The other day, the Flyers held a season-ending press conference to discuss the status of Craig Berube as head coach. Ron Hextall, while not exactly giving Chief his vote of confidence, did not officially announce he would be relieved of his duty.
It was clear Hextall was not confident in his former Flyer teammate and there was no turning back now in the decision. It was announced today that he has been fired. This was a long time coming, with the team finding little success during his tenure. Last season, after scraping and clawing their way back from a rough start, the Flyers pushed their way into the playoff picture, only to get bounced out in the first round by the Rangers. This season saw another poor start, but this time it was far too much to overcome.
Berube never really worked here. The firing of Peter Laviolette after three games practically thrust him into the position at a time where there were no other options. He never really had the command over the locker room that a winning coach needs. Behind the bench, he always looked befuddled when the team would not perform.
Alienating Vincent Lecavalier and mishandling Steve Mason also did not help his cause. Lecavalier has underachieved on the fourth line and Mason should never have backed up Emery if he was healthy enough to come into the game. Both situations have been bizarre and telling of the lack of respect he has from his team.
He has also butted heads with others on his coaching staff. Jeff Reese jettisoned before the season ended, after what appears to be a heated argument over the goaltending situation.
There are two candidates that have been mentioned to fill the vacancy. Mike Babcock, Redwings head coach, will see his contract expire this offseason. Hextall could be waiting until the playoffs end to contact Babcock, who is a proven winner, Stanley Cup champion and could be a positive culture change due to the fact that he has no former ties to the organization. He comes with a steep $5 million salary, but if the Flyers want to turn things around, they need a fresh perspective.
The other name on the list is former Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. Bylsma coached the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, one of which they won back in 2009. He is most recognizable to Flyers fans leaning over the bench in the infamous shouting match with Laviolette in 2012.He is another proven winner without ties to Philadelphia.
Hextall is the kind of GM who does not rush into things. He is likely going to wait until the next few months to make his decision on Berube’s successor. He wants to build a sustainable contender and it all starts with stability at head coach.