About 365 days ago, the Philadelphia Flyers relieved coach Peter Laviolette of his duties as Flyers head coach. A year later, general manager Paul Holmgren, who may or may not have used Laviolette as a scapegoat to buy himself time, has also been moved from his post. Four games into a season of curiosity, the Flyers have frustrated fans, media, and themselves in a winless streak the same way last year’s team struggled.
These circumstances beg the question: should Berube follow the path out the door as his predecessor did?
A 2013 Flyers team stuck in the mud offensively seemed lost and hopeless. Sloppy, unproductive shifts piled on each other, snowballing into dismal performances to start the year. By contrast, this year’s team has used an element of pace to create offense e production, and use this speed to find ways to hit the back of the net. Craig Berube will not be packing his bags anytime soon, and nor will the Flyers come April.
The previous squad struggled to enter the offensive zone, and create space when they did cross the blue line. This year’s Flyers have outshot last year’s team 91-73 through the first three games. On average, Philadelphia shoots 6 times more per game than they did last year. However, the team’s defensive troubles still remain, as the Flyers have surrendered 97 shots in three games. The defensive struggles were exposed in the Flyers’ three-goal collapse against Montreal Saturday, costing the team it’s first win. New general manager Ron Hextall will need to seek out a shot in the arm to boost the defense long-term. With Kimmo Timonen suffering through a serious blood clot condition, Philadelphia is managing without one of it’s key defenseman from last year.
Craig Berube deserves to stay because he knows how to handle and game manage. Following an offensive letdown in the season opener, the Flyers ran a new set of lines in the second game. The team scored four goals against a stingy Devils team, and nearly stole a game in which it trailed by three. After it was revealed that forward Vincent Lecavalier would miss time with a bone fracture—as per Howard Eskin—Berube worked his magic again. The former Flyer promoted Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare from the fourth line to the second line. The speedy youngster has played well thus far, and has sen improved the goalscoring potential of the line. This year’s team averages a full goal more than last year’s group, reason enough for Berube to remain in charge.
Shootout woes aside, the Flyers’ forwards have played well, even overachieved. With the young defensmen developing for a possible call up this winter, Philadelphia needs to bide its time until momentum takes its side. If the Flyers can claim a few big scalps, such as Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, or Pittsburgh, their season will be back on the flight path to the playoffs.
Photo: Phanatic Magazine