Right decisions can key Flyers' playoff run 

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
8:57
AM ET

What a weekend! It started with a coach getting fired and a wonderful 100th anniversary celebration in Montreal (that Guy Lafleur can still skate!). It continued with a not-so-special homecoming for Phil Kessel in Boston. And, it ended with another shootout -- this one in Anaheim.

Here's my take on some of it, although, I have to admit I'm a little sour after the Vikings came crashing back to earth about a mile from the Jobing.com Arena. Here's the Monday 10.

1. Bye, bye, Johnny: Not surprisingly, Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens took the blame for the club's recent slide. The news broke late Friday afternoon. Afterward, it was same old, same old. GM Paul Holmgren felt he had to make a change. The players talked about feeling responsible. And, at least one person said/wrote: "A good man got fired today." And, I'm sure those feelings and sentiments have some truth to them. Certainly, in my limited dealings with Stevens, he seemed like a good man.

But I think you could see this one coming a mile away. By NHL standards (unless you coach in Buffalo or Nashville), Stevens had a good run in Philly. Hired to replace Ken Hitchcock early in the 2006-07 season, Stevens was the second longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference (behind Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff) at the time of his termination.

Philly management really likes its team. It has very high expectations after making a big off-season move to add D Chris Pronger. I figured any early stumble would be dangerous for Stevens, who didn't have any Stanley Cup titles to lean on. And, in the copycat world of pro sports, the Pittsburgh Penguins' championship run after an in-season coaching change last spring didn't make things any more comfortable for Stevens.

Was Stevens a good coach? I've seen better and I've seen worse. I didn't always think he got the right guys on the ice in particular situations. That's just my opinion. We'll get a better assessment in the future. Because you know somewhere right around the corner another GM will be looking to make a change and the players will feel bad and a good man will get fired. If Stevens is thought to have done a good job in Philly, he'll get another chance.


To read which Flyers player E.J. thinks should immediately be kicked out of Philly, how E.J. wants to see the points system changed and the best save of the season, you must be an ESPN Insider.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.

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