When Laviolette replaced Stevens, the Flyers looked like they wouldn‚Äôt even sniff the playoffs. They were struggling to generate any offense, taking too many bad penalties, and not playing with much pride.
It took some time, but as the season has progressed, Laviolette found ways to get through to this team, and bring out the best in them.
Dan Carcillo is a great example. When Carcillo was traded to the Flyers a year ago, all he brought to the table was some bad penalties and undisciplined play.¬† However, under Laviolette, Carcillo has become a much more disciplined player and has found ways to contribute on offense. Not that Stevens didn‚Äôt see the same faults with Carcillo, but Laviolette was able to get that improvement out of him.
Villie Leino, a cast-off from the Red Wings when the Flyers acquired him, has become a valuable contributor under Laviolette. Leino has found a home in the Flyers regular rotation and on the power play. He controls the puck well and has helped to create scoring chances.
Goalies Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton are both off the scrap heap, yet somehow have performed up to very high standards under Laviolette. Again the credit goes to Laviolette for getting the most from seemingly low level player transactions.
Then there is team management. There isn‚Äôt enough that can be said about Laviolette‚Äôs ability to keep the team together after being down 0-3 in the series. I give him all the credit in the world for helping to keep his players‚Äô¬† heads up, and never letting them quit, even when faced with 3-0 hole in the first period of Game 7.
Also, consider the amount of adjustments Laviolette has been forced to make with the amount of injuries sustained by the Flyers. There seems to be more casualties after every game, yet Laviolette has been able to plug in his reserves and get good shifts out of them.
Then there is game management. The time out that Laviolette called after falling behind 3-0 will live in sports history as one of the most brilliant ever called. The words of Laviolette will be forever burned in sports history: ‚ÄúJust one goal, just one goal!‚Äù.
That timeout led to one of the greatest comebacks in all of sports history. To have the presence of mind, the calmness in the heat of the moment, and the convincing tone to get the team back on track is truly worthy of the highest praise.
I don‚Äôt think that this would have been possible under Stevens, or most of the other Flyers coaches from previous years. The Flyers have never shown this level of character and resolve under Stevens or the other coaches. Laviolette is a great fit for this team.
He understands players, game situations, playoff situations, and most of all, he understands remaining calm in the heat of the moment. He has accomplished a great deal in his brief time here and the future is bright for the Flyers with him in charge.