pittsburgh when Bradford was ruled out right before the game. The Vikings lost 26-9 (see full story).

Titans: Murray limited at practice, questionable vs. Seahawks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray returned to practice, but his status for Sunday's game against Seattle remains undecided because of a hamstring injury.

Murray was listed as questionable after being limited on Friday. He had missed two straight practices with the injury.

The running back who led the AFC in rushing last season has been off to a slow start this season with just 69 yards rushing in two games. He gave way in the second half to Derrick Henry, who had 92 yards and a touchdown in a 37-16 victory at Jacksonville.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey says the Titans are being careful with Murray. They already declared rookie receiver Corey Davis and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien out with hamstring injuries.

Murray declined to comment after practice (see full story).

Browns: Garrett 'doubtful' to play Colts but nearing return
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett might be close to making his NFL debut.

The top overall pick in this year's draft has missed Cleveland's first two games because of a high right-ankle sprain. Coach Hue Jackson has not yet ruled him out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

Garrett made significant progress this week after hurting his ankle during practice Sept. 6. Jackson said Friday the team will continue to be "cautious," but the fact that he remains a possibility to play against the Colts is encouraging. Garrett is listed as "doubtful" on the injury report.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder has stressed he won't come back too early. He missed two games during his junior season at Texas A&M, pushed himself to return and then didn't play up to his standards.

Garrett had an impressive training camp and exhibition season (see full story).

Redskins: Norman, Reed game-time decisions vs. Raiders
ASHBURN, Va. -- Cornerback Josh Norman, tight end Jordan Reed and running back Rob Kelley are among five Washington Redskins players who will be game-time decisions Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden says Friday that Norman, Reed, Kelley, linebacker Mason Foster and safety Montae Nicholson are all questionable for the game.

Norman, Foster and Nicholson have shoulder injuries, Reed has chest and rib problems, while Kelley is dealing with injured rib cartilage.

All five were hurt during last weekend's 27-20 victory at the Los Angeles Rams.

Gruden said there is a chance the Redskins (1-1) would have running back Mack Brown and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle on the active roster against the Raiders (2-0) (see full story).