The Flyers: From Cinderellas to Contenders (Part 2)

The Philadelphia Flyers were on a downward spiral last year, then hit a hot streak to the point where they made a cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals.  Since then, they are now outright contenders in the NHL for years to come (their average age is only 27 which is lofted with veterans like Pronger 36, Boucher 34, and Timonen 35, boosting that number).  

Usually a “Cinderella” is a team that exceeds expectations in the beginning, but fades and loses in the end. Think of the Flyers or Butler in 2010 who lost a heart-breaker against Duke in the finals (in 2011, Butler is 19-9, unranked, and has a loss to Evansville, wait who?). Cinderella  has become cliche because of its overuse (I feel a more appropriate term would be over-achiever, San Diego State anyone?). Most Cinderellas fall off the next year, back to their status of just an average team and fall back into the pack , never to really be heard from for a long time.  However, once in a while, (the New England Patriots in 2001 who beat the Rams and won three super bowls in four years) a Cinderella stays through next year, causes a storm, and becomes a powerhouse contender.  The Philadelphia Flyers are nothing short of that powerhouse. Peter Laviolette got them there.

It is unbelieveable how well the Flyers are playing right now (I know I know, no one cares about hockey).  They are first in the Eastern Conference and only two points behind the Vancouver Canucks (which is the Canadian form of Yankee, go figure) for the league lead.  They are  first in the NHL in wins (38) and only have 14 losses. A definite improvement from last year when, during this time, they had only 28 wins and had to use a shootout in the last game to even get a playoff spot (Boucher coming up big was a surprise by the way). 

The Flyers carried that momentum into the playoffs with an easy series win over the Devils (Kovalchuk, overrated), an amazing game 7 win against Boston (Down 3-0 in the series and down 3-0 in game 7). Which was the start of Laviolette’s recognition as a premiere coach.  Down 3-0 in the first period in game 7, Laviolette called a timeout.  He later said he called it to stop the flow of the game and slow it down.  That timeout is now famous.  The Flyers went on to score 4 unasnwered goals (capped by a late third period goal by Simon Gange) followed by the cinderella (mama there go that word again) ending loss to Chicago (Michael Leighton was exposed to what he really is, a bum. Disagree? He’s 1 in the NHL’s list of worst Stanley Cup goalie standings ever, right in front of Antii Niemi, who’s 1a)

Since then all the Flyers have done is come out  and have rattled off win after win.  With 12 players with at least 20 points, the Flyers are known as the deepest team in the NHL.  How with all this success does Laviolette figure out who to put with whom? He stresses defense and backchecking (when forwards hustle back to play defense) because he wants an all around team not just an offensive force (look at the San Jose Sharks). Laviolette streses it so much that he benched Nikolay Zherdev multiple times because of his lack of effort. In a sports age where the players are above the game, how can anyone not like Laviolette putting the hammer down?

 He understands his players abilities and adapts to that.  For example, Mike Richards is a playmaker and is on a line with Jeff Carter, a sniper (who I owe an apology to because I always thought he stunk, but is proving me wrong) complement each other perfectly.  The same with Danny Briere (sniper) and Ville Leino (playmaker).  He adjusts to matchups (Doug Collins similarity) and has shifted lines to give the Flyers the best chance.  Last year for example, he had Chris Pronger out on the ice everytime the Chicago Blackhawks sent out top line.  He is constantly interchanging healthy scratches (a term that means a player will sitout a game) to see who will give him an energy boost (I didn’t mention trades because although he has a say, trades are the General Manager’s field).

With these two coaches only 150 feet away, how Andy Reid doesn’t take notice is beyond me.  The old adage “Actions speak louder than words,” is proof enough that Andy Reid doesn’t have the fire Dough Collins and Peter Laviolette have.  I just hope that he “Uhm..” opens is eyes.

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  • […] him in the playoffs shows that Laviolette panicked. How else could anyone explain his decision to start Michael Leighton? (Seriously since Transformers 2, it is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while. If Leighton was an […]

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