Flyers fire Stevens, hire Laviolette

Updated: December 5, 2009, 2:25 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers replaced coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette on Friday after the team was shut out in consecutive games.

Laviolette led the Carolina Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup title in 2006. He was fired in December 2008 and was still under contract.

[+] EnlargePeter Laviolette
Gregg Forwerck/NHLI/Getty Images Peter Laviolette, who coached the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup title in 2006, takes over a Flyers team that has fallen out of playoff contention.

Laviolette, who also coached the New York Islanders for two seasons, was 167-130-30 in his four-plus seasons with Carolina.

"Obviously this is a great opportunity. I am really excited," Laviolette said in a team release. "The Flyers are an organization that has a lot of tradition and a lot of history. This is just an exciting time for me and my family and we are really looking forward to it."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren made the call to fire Stevens.

"I think Paul felt he had to make this change," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. "I make it a policy never to overrule my general manager, because once I do, it means I've lost confidence in him."

Holmgren acknowledged, "I got grilled pretty hard."

"He didn't say one way or another," Holmgren said. "He did say, it's your decision."

The Flyers were expected to contend in the Eastern Conference this season. They were 13-11-1 for 27 points and out of the playoff picture entering Saturday's game against Washington.

Holmgren said a new voice was needed.

"Peter Laviolette brings experience along with a different approach to the game," he said.

Stevens got the job early in the 2006 season after Ken Hitchcock was fired and led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals the following season.

The Flyers haven't scored in their last two games, and captain Mike Richards called a team meeting after their 3-0 loss to Vancouver on Thursday.

"It was just something that happened," Richards said. "Everyone was in the room, and it was a good time to get things off your chest. Not just myself, but everybody else in the dressing room."

Said Danny Briere: "Basically, what me and Chris [Pronger] have been saying -- we have to play with more passion ... You have to stop blaming everybody and get a good look at yourself in the mirror -- and if you're willing to do a little more, it's going to go a long way."

Holmgren knew after the latest lost he needed to make a change and he told Stevens after Friday's practice.

"It's fair to say I probably caught him off guard a little bit," Holmgren said.

Stevens, who had come under scrutiny the past week, realized the Flyers were in serious trouble.

"Yeah, there's big-time concerns, of course there is," Stevens said Thursday. "I mean, we're losing hockey games."

A former draft pick of the Flyers in 1984, Stevens had a 15-year pro career as defenseman, including 53 NHL games with Philadelphia and the Hartford Whalers.

Stevens took over in 2006 with the Flyers off to a 1-6-1 start en route to the worst season in franchise history. Stevens, who led Philadelphia's AHL affiliate to the Calder Cup in 2005, used many of those same players to cap one of the greatest turnarounds in NHL history and take the Flyers to the conference finals the next year.

The Penguins knocked them out in 2008, and eliminated the Flyers again in the first round last season.

The additions of goalie Ray Emery and defenseman Chris Pronger made the Flyers a playoff favorite heading into this season, but injuries and a loaded offense that quickly went dry sent them into a tailspin.

"I still believe we have a good team," Holmgren said. "I guess we'll find out."

Laviolette interviewed last summer for the Flyers' vacant AHL head coaching vacancy, but passed because he wanted to return to the NHL. Smart move.

The Flyers also fired assistant Jack McIlhargey and replaced him with Hurricanes assistant Kevin McCarthy.

"I think that you have to be tough on players," Laviolette said. "I also believe in the human side of things. I think if you can get to the human side, you can be tough."

Philadelphia has one win in its last seven games and has scored two goals or fewer in the last four.

"If I had the answer, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this right now," Pronger said Thursday.

Stevens went 120-109-34. He had two 10-game losing streaks with the Flyers.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.