Ed Snider understands the vitriol.
Firing a coach after three games is inhumane.
But for Snider and the Flyers, it wasn't so much a sample size of three games as it was that training camp, the 1-5-1 preseason and the winless start looked more like Game No. 49, an extension of last year's awful, lockout-shortened season.
Snider, 80, wasn't about to let that happen again.
"I've been at (46) training camps and I've never seen one that I thought was worse," Snider said. "There was nothing exciting. There was no player that stood out, there was no young player that came along. Nobody really looked that great. We looked disorganized."
With that, goodbye. The Flyers fired Peter Laviolette Monday, the third-longest-tenured coach in franchise history, and promoted assistant coach Craig Berube to a multiyear deal. The dismissal was the quickest in the NHL to start a season since 1971-72, when Fred Glover was dismissed by the California Golden Seals after three games. During the 1969-70 season, Detroit fired Bill Gadsby after two games.
Chicago's Denis Savard (2008), Pittsburgh's Ivan Hlinka (2000), and Montreal's Jacques Demers (1995) were all four games into the season when they were canned.
Most believed Laviolette was walking a tightrope to start the season. In Las Vegas, he was the 2-1 favorite to be the first NHL coach fired this season, leaving someone richer -- but probably no more wealthy than Laviolette, who will be paid until 2015.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren phoned Snider shortly after landing in Philadelphia after Sunday night's dismal loss in Carolina. Snider approved the decision to relieve Laviolette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy of their duties.
Director of player development Ian Laperriere and assistant GM John Paddock will be on the bench with Berube, who will be at the helm of an NHL team for the first time Tuesday night against Florida. Berube, 47, played 1,054 games in the NHL and has been an NHL assistant coach since 2006.
Laviolette, 49, was 145-98-29 (.586) in parts of five seasons with the Flyers. He guided them to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season and managed a 23-22 playoff record.
The Flyers began 0-3 for just the fourth time in franchise history -- and the second season in a row. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds were all held without a point as the Flyers were outscored 9-3 in those three losses.
"It was just a gut feeling that I needed to make the decision," Holmgren said. "There was some excitement about our team and right from Day 1 of training camp, I was concerned about how the team looked; 0-3 is 0-3; we still have a long way in terms of the season, but it was more about how we play. It was unacceptable. We don't look like a team at all."
Snider understood the mocking tone that accompanied the news. Why fire a coach three games into a season when you could have done it in the offseason and started fresh in training camp? Holmgren admitted he had a "fleeting thought" of firing Laviolette last season.
"I think we deserve criticism," Snider said. "Unfortunately, sometimes we have to make decisions that are unpopular. The bottom line is that we've got to win. I think we want (fans) to know that we're doing everything humanly possible to win, even though we take it on the chin sometimes."
Since Laviolette replaced Stevens on Dec. 4, 2009, 23 of the 30 teams in the NHL have changed coaches at least once. In sports, especially hockey, it is easier to can the coach since it's impossible to clean house of all 23 players.
"Show me a way to do that," a fiery Snider said. "We'll be glad to do that instead. Right now, we think we have better players than we've seen."
Naturally, that led to criticism of Holmgren's track record with the Flyers. There have been a few questionable moves -- signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal; trading franchise cornerstones Mike Richards and Jeff Carter -- but Snider likes the building Holmgren did this summer.
At the very least, it's fair to say Holmgren is in Snider's crosshairs now. Snider went out of his way to make it clear it was Holmgren's decision to fire Laviolette, as if to say that if Berube doesn't pan out and the Flyers don't soon find success, Holmgren will be gone, too.
"All good coaches have a shelf life," Holmgren said. "Maybe this was just a thing with Peter."
Snider became testy during the press conference when questioned about the "win-at-all-costs" culture of the Flyers. Rightly or wrongly, most perceive Snider to be pushing buttons more furiously to try and win a third Stanley Cup while he is still living.
Berube is a former Flyers enforcer and some perceive him to be just another inside voice. In truth, Berube is just the fifth of 18 head coaches in team history to have previous ties to the franchise, including Stevens, Holmgren, Bill Barber and Terry Murray.
"The culture is to win," Snider said. "Thirty teams are trying to win a Stanley Cup and we're trying to do our damndest to do so. We've been to the Stanley Cup final eight times since 1967, third-most in the NHL in that time. We've been to the playoffs the third-most (36) times during that span. We have the third-best won-loss record since 1967. No, we don't need a fresh perspective. We have a pretty good culture."
Laviolette, who was not available to comment, will be remembered for his chewing gum, timeouts, his run to within two wins of Lord Stanley's chalice in 2010. There was a rivalry reignited with Pittsburgh -- and a face-to-face shouting match with Dan Bylsma -- and the miraculous 0-3 comeback against Boston in 2010, which included rallying from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7.
This time, Laviolette was not getting off the mat down 0-3. And Snider allowed Holmgren to pull the trigger to make sure the Flyers will avoid missing the playoffs for just the 10th time.
Monday's blood-letting and the perception -- the Flyers will clean up later.
"We're in a tough business," Snider said. "You just really need to find out what you have before it's too late."
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