The Philadelphia Flyers announced earlier today that the contract for head coach Peter Laviolette has been extended by two years. His contract was set to expire after the 2012-13 NHL season, but is officially extended to the 2014-15 NHL season.
Laviolette has done a commendable job in the last two and a half years in providing stability at the coaching position, but two second round playoff exits in a row is not, in and of itself, a guarantee that he will finish out his contract as intended.
His coaching record with the Flyers to date is an impressive 122-72-26, but after the team’s “cinderella” run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010, the team has not operated like a well-oiled machine. They slumped terribly down the stretch in 2011 and barely escaped the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals against the Buffalo Sabres.
As much fun as the Quarterfinals series win against the Pittsburgh Penguins was last April, the series also magnified the team’s season-long issue of playing from behind within the first ten minutes. It was an issue he was never able to solve.
He has earned enough good will to be able to absorb one bad season if it ever comes to it, but few NHL coaches (aside from Lindy Ruff) are ever “safe.” Since Laviolette took over for John Stevens in December of 2009, no less than 19 (!) teams have changed coaches. In some cases, such as the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, they’ve changed coaches twice.
As the saying goes, “you can’t fire the whole team,” and regardless of why certain teams hit slumps when they do, the easiest decision for a general manager is to fire the coach. This has been more of an issue in the salary cap era due to the difficulty of moving contracts for fair value, and may be an item that is addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement.
The contract extension for Peter Laviolette has a nice ring to it, but it means little in the long-term. When his time runs out in Philadelphia, that piece of paper isn’t going to mean anything.
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