The Philadelphia Flyers extension of head coach Peter Laviolette's current contract was clearly the right decision to make. He is one of the better coaches in the National Hockey League right now, has a positive relationship with general manager Paul Holmgren and has full control over the players on his team.
The best coaches know how to teach. A commonly understood idea that is certainly embodied in the form of the Flyers current head coach.
Anyone who has ever kept their eye on the bench during a game (or has been behind the scenes), knows that 'Lavy' is in control of his team. Some of the most important aspects of being an effective coach include establishing leadership, implementing and maintaining effective systems and understanding the 'pulse' of the locker room. Laviolette has consistently hit all of those marks since he first arrived in 2009.
Last offseason Holmgren made the decision to trade Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Think whatever you want about both players' impact on the franchise and their efforts during the 2010 playoff run and Stanley Cup Final appearance against the Chicago Blackhawks. By the time the following season had played out both were basically done.
The smoke and fire that surrounded Richards' internal conflicts with management wasn't all conjecture. As for Carter, he represented someone who didn't develop into exactly the type of player that the organization had hoped for.
Cast aside all relevant no-trade clause issues (connected to Richards and Carter) that would have kicked in by this summer and the need to fit Bryzgalov's large salary into the cap. What remains is the Flyers' desire to jettison both men on the same June, 2011 day in order to change the team's culture and to reinforce that Laviolette was the boss. No player challenges were going to be allowed to persist.
I thought that Laviolette handled the turbulent 2011-12 season extremely well.
After Chris Pronger was hit in the eye by an errant stick, during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the season, he missed some time and then returned. However, his subsequent permanent departure (likely career-ending) and other blue line injuries forced the Flyers' bench boss to constantly adjust his defensive pairings. On balance, that fluid group performed decently last season.
His handling of what can be referred to as the Ilya Bryzgalov 'situation', especially during the Winter Classic, revealed that he can confront the psyche of the modern athlete and not lose his own marbles (or more importantly, the team) in the process.
When the playoffs arrived, he guided his ice boys past the Pittsburgh Penguins in a wild opening round series and then did what he could against a more balanced New Jersey Devils squad in the Semi-finals.
Laviolette's extension takes him through the 2014-15 season. Hopefully, the National Hockey League and the Players' Association will have reached a new collective bargaining agreement by then.
All kidding aside, this coach knows that he needs to adapt his offensive push to a certain degree so that a more balanced defensive effort can be given this season. Doing so might not allow him to win the Stanley Cup, as he did with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. But, it should enable an improving group to make stronger playoff progress next spring.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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