The former NHL enforcer kept the Broad Street Bullies ethos alive, but it never resulted in much success on the ice. Now that the coach is gone, the organization must work to fix the other structural leaks in town.
The Philadelphia Flyers have fired coach Craig Berube after two years of duty as bench boss and if the organization is committed to change, it won’t be the last move made.
Berube, who took over for Peter Laviolette early in the 2013-14 campaign, helped the Flyers to one post-season berth (losing in the first round to the Rangers), but couldn’t get the squad back to the playoffs this year, despite having two of the top scorers in the league in Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. There are several reasons why the Flyers missed the dance for the second time in three seasons, but let’s look at what Berube was in control of first.
The Flyers were not a disciplined unit under the former NHL enforcer and while the Broad Street Bullies ethos is ingrained in Philly fans, they’d also like to see another Stanley Cup some day soon. Philadelphia went shorthanded 266 times this season, tying the Flyers for eighth (worst) in the NHL. But the penalty kill was abysmal, ranking 27th overall, so the team wasn’t exactly the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.
This is not a new phenomenon in Philly, but at least under Laviolette, the penalty kill was strong; you’re allowed to push people around if you know it won’t come back to haunt you on the scoreboard.
In terms of possession, nothing really changed under Berube. The Flyers have been a bottom-third possession team for years now and their lack of success has lined up nicely with that statistic.
So the challenge for Philly’s new coach is to batten down the PK unit (or cut down on penalties) and figure out how to win the fancy stats war. But those and other faults also have a personnel department and it’s not hard to see the problems in Philly.
The Flyers’ defense corps looked like it was going to suffer coming into the season and that was before Kimmo Timmonen was sidelined by blood clots. Then he was traded to Chicago before donning the Orange and Black one more time, so at no point was he available to the team. Michael Del Zotto came in as a band-aid solution and though he had his moments, he was no cure for a back end that didn’t have enough talent to survive the Metropolitan Division.
And obviously something will have to be done up front as well, with under-performing veteran Vincent Lecavalier the most obvious target.
Perhaps most discouraging is that no help is coming from the kids. Philadelphia’s best prospects are young defensemen who would do best to start their pro careers in the AHL, with Shayne Gostisbehere the only exception, since he’s ready for the jump. But he won’t be enough and there are no forwards that scream “NHL top-six” in the system right now (or at least who would be ready next season).
So GM Ron Hextall has some challenges ahead of him this summer. Or, owner Ed Snider has some decisions to make about Hextall. Either way, the Berube firing was only one step in what will be a tricky reset in a hockey-mad market.