Two days from now the puck will drop, and the 2013-14 season will begin for the Philadelphia Flyers. For general manager Paul Holmgren and head coach Peter Laviolette, this may be their last season with the Orange and Black.
After 48 games, the Flyers ended the
2012 2013 campaign in Ottawa. Holmgren, once again, made a splash in the offseason and retooled the team. He added defenseman Mark Streit in a trade with the New York Islanders and signed former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier to a multi-year deal. Streit was brought in to help defensive zone breakouts and to contribute on the offensive side. Lecavalier’s skill has declined, but the 6’4″ center can still put up points and brings some stability to the faceoff circle.
With the defensive corps back to 100 percent, the Flyers are in a position to contend for a playoff spot. Should they fail to reach the postseason, another interesting summer awaits.
While Laviolette and Holmgren are both in jeopardy of losing their jobs, Laviolette will be the first to go if the Flyers struggle. It is not uncommon for a team to fire its head coach during the season. Seven years ago the Flyers fired Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with John Stevens. Two months into the 2009 season, Stevens was fired and replaced by Laviolette.
Under the Laviolette regime, the Flyers have been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. Since the playoff run in 2010 Laviolette has compiled a .551 winning percentage, but his team’s poor performance in the playoffs has him on the hot seat. Two consecutive second-round exits and inconsistent play have raised some questions about Laviolette’s system. Going 1-8 against conference rivals in those second-round exits does not help either.
The first two months of the season will decide Laviolette’s fate. In the first 11 games of the season, the Flyers will face the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. These are four of the of the eight teams in the new Metropolitan Division. Laviolette has struggled against division foes in recent years. In the past three seasons, Laviolette has gone 8-14 against the Devils – including the playoffs -, 6-11 against the Rangers and 9-7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last season, the Flyers were 6-12* against the Atlantic Division.
November will feature division games against the Devils, Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. If Laviolette’s team does not show any progress from last year, another change will not be far away. Paul Holmgren has a little more wiggle room. He will last the regular season, but if the Flyers miss the playoffs, Ron Hextall will become the new general manager.
*Flyers’ record against the Penguins, Ranger, Devils and Islanders last season: