Watching the Philadelphia Flyers is like watching a train wreck unfold in real time. You see this train that's clearly going too fast and approaching a 45-degree turn and you know it's going to derail and everyone on board is going to die, but you can't stop it from happening, nor can you stop watching.
Head coach Peter Laviolette was fired this morning as the team has started 0-3 for the third time ever (the second time was this past season, when the team failed to make the playoffs only for the 10th time in 45 years). It came as a surprise to absolutely no one. Given that Ilya Bryzgalov is no longer here, someone else had to go. Laviolette is a good, accomplished hockey coach. He is easily a top-10 coach in the NHL and will not be unemployed for very long. He may not feel that way this morning, but this is a really good development for him.
Because I live in south Philadelphia and follow the local sports scene, I often wonder about the Philadelphia Flyers and why this organization is the way it is. This morning, I don't think I'm alone in thinking that the Flyers are firing the wrong guy. Two other people who were superior to him and made more critical decisions are far more responsible for the disastrous situation on many levels.
The team owner, Ed Snider, does not in fact actually own the Flyers. He is chairman of Comcast-Spectator, a media company that owns the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, among other things. He is 80 years old and he refuses to die until the Flyers win that Cup again. An Ayn Rand enthusiast, his management of the Flyers is of knee-jerk, meddlesome and nepotistic variety. Find former Flyer #234 and just give him the job already. He'll figure it out.
Enter Paul Holmgren. Another well-known hockey persona and also (obviously) a former Flyer, Homer has been nothing short of a disaster as a GM. Clearly, some of his jaw-dropping moves, especially in regards to the situation in goal, had to do with meddling from above. He gave huge contract extensions to players, only to trade them shortly after with crocodile tears in his eyes. He told us just three weeks ago that Peter Laviolette is not at all on the hot seat. He told Simon Gagne to "hang tight" and he'll get him a contract this fall. Gags did, but Holmgren forgot about it and instead tried to give that money to Dan Cleary. The list goes on and on and on. He is a bad GM and a worse person.
The thing is, he won't last much longer either. His own successor is already in the organization, as Ron Hextall re-joined the Flyers from the Kings as an assistant GM in an entirely lateral move. Won't be long now. It will have been long overdue.
So now Craig Berube takes over. A journeyman left winger, Chief was known for his toughness. He was a Maple Leaf for, oh, about a week, but it inspired a very good piece by Down Goes Brown. Berube will inherit a flawed but talented team, a rabid fan base almost as whiplashy as the team's owner, and local sports media from hell. Good luck to him.
Players like him and will play hard for him. The thing is, people playing hard was rarely a problem for this team. The problem is elsewhere. The team itself can have success in the NHL, even this season, given their talented forward corps and a few savvy veterans on defense, but the systemic problems in the organization will still exist until Snider changes something fundamental. I'm not holding my breath.