John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette: Do They Both Have One Foot out the Door?

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John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette: Do They Both Have One Foot out the Door?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Peter Laviolette's Flyers have been a disappointment in 2013.

Former Buffalo Sabres bench boss Lindy Ruff is the only head coach who has been fired this year, and it wouldn't be surprising if more coaches joined him on the coaching free-agent list before the end of the 2013 NHL season.

It doesn't matter if you are a coach who is well respected with a Stanley Cup championship on your resume, such as John Tortorella of the New York Rangers or Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers, no one is immune from being fired after an awful season when their team fails to meet preseason expectations.

Both the Flyers and Rangers have under performed this season and are no guarantee to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but will these teams' poor performances cost their coaches their job?

Let's examine the chances that Tortorella and/or Laviolette are fired before or after this shortened 48-game season.

 

Laviolette and the Flyers

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The disastrous season that the Philadelphia Flyers are going through right now is the sort of scenario that coaches lose their jobs over, whether it's fair or not. The Flyers were not expected to finish this season atop the East standings, but they should not be a team sitting in 12th place through 30 games with the amount of talent on their roster.

Laviolette is one of the better coaches in the NHL and has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume from his time with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Flyers have made the playoffs in each of the three years that Laviolette has been behind the bench, but since the team reached the Stanley Cup Final during the 2009-10 season, it has been eliminated in the second round in two consecutive seasons.

In last year's Eastern semifinals series against the rival New Jersey Devils, Laviolette was outcoached by Peter DeBoer, and it showed on the ice because his Flyers were dominated in nearly every aspect of the game by New Jersey, who won the series in five games after losing Game 1 in Philly.

This season has been just as frustrating for Flyers fans as that Devils series was, but the biggest concern is the team's lack of effort. Throughout their history, the Flyers have been known as a very tough team to play against because of their high compete level and the physicality they bring to the ice each night, but this kind of intensity has been non-existent for most of the season.

This team looks unmotivated, overmatched and has been out-hustled in the majority of its games this year, and that's unacceptable for a squad with a veteran head coach and a roster full of players with tons of NHL experience. Laviolette has failed to light a fire under this team.

Monday's disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning was another example of a game where the Flyers were dominated in the third period by an inferior team. Philly is 6-8-1 against teams that are not in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, including multiple losses to both the Lightning and the last-place Florida Panthers.

How much blame would you put on Laviolette for the Flyers' performance this year?

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Another thing to consider is the type of hockey Laviolette wants to play, and that's a run-n-gun style that scores a lot of goals, sometimes at the expense of strong, fundamental defense. With the players Laviolette has on this roster, playing his type of hockey is not a recipe for consistent success, which is one reason why the Flyers have failed to win more than two games in a row this season.

He doesn't have a strong blue line or a reliable goaltender, yet he has failed to change his style of play despite the high amount of turnovers. You can argue that he doesn't have the personnel to play a slow, defensive style of hockey, but playing an uptempo game in a shortened season is not a smart idea, especially when the teams in your division can score a lot of goals.

When a coach uses the same style for multiple seasons and it doesn't result in much playoff success, management should consider making a change.

With that said, it would be shocking if Laviolette was fired before the regular season ends, especially since general manager Paul Holmgren recently dismissed the idea (via Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia).

The likely scenario is that Laviolette gets another chance with an improved roster next year, but if the Flyers fail to impress in the first half of the 2013-14 season, it wouldn't be surprising if he was fired. Flyers owner Ed Snider wants to win and if he thinks a coaching change has to be made, he won't hesitate to make the move.

 

Tortorella and the Rangers

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The chances of Tortorella being fired anytime before next season are probably extremely slim, especially since his roster underwent a lot of changes over the summer and some key players, such as Brandon Prust, were lost to free agency or trades.

The Rangers are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but have won seven of their last 11 games. They have only one difficult opponent remaining on the rest of their March schedule, so it's very possible that this team could take a major step toward securing a playoff spot over the next week-and-a-half.

The Blueshirts would not benefit from a midseason coaching change 30 games into the year. It would be difficult for this team to adjust to a new coach and a different system than what Tortorella has used for the last couple years.

With a few changes at the trade deadline and a healthier roster, the Rangers could make another deep run in the playoffs this season. Tortorella's defensive style of hockey that requires every forward to play a responsible two-way game and for defensemen to block shots is perfect for the postseason, and this was evident last year when the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

You can bet that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, who are the two most likely teams to finish in the top two spots in the East, do not want to play the Rangers in the first round. Especially the Bruins, who the Rangers have dominated over the last few seasons.

Is Tortorella one of the five best coaches in the NHL?

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When I watch the Rangers, I don't notice the players tuning the coach out. The issue is that the team is not as deep or talented as it was last season, and injuries have played a part in that.

Firing Tortorella at any point before next season would be one of the worst decisions that the franchise could make.

He's the perfect coach for this team and someone who does a tremendous job developing players, motivating them and taking some of the intense media pressure off of them by being the center of attention in his postgame press conferences.

It would be unfair to blame Tortorella for the majority of the Rangers' struggles this year, especially when injuries have been a problem and several star players have been inconsistent and have underachieved. Tortorella's defensive system is not the reason why star winger Marian Gaborik has scored two goals in his last 19 games, especially when you consider the fact that he has scored 40-plus goals twice with Tortorella as his head coach.

Don't expect Tortorella to leave New York anytime soon. He's one of the five best coaches in the NHL and a great fit for this Rangers team.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.

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