I reviewed Philadelphia Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren in Part 1 of this series. Now, let’s focus on the Flyers’ head coach and his goaltenders.
Head coach: Peter Laviolette
I like Laviolette’s strong coaching style. There’s no question that his hockey competency and consistent energy level have served the Flyers’ organization well. His intense presence might eventually create player burnout, but there are no signs of that reality coming to pass any time soon.
It’s true that his high-pressured ice strategy requires a contingent of speedy defensemen who can compensate for mistakes that are made. However, I think that his methods cause his ice boys to reach a higher personal performance level.
“Lavy” is a balanced, seasoned motivator who enables his players to continue looking forward throughout the grind of every hockey season. With a deeper defense and a consistent goaltending effort he can win the Cup with the Flyers, as he did when he led the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
Goaltending: Ilya Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton
Bryzgalov was on the same Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks’ squad that Chris Pronger played for in 2007. While he was a backup on that team, “Bryz” became the Phoenix Coyotes’ starting goaltender after the “Yotes” claimed him on waivers in November of that same year.
After reviewing his digital resume in the spring of 2011, I thought that he had a chance to take the next step in his career. So, I fully supported general manger Paul Holmgren’s acquisition of the pending free agent. While the amount and length of his contract seemed questionable, the hope of one Stanley Cup neutralized all trepidation at the time.
The roller coaster that became the 2011-12 hockey season caused no one to feel comfortable, or to logically conclude that Bryzgalov was the right goaltending choice for this team. However, the man can perform exceptionally well at times. He’s only played one season and will likely be around for awhile, even if he doesn’t complete the entire nine years on his guaranteed deal.
Flyers’ fans need to be willing to give Bryzgalov more opportunities to prove himself. What choice do they, or the Flyers’ organization, really have?
Leighton may always be known for the 2012 Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal that he yielded to Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. But, being the backup to Bryzgalov in 2012-13 could create unexpected opportunities.
He’s a competent number 2 man and a good team player. Despite 2010s’ ending scene, Leighton was very steady in the playoffs that year. Never say never to any potential role that he might play again someday.
In Part 3 of this feature I’ll review the Flyers’ offense and defense.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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