Breaking news in the NHL this morning: the Philadelphia Flyers have fired coach Peter Laviolette just three games into the 2013-2014 season, per the Philadelphia Daily News. While many are surprised by the fact that this pink slip came so early; this was the right time for Laviolette to be let go, for a multitude of reasons.
The major reason firing Laviolette was the right move for the Flyers is that the stats back up firing coaches mid-season. The winning percentage of teams who fired their coach went up 40 points, and of the 54 teams that fired their coach during the season since 2000, 16 actually ended up making the playoffs after said firing. The Los Angeles Kings fired Terry Murray in the middle of the 2011-12 season and ended up winning the Stanley Cup with his replacement, Darryl Sutter. The Blackhawks fired coach Denis Savard just four games into the 2008-09 season, promoted scout Joel Quenneville to the position, and the rest is history. After a coach is fired in the NHL, teams respond, and firing Laviolette now gives the Flyers plenty of time to figure it out, with 79 games to go in the young season.
Laviolette was on the hot seat before losing the first three games of the season; after taking the Flyers to the 2010 Cup Finals against Chicago, the Flyers have been on a downward spiral since. The team lost in the second round of the playoffs in 2011 and 2012, than missed the postseason entirely last season. A team with that much offensive firepower through the years should have made at least one more Conference Finals. The Flyers should not have missed the playoffs last year considering weaker teams, like the Islanders got in. When a team performs that poorly for three seasons, they need to come out of the gates strong in the first few games of the next season, or that coach is gone. The NHL is the league with the shortest leash and the heaviest expectations. While NFL or Major League Baseball owners are more patient, hockey owners are not. They know their team’s potential, and they know when it’s time to end it with a coach rather than prolonging the downward spiral any further. When eight teams in a conference make the playoffs and this season is back at 82 games this year, GM Paul Holmgren was right to let Laviolette go now.
Laviolette will have another job by the end of the season, so this firing isn’t that devastating for him. Even Paul Holmgren said that the firing was not indicative of the effort Laviolette put in, saying that he worked his butt off for the organization. Another coach will undoubtedly be canned before season’s end and what better coach to take the reins than Laviolette? This is not the end for either the Flyers or their ex-coach. At this point in the season, it’s the perfect time to say goodbye and look ahead to the rest of the year.