Peter Laviolette: The right coach at the right time

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette

In a recent article from Philly Magazine, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was named the best coach in Philadelphia.  

Which is really impressive when you consider Philly has Andy Reid, who has coached the Eagles to be one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the last decade, including 5-NFC Championship Game appearances & a birth in Super Bowl XXXIX back in 2004.

Charlie Manuel has led the Phillies to three straight NL East titles, two straight National League pennants, & Philadelphia’s only major sports championship in the last 27 years. Meanwhile, Laviolette hasn’t even been employed in the city for a full calendar year, so why is he the best coach in the city?

To answer that, you’ve got to start from the beginning.

In early December last season, the Flyers were hovering near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. When you’re picked my many experts to win the Stanley Cup, that’s obviously not a place you should be. Injuries, bad luck, poor play, & lazy efforts helped lead the Flyers into nightmare mode. On the afternoon of December 4th, coach John Stevens was fired & replaced by former Islanders & Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette. From Lavvy’s first press conference, he stressed that the Flyers need to play a certain “brand” of hockey that the fans & organization could be proud of. A brand of hockey that produced a Stanley Cup in Carolina. 

It took a little while, but the Flyers switched brands, & we all reaped the benefits.

The first thing that Laviolette did, that John Stevens didn’t do, was hold players accountable. Laviolette doesn’t expect perfection, but he expects 100% effort, 100% of the time. If you didn’t provide that, you could expect to be skating hard the next morning at practice.

We all heard many times about how coach Laviolette would single out players & make them skate extra sprints after practice, just to prove the point that you have to play inspired, smart hockey all the time if you want to win.

The Flyers continued down their disastrous road throughout December, but starting on a road trip around Christmas time, we all started to see glimpses that the team was “getting” Laviolette’s system. Although they would continue to be up & down throughout the rest of the season, they did what they needed to do to make the playoffs, finishing 28-24-5 since Laviolette’s takeover, finishing as the 7th seed in the East.

Obviously, we all know what happened from there, the Flyers ended up just 2 wins from the Stanley Cup, & are built again for another deep run this coming season.  All of what happened last season, as well as whatever successes the team has this season, in my opinion, can be credited to Laviolette’s coaching style.

He’s the perfect mix of a “players coach” and a “dictator” style of coach. When he needs to put his arm around you & pat you on the back to get you going, he does it. Conversely, when he knows you need a swift tong lashing to get going, he’s more than capable of doing that also. Unlike many coaches in the league, Laviolette wears his heart on his sleeve, you can bet whenever there is a bad call against the Flyers, coach will let the refs hear about it, which no doubt inspires the players, they know when the coach wants it that badly, they better as well.

What impresses me most about Laviolette however is his hockey mind. He always seems to know what buttons to push, when to make lineup changes, & more often than not, they work out for the best. Laviolette is the most strategic coach I have ever seen in my 15+ years of watching this great sport.

Most coaches save their timeout for the last-minute of a game if you trailing & they use the timeout then to prepare some last second strategy. Not Laviolette, he’s not afraid to call his timeout even 10 minutes into the game if he feels the team needs some refreshing. That type of strategy won game 7 vs Boston.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first half of the first period, coach called his timeout to calm his troops down, the message wasnt one of yelling and screaming, it was simple; start doing the little things right, & chip away into the lead, you don’t need to score three goals at once. I vividly remember watching that game & reading his lips, “All we need is one (bleeping) goal” Sure enough, the Flyers scored one before the end of the first, & took that momentum all the way to win the game & the series.

As a fan I was excited by what Laviolette did with this team in only a half a season. I feel that with a whole training camp, and the players being more used to his style & coaching philosophy, the Flyers will definitely be a better regular season team than they were last year, and hopefully can carry that momentum through June & Laviolette will not only again be named best coach in Philly, but perhaps, best coach in Flyers history.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Peter Laviolette: The right coach at the right time”
  1. Laviolettefansince1997 says:

    I’ve been a Peter Laviolette fan since 1997. I’ve followed every game since. The writer of this article captured every aspect of Laviolette’s persona.

    To be this observant after just half a season I the think the writer should peruse a career in the NHL or at least sports writing.

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