Dec 042010
Flyers C Chris Pronger

Flyers C Chris Pronger

December 4:

Philadelphia Flyers news and stories from around the web…

Peter Laviolette: Attitude adjuster

December 4 Camden Courier-Post:

“A year ago today, with his team holding a 13-11-1 record but in the midst of a 1-6-0 slide, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger on what he called the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make in pro hockey.

Saying his players needed a “new voice,” Holmgren replaced head coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette, surprising everyone in the organization, from team chairman Ed Snider to team captain Mike Richards.

“I think everybody knows how difficult that decision was for me because of my relationship with John Stevens,” Holmgren said Friday. “John did a really good job with our organization and to be honest he laid a really good foundation defensively for this team.”

It was Laviolette’s aggressive offensive approach to the game that led Holmgren to meet with him for four hours at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal and offer Laviolette the head coaching job of the Adirondack Phantoms.

Three years removed from winning a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, Laviolette declined the offer, saying he wanted to wait for an NHL offer to come along. Less than six months later that offer came from Holmgren.

“I talked with (Atlanta Thrashers president) Don Waddell, who knew Peter very well, before the change,” Holmgren said. “At the time we felt we needed a different voice and how Peter and John wanted their teams to play were a little different offensively. I always liked the style his teams played. They really get after things. When they don’t have the puck they have an urgency to get it back.

“The way the game has opened up, that’s the way you’ve got to play. He’s always been ahead of the curve there. It’s more of an aggressive approach.”

In hindsight, Holmgren’s coaching choice has been a stroke of brilliance. Laviolette resurrected the Flyers from 29th in the NHL and brought them to within two wins of their first Stanley Cup in 35 years.

But his success in Philadelphia did not come overnight. Upon his arrival, the Flyers lost eight of their next 10 games and rumors of locker room descent ran rampant. Laviolette said he faced a similar challenge in Carolina when he took over for Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice midway through the 2003-04 season and failed to make the playoffs.”

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Flyers’ power play getting special attention

December 4 Philadelphia Daily News:

“CHRIS PRONGER swears he is contrite.

He promises not to cause a scene again in front of the opposing goaltender on the power play – or at least not to break any rules when doing it.

“I will do everything within the letter of the law, as I have,” said Pronger, who has been suspended on eight occasions by the NHL.

The last time we saw him on the power play, parked in front of Miikka Kiprusoff on Black Friday against Calgary, Pronger was whistled for the “Sean Avery rule” after Mike Richards’ would-be game-winning shot hit the twine.

“Make no mistake about it, he’s there to screen the goaltender,” coach Peter Laviolette said after the Flyers‘ practice yesterday as they geared up for the Devils and Islanders this weekend in desperate search of points.

The Flyers fell behind Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division on Thursday for the first time all season, having picked up just two out of a possible six points in their last three games. They’ve scored just three goals in those three games.

Laviolette broke the practice into two separate units. The power-play players were sent to the adjacent rink at the Skate Zone and the rest of the team remained on the usual practice rink. It’s Laviolette’s push to jump-start a power play that has cashed in just twice in its last 38 chances.

“Lately, we’ve been pretty static and stale and not scoring any goals on it,” Pronger said. “We’ve been working on making the [opponent’s] box move. If you are just moving the puck around the outside, the box doesn’t have to move.

“All the things we were working on, traffic, movement, pucks to the net, when we were scoring goals on the power play and moving around, we were moving our feet, moving the puck, allowing the puck to do the work for us.”

What Laviolette did not do was change the units. He said he flip-flopped them so often in the early part of the season that players thought that’s what held back the power play to a 3-for-35 (8.6 percent) start. With consistency, it rebounded on a 14-for-43 (32.6 percent) run. Now it is back to 5.2 percent.

Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell make up one unit with Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros, while Jeff Carter, Richards and Ville Leino are paired with Pronger and Kimmo Timonen.

Left off the units, and skating on the other rink, were Nik Zherdev and James van Riemsdyk. Laviolette had tested Zherdev briefly – a combined 2 minutes, 6 seconds over the last three games – but he has always been pulled off, losing out in the numbers game.

“It always comes back to if I put him out there, someone else has to come off,” Laviolette said on Wednesday.”

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