VOORHEES, N.J. -- During the press conference Monday to announce Peter Laviolette had been fired as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers and replaced by assistant coach Craig Berube, both Flyers chairman Ed Snider and general manager Paul Holmgren placed the onus on the players to start playing better.
"You can't get rid of all the players," Snider said. "This is why coaches lose their jobs, and sometimes lose them because of the players."
On Tuesday, those players felt the sting of the chairman's comments, and few were willing to disagree with him.
"We're the ones on the ice, we're the ones doing the job," captain Claude Giroux said. "Obviously we didn't get the job done."
"A lot of the onus is on us players," forward Scott Hartnell said. "We didn't have a great start, preseason was bad. Our scorers haven't been scoring. Unfortunately someone has to take the fall. But we have to look in the mirror ourselves and realize that the big part of it was probably us."
Turning around their fortunes starts Tuesday when the Flyers go for their first win of the season, at home against the Florida Panthers. The Flyers never have started a season with four straight losses, and to prevent any history from being made, Berube spent his first practice session beginning to implement some of the things he wants to see from his team.
"You don't want to give them too much, but we need to work on some things, make some changes," he said following a 50-minute skate. "It took a little time. … There is some structural stuff. For me, we need to be a better-skating hockey team. That's the structural stuff that comes into play. We're going to be a harder-working, skating hockey team.
"Going back to last year … we need to make some changes within the system and the mindset of the team."
Berube's first order was improved team defense, and with that in mind he switched up the team's defense pairings to what it looked like for large stretches last season. He said Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann would be reunited as the team's top shutdown pairing, with Kimmo Timonen back with Luke Schenn, and Andrej Meszaros and Mark Streit skating together.
"I didn't see much from the pairings that were going on, so I made some changes," Berube said. "Cobie [Coburn] and Grossmann as a shutdown pair, Streit and Meszaros can both move the puck real well, and I think that Kimmo and Schenner were good together last year."
Berube also made a few line changes to a group that has scored three goals -- only one at even-strength -- in its first three games. Wayne Simmonds was moved off Vincent Lecavalier's line for the first time this season, playing right wing with Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Jakub Voracek slid into Simmonds' spot alongside Lecavalier, with Brayden Schenn playing left wing. A third line featured Sean Couturier centering Maxime Talbot and Matt Read, a trio Berube said he's liked in the time he's seen it together.
"Up front, we haven't scored a lot of goals, so I mixed them up a little bit," Berube said.
He also said he's spent some time explaining to players what he didn't like in the team's 0-3 start that has seen it outscored 9-3.
"I'm not going to get into all that stuff," Berube said, "but [they know] my displeasure with the first three games and what I saw and what we need to correct."
That straight-forward, simple approach has the players excited to play for Berube.
"I think it [the change] will be good," Giroux said. "I think he's going to demand hard work, he's going to demand being accountable for yourself. I think we're going to need that. Guys need to have a better attitude, myself and the team. I think we need to have a better mindset going through a game."
However, that excitement is counterbalanced by guilt surrounding Laviolette's departure.
"It's hard to see a good guy like [Laviolette] go," Hartnell said. "Ever since he got here a few years ago, he got the guys going, he got the guys refocused the year we made the [Stanley] Cup run [2009-10]. Personally he did a lot of great things for me. Made me a better player on the ice and a better guy off the ice."
Other players had similar sentiments about Laviolette, as well as assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, who also was fired Monday. But Hartnell said now isn't the time to look back.
"Obviously management thought it was time to go in a different direction," he said. "You don't want to dwell on the past, you want to look ahead, and that's what we've got to do right now."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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