There's a time and a place for a good coach freak-out, and the Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette nailed it in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
On the bench, there's a variety of coach freak-outs, and each one affects your team differently.
There's the "holy crap we're losing" flip-out that a coach will try to pass off as energetic and emotional, but is really jam-packed with panic. It's the official laying down of the eggshells, where players start to live in general fear of having to return to the bench, and are guaranteed to start playing worse.
There's the "give me your stick so I can javelin it at the opposing coach" (actually happened to me) level of panic, where you become aware that the most important stat of the night won't be goals scored, but opponent's teeth removed (OTR).
Then there's Laviolette's freak-out: The "we're winning, but we respect our opponent, and we damn sure don't need this to be any harder than it already is." As a player watching your coach have a quick snap-out/regroup session while you're ahead on the scoreboard, it's easy to grab a piece of that contagious energy and still keep your head in the game.
Those cathartic bursts of rage can serve a purpose for a team.
For one, it can signal a fresh start the same way changing your goaltender can. It's a divider that can give you something to build on. OK, we've been good since... When nothing is going right, occasionally you just have to give that etch-a-sketch a shake.
The Hulk-face glass-punch Laviolette treated us to was brief and awesome.
Outburst Mode says "I care, I'm invested, now let's get back to business." Not everyone is equipped with the ability to come back from red-alert level anger and make good decisions the rest of the night.
By no means is it the reason the Flyers won, it was just a good example of the composure it takes to filter the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster through neutral glasses.
Prolonged rants can make the team feel superior to its coach in a "sorry about our friend" kind of way. You hate to lose your team's respect by being immature and irrational when they've got it pulled together.
I want to ask the coaches that spew minute-long venomous monologues with regularity: "Hey, is providing mid-game comedic fodder for your players really the smartest tactical decision? You look hilarious right now."
The last thing you want to do is give your squad a reason to think about anything other than the task at hand; and if they're laughing at you, you're on your way to a sit down with the owner that starts with "we think you've lost the team."
The snap-show is not to be overused, and since Laviolette's not a guy that tends to turn red behind his players that often, it has value. Especially since his team was winning — it shows his fire isn't coming from frustration, but that it's justified.
I've played for coaches on both sides of the fence, and I'd take too calm over too extreme any day. You don't want to play for the guy who shimmies across the glass while standing on the dasher to get to the opposing coach. You don't want to play for the guy who orders the beating of the opposing team's mascot (our trainer picked up assault charges). It's simply not the path to long-term success.
You have to find the right mix — passion with reason, energy with restraint, fire with composure.
Laviolette was a good mid-season acquisition for the Flyers, and if his team can match his ability to operate under a controlled burn, they'll have a lot better chance of coming all the way back in the finals.