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Friday, December 4, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving coach curse hits Flyers' Stevens

An interesting trend has developed in recent years involving the Flyers' annual day-after-Thanksgiving matinee home games: one of the teams playing the game has fired their head coach for 4 years in a row.

In 2006 the Columbus Blue Jackets fired coach Gerard Gallant and eventually replaced him with former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, who made his Columbus debut at the Wachovia Center the day after Thanksgiving. The next year the Washington Capitals fired their head coach, Glen Hanlon, and Bruce Boudreau took over -- against the Flyers, the day after Thanksgiving.

Slightly going against the tide, last year the Carolina Hurricanes faced the Flyers in the Black Friday afternoon game, but they actually waited until December to fire coach Peter Laviolette.

This year's post-Thanksgiving game featured the Flyers and Buffalo Sabres, but in a twist, it wasn't the Sabres firing their coach. Instead, it was the Flyers, who fired John Stevens today -- and in another twist, Laviolette has taken his place.

Stevens seemed to be a promising choice at first. He coached the AHL Phantoms to a championship in 2004-05, and a number of players from that team have been Flyers since then. However, despite one strong run to the Eastern Conference finals, the team has been maddeningly inconsistent, as I mentioned last night. This year, with the additions of Chris Pronger and Ray Emery to a team that already had players like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, expectations for a Stanley Cup run were very high. But the hot and cold streaks have kept this team from living up to their hype.

Last night, after their dismal 3-0 loss to Vancouver, I wrote the following about the Flyers' recent stretch: "This is the type of thing that should get a coach fired. The sooner it happens, the better off the Flyers will be." It should be noted that another highly-touted team, Pittsburgh, struggled mightily for a good part of last year. The Penguins then made a coaching change and promptly won the Stanley Cup. And Laviolette won a Cup with Carolina in 2005-06. So, less than 24 hours after I wrote that, the Flyers are instantly better off. I wish I had such power over other matters.

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