Peter Laviolette, Born Again In Philadelphia

Coaching in the NHL is a precarious occupation.  You are a hero one minute and a zero the next.  Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has been on both ends of that spectrum, more than once.

After leading the New York Islanders to two straight playoff performances for the first time in 10 years, he was given his walking papers.  He took a last place Carolina team to a Stanley Cup Championship, but was fired in mid-season just two years and change after hoisting the Cup. 

So, why the roller coaster ride for this coach?

First of all, it's the nature of the position.  Coaches are only hired to eventually be fired.  But Laviolette seems to be a polarizing figure at times.  Some love him and some hate him, perhaps a bit more so than your ordinary coach.

When he left Carolina in December 2008,  his team was playing .500 hockey but seemed to be in a rut.  It was not surprising that he got fired, but his replacement certainly raised eyebrows in Raleigh as well as around the league.  Paul Maurice was Laviolette's predecessor who possessed a career losing record. 

While it seemed like a step backwards for many fans, it worked out well as Maurice guided the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Laviolette was left to spend time with his family and moved to Florida. 

In January following the firing, Carolina owner Peter Karmanos was less than flattering when asked about his ex-coach. Some of the best quotes:

"I didn't like our coach," Karmanos said. "His public persona and his private persona were two different things."

"We played this all-over-the-ice kind of style of hockey. It took about three-quarters of the season for people to catch on."

"We had a goalie who stood on his head. Martin Gerber had a career season with us and kept us in games, but pretty soon as the other coaches got used to the new rules and they figured out ways of defensing us, we didn't change much."

 

But just a year after his demise in Carolina, the coach - who has been a winner at every level - was in Philadelphia building another winner.   That's not to say that everything has been smooth sailing in the City of Brotherly Love, it's been difficult.  Goalie after goalie has been injured.  Other players have had a tough time staying in the lineup.  

Yet Laviolette is back where he usually is, in the thick of things in the playoffs. 

Either the coach has learned to change things up and make adjustments, or the league forgot how to defense his "helter skelter" style of hockey.

Fans who do not necessarily enjoy watching the "trap" should be rooting for this offensive thinking coach.  He preaches puck pursuit and puck possession.  He will have his players chase the puck all over the rink.  His defensemen pinch at will all game long. 

While his teams give up odd man rushes and he puts a lot of pressure on his goalie, the games are usually exciting to watch.  And after one game in the Eastern Conference Finals, his team has been able to do something Washington and Pittsburgh could not do, obliterate Montreal's trap. 

More than anything, Laviolette seems to be able to get a lot out of his players, at least at the beginning of his tenure.  The Flyers reportedly had locker room issues before he came to town, but everything seems rosy right now.  Players are peaking and he's even been able to turn Dan Carcillo from a destructive force into a productive player. 

The coach won a Calder Cup while coaching Providence and a Stanley Cup with a team who was a 100-1 long shot to win the Cup at the beginning of the season.  He has a lifetime regular season record of 272-208-25-39 for a .559 winning percentage and is 50-29-21 in the playoffs which is .580. 

He might not be coaching the Flyers three years from now, but I would not bet against his team this postseason.

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