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Philadelphia Flyers: Daniel Carcillo Suspended; John Stevens Fired, What Now?

Mark RitterSenior Writer IDecember 7, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 14:  Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers warms up before playing the Buffalo Sabres on November 14, 2009 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

When it comes to the NHL handing out suspensions, they have a reputation for being far too lenient at times. That said, in the case of Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo, it appears as if Colin Campbell and the NHL got it right this time.

Let’s face it, Carcillo’s sucker punch on Washington Capitals' Forward Matt Bradley was nothing short of an act of thuggery and extreme cowardice.

Carcillo, who was on the wrong end of a big hit distributed by Bradley, acted with recklessness and disregard when he sucker-punched Bradley and, while the four-game suspension will suffice, he is lucky he didn’t get more than that.

With all the talk about what constitutes a late hit, bad hit, or dirty hit these days, the NHL has had its hands full trying to differentiate the three and establish appropriate punishment.

When you look at the Carcillo incident, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was guilty of a dirty hit. Sucker punching an opponent is an act of stupidity and, given the possibility of long-term injury to the victim, Carcillo is lucky he didn’t cripple Bradley.

In other news, Flyers head coach John Stevens was fired and replaced by former Carolina Hurricanes coach, Peter Laviolette, who, by all accounts, will be a demanding coach whose task it will be to get more out of a Flyers group that has underachieved.

Through 487 career NHL games, Laviolette has a career coaching record of 244-188-25-30, good enough for a .558 winning percentage. His coaching career is highlighted by a Stanley Cup victory with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes.

Laviolette has an impressive resume, but was firing Stevens really the answer? Don’t forget, Stevens led the Flyers to a 12-5-1 start, even with several players suffering from various injuries, and with a schedule that saw the Flyers spend an entire week off from hockey.

To be fair, Stevens’ head has been on the block since last season and, when you consider the Flyers’ struggles last season and their more recent struggles, especially the Western road trip that saw the team post a 2-3-0 record, you cannot fault the Flyers brass for making the move.

For the Flyers, the Stevens firing was a last resort type of move. To be honest, the Flyers' woes have a lot more to do with the players than it does with the coach.

But, as the saying goes, “it’s a lot easier to fire the coach than it is to fire the whole team”, thus Stevens is no longer with the Flyers.

Here is my take on the situation:

It appears as if the Flyers have big problems in the dressing room, mainly a power struggle between current Captain Mike Richards and NHL veteran defenseman Chris Pronger.

After the Stevens firing was announced, there were several reports that Richards had given up the Captaincy to Pronger.

As it turns out, none of those reports were substantiated, and Richards was wearing the “C” when they faced the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, coincidentally, an 8-2 loss.

But, as another saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” and I suspect the Richards/Pronger feud is indeed an issue in the locker room.

The Flyers have a good mix of players, both young and veteran. As it turns out, the Flyers may not have the right mix to get it done. If it is true and the veterans and younger players are at an impasse, something has to give.

Does that mean a trade? Perhaps, but, more likely, it is going to mean a few "players only" meetings and some soul searching by the current roster.

Many Flyers fans call Richards the heart and soul of the franchise. That’s all well and good but, like Stevens, Richards has been in a leadership position with the Flyers through all of the turmoil and for that his leadership skills, or lack thereof, are liable to be questioned, given the current state of the Flyers.

The Flyers have been going through coaches like they go through goaltenders. Since the middle of the 2000-01 season, the Flyers have employed Bill Barber, Ken Hitchcock, John Stevens and now, faced with the fact that the team is struggling, the Flyers brass has determined that Laviolette is the answer.

They say if you always do the same thing, the results are always the same and, for this Flyers team that rings all too true. None of the coaching changes has brought the Flyers any closer to a Stanley Cup; none of the changes have “worked out.”

They also say that good goalies make good coaches. Lord knows the Flyers have had their fair share of questionable goalies, which brings up the age-old question, is the Flyers goaltending good enough?

Flyers goaltender, Ray Emery, has played fairly well and, if you follow my writing, you would see that I have been full of praise for him. That said, how long can the Flyers stay the course with Emery if he continues to struggle?

Before you throw Emery under the bus, it is worth doing a little digging. It seems as if the Flyers offense, which was amongst the Leagues best earlier in the year, has been struggling of late.

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In the past five games, the Flyers have scored just six goals. It is no coincidence that the Flyers have gone 1-4 over that stretch, which coincides with fans calling for Emery’s head.

Let’s be honest here: there are not too many NHL teams that are going to win games when the teams offense is averaging just over a goal a game, and the Flyers are no exception.

Emery hasn’t been perfect but, when it comes to the current state of the Flyers, his teammates must accept a lot of the blame.

Jeff Carter has not scored in five games and has just nine goals on the season, Richards has not scored in three games, Claude Giroux has not lit the lamp in five games, Chris Pronger has zero points and is a plus -4 in his past five games, and Matt Carle, Pronger’s defensive partner, has zero points in his past five games and is a dreadful plus -5 over that span.

Clearly, there is plenty of blame to go around and, from my point of view, it’s high time that someone in that dressing room remind this team that they are expected to not only make the playoffs, but to make a long run in the process.

Right now, the Flyers are sputtering. You win as a team, you lose as a team, and right now, the Flyers are getting what they deserve, a lot of losses and a lot of questions.

Tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens is the first of four games this week, which will see the Flyers play the Canadiens, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, and New Jersey Devils. All four of these match-ups will have playoff implications, as will much of December’s schedule.

The following week, the Flyers will play the red-hot Boston Bruins, heated rival Pittsburgh Penguins in back-to-back games, and then a match with the New York Rangers.

Clearly, things are not about to get easy for the Flyers, it’s gut-check time and, in my opinion, the Flyers entire season hinges on success in December.

To say it’s an important two-week stretch for the Flyers would be an understatement. Let’s hope the Flyers brass didn’t overestimate the importance of making yet another coaching change.

In case you didn’t know, starting Dec. 5 Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) will be launching his new website. Louis Pisano, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our Podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

The Live Podcast will be broadcast in studio from Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team analysis, player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Check back with “Ritter’s Rant” on The Bleacher Report for further details and the call-in number. The inaugural show is set for Dec. 12. Don’t miss it, puckheads!

You can catch Morency (Monday through Friday) and “Get The Puck Out” (Saturday’s) at www.morencysports.com. To phone in, call 1-866-964-5710. SPORTS RAGE- it’s the “Evoluiton of the Rageulation".....

Until next time,

Peace!

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