If the NHL season ended today, the Philadelphia Flyers would miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94. If that happens, what are the chances that Craig Berube will be back as the Flyers' coach in 2014-15?
The Flyers promoted Berube to head coach after getting off to an 0-3-0 start under Peter Laviolette. Berube was not named interim coach. While refusing to discuss specifics about his contract, general manager Paul Holmgren told Eliot Shorr-Parks of The Jersey Tribune that Berube's deal is "more than this year."
But that hardly guarantees Berube will be back if the team doesn't make the postseason. At the very least, the Flyers would have to make a serious run at the playoffs and play consistently better hockey in the second half of this season to convince Holmgren and chairman Ed Snider that Berube deserves a second season behind the bench.
So far, Berube has a 14-12-4 record as head coach. That's not terrible, but it's not a playoff pace, and it's certainly below what management expected this season.
In fact, the team's uneven performance and failure to hold leads in recent games has Snider concerned. He recently expressed his feelings to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com, saying, "I think we have to take a long hard look at where we are and where we are going."
"We’re always doing that and we will continue doing it," he said. "Whatever we can do to help the team get over the hump, we will do. Obviously, we’re not happy with giving up third-period leads. This is something that can be corrected and that is something we are going to do. However we have to do it."
The Flyers have already changed coaches this season and are unlikely to make another change unless the team goes on an extensive losing streak and it becomes clear Berube has lost the locker room. Nobody is saying that has happened. The next move would most likely be a trade to change the team both on the ice and in the locker room.
But rest assured Berube does not have a large margin for error. As former Flyers player and current Columbus Blue Jackets broadcaster Jody Shelley recently The Canadian Press (as reported by Rob Parent of the Delaware County Times), "Anytime the Philadelphia Flyers miss the playoffs, you know that everyone’s walking on thin ice. Every player knows that. I was in Philly, so you get a sense that it’s what have you done for me today. That’s the way they operate."
The Flyers organization is not known for its patience with losing. In fact, they fired Laviolette after just three games this regular season because they didn't like the way the team was playing. It is safe to say that unless the Flyers show consistent and measurable improvement over the course of this season, Snider and Holmgren will not be afraid to look elsewhere for their next head coach. Berube may be a new head coach, but he has to learn quickly to survive and thrive in Philadelphia.