Monday, October 7, 2013

Grantland weekend wrapup: Flyers, Oilers, Avs

It's always funny in Philadelphia

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than one full week into the season, we have our first coaching casualty: Flyers boss Peter Laviolette, who was canned after an 0-3 start and replaced by Craig Berube.

While the move may have come stunningly early, it’s not exactly a shock. The Flyers have looked awful so far. And despite this overflowing file folder by my computer labeled “pre-written Flyers goalie jokes," goaltending has been the least of their problems. The much-maligned Steve Mason has been fine in his two starts, including a 32-save performance in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes.

But the defense looks old and slow, spending long stretches pinned in its own zone in all three games. And even when the Flyers do get the puck into the other end of the ice, they don’t look dangerous. They’ve managed three goals on the year, just one of those at even strength, and top players like Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and Jakub Voracek have all been held off the scoreboard.

None of that can be considered acceptable for a heavy-spending team that’s only managed to stay cap compliant thanks to long-term injured reserve exemptions, and that spent heavily on buyouts and acquisitions in the summer. In fairness, offseason additions Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit have looked good — with a combined four points, they’ve accounted for half of the roster’s total offense — but the team just isn’t clicking right now. This is where we’d normally add the “small sample size” disclaimer, but even that loses some impact when you recall the Flyers floundering through a 1-5-1 preseason.

Laviolette had long been rumored to be on the hot seat. Now that he’s gone, it may not be long before GM Paul Holmgren has a target on his back, too. The Flyers should be able to record their first win Tuesday night when they host the Panthers. If not, expect things to get ugly in Philadelphia.

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