Unexpected news arrived late this afternoon, revealing that Phantoms head coach Joe Paterson has been relieved from his duties as head coach after less than two seasons at the helm.
“As an organization, we feel the Phantoms need a new voice moving forward,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a brief statement issued on the club’s web site. “We would like to thank Joe for his hard work and service to the Phantoms over the past season and a half, but we feel a new direction is needed at this time.”
Paterson, who took over in late December of 2010, did not direct Philadelphia’s primary farm club to a postseason appearance. He did have to deal with constant roster shuffling due to call-ups and waves of injuries from the parent club, and raised his charges from dead last in the league up to a 37-35-2-2 record this season — good enough for third place in the Northeast Division.
All told, Paterson, who was the seventh head coach in franchise history, guided the Phantoms to a 62-55-8 mark.
The 51-year-old is a resident of Glens Falls and also spent parts of four seasons (1980-84) playing for the Adirondack Red Wings when they were the AHL affiliate for Detroit. Paterson came to the Flyers in October of 1984, along with Murray Craven in a deal which shipped Hall-of-Famer Darryl Sittler to the Wings. He later served three years (1992-95) as an assistant with the A-Wings under head coach Newell Brown.
No successor has been named.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Post Star‘s Tim McManus was able to speak to Paterson, and below are his thoughts on the matter:
Did you see this coming? When did you find out?
“No, I didn’t (see it coming.) I was a little bit in shock at first. I found out yesterday.”
Were you signed for next year?
“I have a contract for next year.”
Did the Flyers give you an explanation?
“We never made the playoffs, so that’s I guess unfortunate, but I appreciate the opportunity I got to coach in my hometown and the support from the fans.”
Was it playoffs or bust?
“I’m not really totally sure, but I think that’s a big factor.”
What about the players you sent up to the Flyers who contributed to their playoff run. Is their pride in that and did you think it helped your cause to stay?
“I think that’s always part of the job is to make sure players are ready to go up when they’re called upon, and I think when you look at the depth we’ve gone through, I’d say from maybe Eric Wellwood last year, that the Flyers now have a lot more prospects that are going to be NHL players or have an opportunity to play and go up there and fill different roles. So yeah, it’s rewarding to help be a part of that.”
Were you held back by all the call-ups this year?
“You can’t look back at things like that. I always believe that’s an opportunity for other players to step in and do other things and that’s not for me to really analyze that part of it. Injuries come with the territory. We probably did have more injuries this year than the prior year to that, but I think the Flyers did as well.”
Did the team achieve all that it could this season?
“I guess that’s a hard question for me to answer.”
What was this experience like to do coach in your hometown?
“I really appreciate being able to coach here and have the opportunity to get the team back on track. I just wish it had been for a longer period of time — to able to be successful this year and hopefully run the team into the playoffs.”
Did you think things were on the right track? Did you feel like the positive momentum from the turnaround your first year was still there?
“At times. You go into an area, I think it was in January, when we had a tough time. We did have a tough time on the road at certain parts, I think it was during January, we lost quite a few games in a row and I think that could be — that hurts your record and your place in terms of the playoffs when it gets down to the end and you only come up five or six points short.”