PHILADELPHIA -- Ed Snider has seen a lot since founding the Flyers 47 years ago, but he said he never saw a training camp as bad as the most recent one. And it's a big reason why Peter Laviolette is now the team's ex-coach after just three regular-season games.
As the news outlets gathered to chronicle Laviolette's firing and the promotion of Craig Berube to head coach, Snider wanted to make one thing very, very certain: This decision was made exclusively by his general manager.
"Paul Holmgren did it. Paul Holmgren is the general manager," the Flyers chairman said emphatically. "He hired the coach, and it's his job to evaluate the coach, not mine. I want to make that perfectly clear. A lot of people think I come in and fire the coach, but I don't. I have to approve it."
Holmgren replaced Bob Clarke early in the 2006-07 disaster, the same morning John Stevens replaced Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. His only coaching change since becoming the permanent GM was replacing Stevens with Laviolette on Dec. 4, 2009. The team responded by making an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup finals that ended when Chicago's Patrick Kane became the Joe Carter of Flyers history.
Since Holmgren built the roster that missed the playoffs last season and is off to a horrible 0-3 start this season, what kind of heat is the GM under now?
"I'll let you know," Snider said. "Right now, we think we have better players than what we've seen."
Snider and Holmgren each said it was the players who caused this unusual, but not unprecedented, change. Coaches generally aren't fired within the first two weeks of a season, but it has happened.
The Red Wings dropped Bill Gadsby after two games in 1969 -- both wins, by the way -- and went on to get swept in the first round of the playoffs. A year after losing in the NBA Finals, the Sixers needed only six games to dismiss Gene Shue in 1977. The Lakers whacked Mike Brown after five games last season.
If Eddie Sawyer stepping down after one game in 1960 wasn't the most famous coaching change, it surely was the most humorous. Sawyer was 49 and said he wanted to live to see 50. It worked. Sawyer died in 1997 at age 87.
Holmgren said he gave brief thought to making a coaching change at the end of last season, thinking his club needed "a fresh voice, maybe new ideas." Snider gave Laviolette a dreaded vote of confidence a week into training camp.
If the Flyers went on the defensive this season as well as the 80-year-old Snider did Monday when pressed about the dearth of Stanley Cups in the trophy case, the team wouldn't be caught in a 38-year drought since its last title.
In adding Berube, the Flyers are staying within the organization, to the dismay of many fans who think that only a wholesale change in the Flyers' culture will deliver a championship.
Berube came up with the Flyers and was a rookie on the 1987 Cup finalists. He played parts of seven seasons in Philadelphia, spending most of his time as an enforcer. His 1,138 penalty minutes are ninth in team history. Berube was a Flyers assistant coach for seven seasons and was on the bench for the AHL Phantoms before that.
Snider defended his team's record. He acknowledged that the last Cup came when Gerald Ford was president and teams could Bully their way through the opposition. But, the owner said the Flyers are perennial contenders and the league has almost twice as many teams as the 18 it had in 1974-75.
"We haven't won a championship, but we've been in the Stanley Cup final a lot of times (six, but once since 1997)," Snider fumed. "And we've been in the playoffs a lot of times, and the culture is to win. Thirty teams are trying to win the Cup, and we're doing our damnedest to do it. That's our culture. That's our culture."
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