Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
Sunday, 22 October 2006 saw some big changes within the ranks of the Philadelphia Flyers organisation. Head coach Ken Hitchcock is gone and John Stevens, moving from an assistant coach position, takes his place. Stevens has been in the Flyers system a long time, both as player and coach. He coached the teamís AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms to the 2005 Calder Cup. Ed Snider reportedly made the decision to fire Hitchcock after the teamís humiliating loss to the Buffalo Sabres by the score of 9-1. A demanding coach, Hitchcock and goalie Robert Esche had a small battle of words via the media after Esche deservedly lost favour as a starting goaltender.
General Manager Bob Clarke resigned as well. Recognised as the heart of the Flyers team since the early 1970s, Clarke, burnt out, had lost the enthusiasm to make the decisions to turn around the fortunes of this underachieving team. Paul Holmgren will be taking over Clarkeís position as interim General Manager. He had been serving as Assistant GM.
Thirty-one years has passed since the Flyers last one a Stanley Cup and thatís far too long with the amount of talent this team has had over the years. Snider is clearly hoping to find the combination that will bring a championship back to this proud organisation.
Consensus is that the players are not giving their all and putting forth the effort required to win games. Goaltending is inconsistent at best and the goals arenít coming Ė a fatal combination. This indicates players are not meshing with the coaching style and even though Hitchcock should have many suitors looking for a top-notch head coach, his time was up in Philadelphia.
Will this be enough to bring the team to championship form? Holmgren should be experienced enough in his new role and should benefit from the tutorage received from Clarke. Stevens has shown his ability to produce results in the past and his experience as player and coach should help him with this team. Making these changes early in the season is a definite benefit. With a little mix-up in the roster, perhaps some toughness, this new-look Philly team could go far this season.