Moment of Truth for John Stevens

The Frozen FanCorrespondent INovember 13, 2008

John Stevens, coach of the Philadelphia FlyersYou can’t deny that John Steven’s temporary demotion of Joffrey Lupul to the fourth line and third period benching of Scott Hartnell has driven conversation among the journalists and bloggers. Both Sam Cachidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Ed Moran of the Philadelphia Daily News penned stories on the topic. Blogging heads Tim Panaccio of and Bill Meltzer of followed suit. It also caught the attention of The 700 Level and a few passing words from WE HATE TO LOSE.

Here’s the bottom line: John Stevens is an NHL coach. His entire job is to manage and motivate the players as he see fits to generate the maximum number of victories possible. He is not the first coach to shuffle the lines or bench a player, and he will not be the last. He utilized a few tricks from the bag, and it resulted in 2 points for his club. That’s good coaching.

This story mattered because this was the first time John Stevens pulled those tricks at the NHL level. But the bigger tale here is that demotions and benching only matter if the results extend beyond one game. Sure, the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Islanders. One quick comparison of the rosters will tell you that is but a small feat. It hardly represents a step on the mountain the Flyers have yet to climb.

Tonight the Flyers enter the Mellon Arena with something to prove. Are they an unmotivated, lackluster squad who only play to their potential for brief spans of time and the occasional game against a weaker rival? Or can they rise to the occasion with a team-wide sustained effort—and reproduce that effort regularly?

The difference between those two teams is the difference between good coaching and great coaching. This is where we see what John Stevens is really made of.