Craig Berube might make a fine NHL coach.
As GM Paul Holmgren said when he was named as Peter Laviolette’s replacement on Monday morning, Berube is a coach that’s been in the Flyers system for several years and “he demands respect. He holds people accountable. He’s a no B.S. kind of guy.”
He also bleeds orange, having played for the Flyers over the course of seven seasons and acting as a head or assistant coach in the AHL and NHL for Philadelphia since 2004.
It’s a comfortable, familiar choice for the Flyers. But at Berube's introductory press conference, the word “insular” was applied, as a reporter openly questioned whether it was in the best interests of the franchise to have someone so engrained in Flyers culture as its new head coach.
“What’s the culture?” growled owner Ed Snider from the dais.
You know, the one in which the Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since “Jaws” was released in theaters.
“We haven’t won a championship, but we’ve been to the Stanley Cup finals a lot of the time and we’ve been in the playoffs a lot of times. The culture is to win. Thirty teams are trying to win the Cup and we’re doing our damnedest to do it. That’s our culture.”
The question continued before Snider’s exclamation point:
“THAT’S OUR CULTURE.”
But what about the idea that a fresh perspective might change the fortunes of the franchise?
“We don’t need a fresh perspective. We have a pretty good culture and we know who we’re dealing with,” said Snider.
I’ll defend Snider here in that Flyers Culture can’t be maligned just because the team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup in the last 38 years.
They’ve missed the playoffs twice since 1995, making the conference finals six times and the Stanley Cup Finals twice. If that culture is going to be framed as a culture of losing, what they hell does that make the culture for the Washington Capitals, for example? A pit of utter despair, by comparison?
There’s something to be said for going with what you know. Terry Murray played for the Flyers before becoming their coach. Ken Hitchcock was an assistant on Philly before coming aboard after his career-making run in Dallas.
Laviolette, meanwhile, was hired without any Philly ties, as Holmgren said in Dec. 2009:
“Peter Laviolette brings experience along with a different approach to the game. We look forward to him putting his stamp on the team quickly and getting our team headed in the right direction.”
He replaced John Stevens, a Flyers draft pick and their former AHL coach.
Laviolette’s hiring was anything but an insular choice, and it took a team that had taken a huge step back under Stevens and transformed it into a Stanley Cup contender.
Sometimes you need a fresh voice to move the culture in a different direction, to bring new ideas to an organization short on them at the moment.
And sometimes you just hire Craig Berube, and then wait until you replace the general manager with your former goaltender.