- Craig Custance
Things can change rapidly in the news cycle of the modern NHL, and on Monday we saw yet another example. Just three games into the 2013-14 season, the Philadelphia Flyers decided to part ways with head coach Peter Laviolette, installing Craig Berube as the new bench boss.
In a new weekly Monday feature called "Next Question," we look at news and trends from the week that was and spin it forward, examining the follow-up question the news creates. And for the struggling 0-3 Flyers, there's plenty to discuss.
The news: The Flyers fired coach Peter Laviolette after an 0-3 start.
Next question: What does the next coach need to do to get things going in Philadelphia?
Surprisingly, it was a lack of offense that did in Laviolette. His teams are built around an aggressive offense and controlling the tempo of the game, something that hasn't happened yet this season. The Flyers have just three goals in three games and have a league-worst minus-6 goal differential.
Following the Flyers' loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, Laviolette admitted frustration was already setting in. The Flyers have been outshot 68-41 in the last two games.
"[We're] too quick in the offensive zone," Laviolette said after his final game as Flyers coach. "It goes in, goes out. We're in there, we're looking but we're not coming up with anything."
That's a problem.
The Flyers have turned to former enforcer Craig Berube who is popular with the players. He may not necessarily be known for offense, but he's a guy who won't tolerate a lack of competing from his players.
"He demands respect," GM Paul Holmgren said at this morning's press conference. "He holds people accountable. He's a no-BS kind of guy."
The biggest priority for the new coach will be getting more offense from franchise player and captain Claude Giroux in the short term. Giroux has been held without a point through three games, despite Laviolette getting him favorable matchups and playing him a team-high 22:21 per game. As happened at the start of last season, the Flyers have struggled when Giroux isn't producing offensively.
The Flyers also need better play from the Schenn brothers. Luke Schenn has a relative Corsi of minus-32.8 and Brayden Schenn a relative Corsi of minus-38.3 (according to behindthenet.ca), which highlights the problem Laviolette mentioned -- generating a consistent threat in the offensive zone.
Three games isn't much of a sample size, but it's all Laviolette got.
After the Blues' 2013 season ended, GM Doug Armstrong was asked about the Blues' issues with goal scoring. During the regular season they averaged 2.58 goals per game, which put them in the bottom half of the league. It got worse in the playoffs, when that number dropped to 1.67, second-worst to Minnesota's 1.40.
"This is a public cry for any GMs that have 50-goal scorers that they want to send to St. Louis, give me a call," Armstrong told the media during his season-ending availability.
Turns out, he didn't get any volunteers.
So Armstrong did what he's always done in St. Louis: he continued adding depth. He added Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow, two veteran signings with no risk considering they're one-year deals. And he and coach Ken Hitchcock asked for more out of their current group, the core that is expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
The trend: The surprising offense coming from the Blues.
Next question: How are the Blues doing it, and should we expect the Blues to be one of the better offensive teams in the West?
We posed the question to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on Sunday afternoon.
"We've gained a lot of momentum from either the power play and the penalty killing," Hitchcock said. "That's helped a lot. That's been the difference in the first two games -- both ends of the special teams have helped."
Last season the Blues' power play was a solid 19.5 percent, which was No. 12 overall in the league. The PK was No. 7 in the league at 84.7 percent. What makes the Blues such a good team? Their great balance.
This season the Blues have scored three of their 11 goals on the power play and are perfect on the PK. Naturally, Hitchcock was able to find a flaw.
"We realize our 5-on-5 play has got to get a lot better," he said.
But what makes the Blues successful isn't that they have a 50-goal scorer, which Armstrong's public pleas have shockingly failed to provide. It's that they don't depend on any one player to do the scoring for them. St. Louis has 11 goals this season, and the goals have come from 10 different goal scorers. Alexander Steen is the only player with more than one goal.
All the goals have come from St. Louis' talented group of forwards, with newcomers Roy and Morrow contributing a total of five points so far. "We've had new people do it every game. It's not the same people; it's just not the way we're built," Hitchcock said.
The Blues started hot offensively last year and their team play suffered because of it. Hitchcock will be watching closely to make sure his team doesn't develop any bad habits while lighting it up offensively. His hope is that this group learned from last season. The scoring is nice, but that's ultimately not how this team is going to win. When it goes dry, as it inevitably will for stretches this season, the Blues will still rely on team defense and a goalie tandem the players trust deeply.
"When you look at the top teams, the teams that were playing in the final four, they had so many players on that team committed to 200 feet," Hitchcock said. "At the end of the day, you have to have guys committed to 200 feet offensively and defensively. We need to get a strong commitment across the board in all three zones."