Flyers Faithful asked Bill Meltzer from HockeyBuzz, NHL.com, and PhiladelphiaFlyers.com, Joshua Janet from GCobb, Michael DeNicola from Orange and Black Pack, and our very own Bob H five questions about the second half of the season. We are very grateful that they took the time to share their opinions and predictions with us. Each day of this week, we will run the answers to one of those questions. Today’s question is:
Has this current group of players responded well to Peter Laviolette? Do you think he is the right coach to lead this team?
Bill Meltzer: I think the fact that the club has 54 points despite (as of January 11) all the roster changes, injuries and heavy use of rookies shows that the current group of players generally responds to Laviolette. I really like the work ethic of this team on a game-in and game-out basis, as well as its improved team speed. Of course there have been hiccups along the way. That’s just reality. I don’t think Laviolette is beyond reproach in all areas in his personnel management. All coaches have a shelf life with their teams, and eventually get tuned out. The really intense coaches like Laviolette often risk quicker burnout. Nevertheless, I think Laviolette has firmer control over this year’s team than he did a year ago. He has buy-in from the team leaders, and that’s the biggest challenge.
Joshua Janet: Yes. Peter Laviolette was the winningest American NHL coach until John Tortorella eclipsed his record and with a Stanley Cup victory already under his belt, he is a coach who deserves to be taken seriously. An added benefit of all the offseason changes is that there are so many new (and young) players on the roster, he has had an opportunity to shed a lot of the emotional baggage tied to the previous teams under his command. It’s a clean slate and the players have responded accordingly.
Michael DeNicola: Without question Peter Laviolette has this team’s respect and love from each player. Despite all the obstacles (tangible and analytical), I believe he’s been the glue that’s kept this squad together through it all. I believe he’s done a sensational job stepping up as one of this team’s leaders in the wake of Chris Pronger’s absence. Not only is he a successful bench boss who makes the right game-time decisions, HBO’s 24/7 has shown us that behind locker room doors, Peter knows the right things to say and express his emotion the way his team needs to perceive them.
If this Flyers team lifts the Cup any time soon, we’ll see Peter’s name on it for a second time.
Bob Herpen: Almost every head coach benefits from having a young roster because the respect factor is automatic, especially if these youngsters want to continue their careers, and every head coach will benefit from not having the reported fiasco in the dressing room like the one in Philly last season. In that way, Peter Laviolette has the best of both worlds this year. Based on how the club has stayed near the top of the conference, you gotta say the kids have responded well and the vets are on point too. But I agree with Bill in that all coaches have a shelf life, and Lavi is now on the wrong side of the ledger here in terms of average tenures. If he’s able to display more of what we saw behind closed doors from HBO and less of what occurred in March and April last year, he’ll continue to have a positive effect on everyone as they fight through whatever crisis emerges.