When the Philadelphia Flyers made the decision to cut ties with coach Peter Laviolette, there were many questions left unanswered, along with a hockey team struggling to find ways to score. The move was one that came as a surprise to many and signaled that the organization was already in panic-mode just three games into the season –but what else is new from one of the league’s most impatient teams?
A new coach was hired but the team has continued to falter, winning just one of the first five games with Craig Berube behind the bench and scoring at an alarmingly slow rate. But through all the ups-and-downs, media meltdowns and new personnel, there might be at least one good thing to come out of everything, other than cheaper Flyers tickets – and his name is Ian Laperriere. The former Flyer was added to the coaching staff as an assistant to help Berube and might just have the makings of a great National Hockey League coach.
Laperriere spent just one season in Philadelphia but his tough, hard-nosed attitude instantly made him a favorite among the locals – and the feeling was definitely mutual. After he was hit in the face with a puck during a playoff game against New Jersey, Laperriere was forced to call it a career thanks to symptoms caused by post-concussion syndrome – ending an impressive 16 season career in the NHL.
With his playing days behind him, Laperriere took a position working with younger players as Director of Player Development and worked as a TV analyst for Comcast SportsNet. It was clear he knew his stuff and had the knowledge both on and off the ice to become an effective coach. And then came the firing – but while some were peeved, the news of Laperriere’s new position behind the bench left many with at least a sliver of happiness. Through only a handful of games it’s been difficult to get a read on the new coach, or what exactly he brings to the table – but the players have made it clear that he has their utmost respect and we can’t blame them.
“He’s played the game recently; he knows what it’s about,” Zac Rinaldo told PhillyBurbs. “He’s fresh off from playing. I have questions all day. I can ask everyone questions, but he’s my main guy I’m going to ask because he’s been part of the game and he knows what’s going on, and like I said, has the experience.”
Lappy working in the corners during a puck battle drill. pic.twitter.com/x9X6knDzGX
— CJ Burns (@CjBurnsSOP) October 23, 2013
Laperriere’s focus during practice is forechecking, something he works on often with the defense but that’s not all – working in the zone and penalty killing have also been part of his daily routine. The 39-year-old also shares a comradery with some of his former teammates but tries not to let that get in the way of his job and even admits that he is emulating his coaching based on one of this generation’s best.
“Larry Robinson was a guy I really liked with his approach,” Laperriere told CSN Philly. “He’s a real good assistant. He’s personable, has a great pedigree. He won so many Cups and is in the Hall of Fame.”
He went on to admit that he was scared of Mike Keenan while playing for him and doesn’t think that style of coach is built to last in today’s NHL. Laperriere is taking to his new role and while the results remain to be seen, it looks like he’s as happy as he was during his playing days. Now we’ll see if he has what it takes to be a solid assistant – and perhaps one day a head coach. One day.