The Flyers are turning the page, righting the ship and doing a bunch of metaphors that can fill this entire article. The Flyers are 4-0-1 in their last five and are playing good team hockey. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and maybe I was little too quick to dismiss the newly assembled coaching staff.
I’ve criticized Head Coach Craig Berube in the past as an assistant. His duties as the PP and PK coach had me scratching my head while he was in charge. We would see long periods of horror on special teams. I know teams go through droughts or rough patches but I can remember them, going 2 for 37 of the PP and to me that is downright unacceptable. I even wrote an article three hours prior to Peter Laviolette’s firing that they should let Berube go and a change was needed.
Although I still think Lavy was let go way to fast but a change was obviously needed. (Personally I thought Lavy should have been let go in April, but once he wasn’t I figured he’d have one more year to get his shot.) I didn’t think given Berube’s duties as an assistant would warrant a shot as the head coach.
The thing is we only see so much as fans. We’re not in the locker rooms. Only 15 % of what actually goes on is revealed to us. (Yeah I pretty much made that number up but that’s not the point) GM Paul Holmgren obviously saw something I didn’t in Berube. Sometimes assistant coaches only have so much pull or influence towards a head coach. The head coach is the one responsible for everyone. If the players aren’t performing on the PP or PK, it’s the head coach’s job to get on that. I often overlooked that and Lavy apparently didn’t hold anyone responsible. That’s here and gone and the fact of the matter is this, Berube is doing it right and here’s why:
System: At first Berube had his team playing the dump and chase. I’m not a fan and it can only be executed by a fast and good hard forechecking team. I personally think he had the Flyers doing this to make them “work”. You have to move your legs and skate hard. Now that he has the team collectively working together he’s abandoned the dump and chase as has them playing a good offensive attack system and it’s paying off. 11 of the first 12 games under Berube the Flyers scored no more than 2 goals per game. (3 of those, the Flyers were shutout.) Now the Flyers are 4-0-1 and have scored 18 goals in those five games.
Holding players accountable: It was rumored that Berube would be tough on his players and that rumor is showing to be true. Several players saw their ice time cut if they weren’t skating hard or playing with heart. Most notably is four million dollar veteran Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros has been a healthy scratch for a number of games now. Meszaros when healthy has been known to play very well, however his play this season seems to be without any confidence and his play has been horrendous. It doesn’t look like Berube is going to let him back in without confidence. It also doesn’t look like he may get back in at all unless an injury happens. Mez could be dealt anytime between now in the deadline because there is no such thing as a four million dollar 7th depth defenseman.
Correcting player mistakes: If you’ve followed me on these blogs, twitter or facebook, you will know that I have an undying hatred for Braydon Coburn. I’ve had it for years. It’s easy to have when you see a defenseman play so poorly and game in and game out, turns over the puck that leads to a goal seconds later. But I can’t overlook that during the Flyers five game point streak he’s played some of the best hockey in his career. He’s playing his position, he’s causing the opposition to turnover rather than him being the turnover, he’s scoring goals, he’s playing as a shutdown defenseman and for once he looks comfortable. Players that have played so poor for years don’t turn that around on their own overnight. Coburn has played for 2 other coaches and now Berube seems to have corrected those mistakes. Coburn is a +5 in the past five games after going -6 in the first 15 games.
The same could be said about Wayne Simmonds who has 2 goals and 2 assists in the past five games. He’s also been winning hard battles on the boards, playing physical and creating chances, stuff that isn’t shown on the score sheet. His turnaround can’t be overlooked and it looks like proper coaching has corrected his play.
I’m not saying Berube is best coach ever but I can’t overlook his work with the Flyers so far and how they can turn around this season and make it exciting to be a Flyers fan again. He has the right attitude, the right forwards, shockingly the right defenseman (currently) and the right goaltender. The Flyers may not win the cup this year, but if they can put the right pieces together and have a good year, we may be a year or two away. Perhaps Berube is putting his name in for the Jack Adams award. I know it’s only been five good games so far for the Flyers but during these five games it’s been a completely different team. A team that gives hope, a team that’s scoring goals, a team that has solid goaltending and a team that is winning.