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Winless Flyers Fire Peter Laviolette

The latest castoff of the NHL coaching carousel.

The latest castoff of the NHL coaching carousel.

After going 0-3 to start the season, the Philadelphia Flyers fired head coach Peter Laviolette on Monday. The move comes just 14 months after the club signed him to a multiyear contract extension, the terms of which were not disclosed.

Although the Flyers failed to make the playoffs in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, it’s quite a turnaround on Laviolette since last August, when general manager Paul Holmgren said he had done a “terrific job” to earn the extension.

There is no professional sport in which coaches are disposable as they are in the NHL, so it’d be remiss to categorize the Laviolette dismissal as shocking. The timing of the decision is really the issue, and it’s more confusing than anything.

If the issue was that the Flyers didn’t make the playoffs, then why not fire him last spring? No one batted an eye when the N.Y. Rangers quickly dumped John Totorella after a disappointing showing in the postseason—at least he made it to the show.

So it’s not like the club would’ve taken any heat for losing Laviolette six months ago. The fact that he was kept on suggested the Flyers were pretty well committed to him, at least through the 2013-14 season. That would be the general assumption anyway.

Last month team chairman Ed Snider publicly backed the coach, saying, “As far as Peter is concerned, last year was an anomaly. He’s been a very good coach for us.” Any discussion of firing him in the offseason was supposedly “fleeting,” having concluded he had earned a second chance.

Of course, the fact that Laviolette was fired just three games—which represents just 3.5 percent of the season—into the season directly contradicts that general assumption.

Obviously Flyers executives gave much more than a fleeting thought to potentially firing Laviolette if they were this willing to pull the plug three games into the regular season. So why the heck would they even bother keeping a guy they were so lukewarm on to begin with?

Making an in-season coaching change like this always requires a period of adjustment from players, who often have to adapt to a lot of changes, even if it’s a promotion from within, as is the case with Craig Berube. Non-ideal circumstances for sure, which is why it’s more of a desperation move most common around mid-season.

Hence the confusion.

Perhaps GM Holmgren was really that on the fence about Laviolette and it took an 0-3 start to finally put him over the top. Or perhaps there’s some other trouble brewing in Philadelphia and this is just the first time its bubbled to the surface.

Time will tell.

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