Power Ranking the Last 5 Philadelphia Flyers Head Coaches
Head coaches matter in the NHL. Look at the difference the Philadelphia Flyers experienced last season after they fired Peter Laviolette, an offensive-oriented coach, and replaced him with a more defense-first coach in Craig Berube. They went from a listless team struggling to win to a playoff team in less than a full season.
Here is a look back at the last five Flyers head coaches ranked from fifth to first.
The factors considered are the coach's record with the Flyers, longevity, regular-season record and most importantly, playoff success.
A coach needs to have lasted at least half a season with the Flyers (or 41 games) in order to be considered for this list. Interim coaches who coached only briefly or took over for a sick or suspended coach will not be included here.
Feel free to comment on any coach discussed here and why you feel they should be ranked higher or lower on the list. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. Bill Barber
Bill Barber reached the Hockey Hall of Fame and helped the Flyers win two Stanley Cups during his playing career. In 12 seasons with the Flyers, the Callander, Ontario, native scored 420 goals and 883 points including a 50-goal, 112-point season in 1975-76.
Barber became a coach after his playing career over and spent four seasons as the head coach of the Flyers' AHL affiliate. He led the Philadelphia Phantoms to the Calder Cup title in 1997-98.
Barber took over as head coach of the Flyers midway through the 2000-01 season and finished with a 31-13-10 record in 54 games. It was good enough to get the Flyers to 100 points on the season and to earn Barber the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.
Unfortunately, the Flyers lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Sabres in six games. The clinching game was an embarrassing 8-0 loss in Buffalo that ended the Flyers' season.
The following year, the Flyers won the division with a 42-27-13 record, good for 97 points. The team again disappointed in the playoffs and lost in the first round. This time, the Ottawa Senators ousted Philadelphia in five games. Philadelphia was shut out three times in the series and was outscored 11-2.
Barber was a tough coach, and he lost the Flyers bench. When he was fired, his players were very critical of his style.
Captain Keith Primeau explained his issues with Barber. "We had the worst power play in the league, why are we not practicing it?" Primeau told The Associated Press (quoted by ESPN). "All season long we said if someone makes a mistake, they're getting yelled at."
Primeau was also critical of Barber's lack of adjustments during a game. "We say when we come to the bench, make that adjustment," Primeau told The Associated Press. "He wants the player to make the adjustment. Our job is to play. I felt like I was having to make the adjustments on the bench. I don't feel that's part of my job description."
Had Barber had more postseason success, management may have given him more time to learn on the job, but with two first-round playoff exits, he was history.
Overall, Barber had a 73-40-23 record behind the Flyers bench and won the Jack Adams Award. But it wasn't enough for him to keep his job.
4. Craig Berube
It is too early to truly judge Craig Berube's tenure behind the bench in Philadelphia, but he is off to an encouraging start.
Berube was hired early in the 2013-14 season after the Flyers got off to a discouraging 0-3-0 start. Berube juggled his lines and placed a bigger emphasis on defense. It took some time for the players to adjust, but Berube was able to turn the club around and lead it to a 94-point season and a playoff berth.
The Flyers lost a tough, seven-game opening-round series to the New York Rangers.
If the team continues to respond to Berube's style and he has continued success, Berube could easily climb higher on this list by the time his time in Philadelphia is over.
3. John Stevens
John Stevens coached the Flyers for two full seasons and parts of two others. He took the team on a roller coaster ride but was unable to win consistently behind the Philadelphia bench.
Stevens took over when Ken Hitchcock was let go early in the 2006-07 season. Unfortunately, Stevens was unable to turn things around and the Flyers finished the campaign with a 21-42-11 mark after he took over. That included a franchise-record 10-game losing streak.
In 2007-08, Stevens guided Philadelphia to a 95-point season and a playoff berth, an impressive 39-point improvement over the previous year. The Flyers reached the Eastern Conference Final before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.
In 2008-09, the Flyers improved to 99 points during the regular season but his club lost to the Penguins again, this time in the opening round of the playoffs.
Stevens was fired 25 games into the following season with his team struggling at 13-11-1.
His final record as head coach of the Flyers was 120-109-34.
2. Ken Hitchcock
Ken Hitchcock was the head coach of the Flyers for three complete seasons and part of a fourth. When he completed a season, Hitchcock's clubs never finished with fewer than 101 points in a season.
After the team had rebelled against Bill Barber, Hitchcock brought order and discipline to the Flyers locker room.
Hitchcock won one Atlantic Division title behind the Flyers bench and finished second twice.
Unlike Barber, Hitchcock did have postseason success. His longest playoff run came in 2003-04 when he helped Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference Final. Unfortunately, Philadelphia fell in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers lost Game 7 in Tampa Bay 2-1.
The Flyers struggled early in the 2006-07 season, earning just three points in their first eight games. Hitchcock was fired while general manager Bobby Clarke resigned.
Captain Peter Forsberg thought the firing was the right thing to do. "It's not acceptable the start we had and I think the change needed to be done," Forsberg told The Associated Press (as reported by ESPN).
Hitchcock was successful in Philadelphia and had three consecutive 100-point seasons and a run to the Eastern Conference Final. His overall record behind the Flyers bench was 131-83-40. Eventually, however, the team stopped responding to his message and "Hitch" was let go.
1. Peter Laviolette
Peter Laviolette coached the Flyers for three full seasons and parts of two others.
He is the last coach to lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2010, the Flyers reached the playoffs by winning the final game of the regular season in a shootout. The Flyers then went on a magical playoff run that included a thrilling seven-game win over the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. The Flyers became only the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to win a playoff series.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Flyers lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, marking the sixth straight time the Flyers have failed to win the Stanley Cup Final since their last title in 1975.
Laviolette led the Flyers to back-to-back 100-point seasons the following two seasons but lost in the second round of the playoffs both years.
During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Flyers missed the postseason for the first time under Laviolette's guidance.
When Philadelphia lost its first three games of the 2013-14 campaign, general manager Paul Holmgren fired Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube.
Laviolette's record in Philadelphia was 145-97-29. He had great success early in his tenure, but the team fizzled during the final season under his leadership.