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Flyers dismiss Stevens, hire Laviolette

Friday, 12.04.2009 / 5:17 PM / News

NHL.com

The Philadelphia Flyers, losers of six of their past seven games, fired coach John Stevens on Friday and replaced him with Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette will make his debut behind the Flyers' bench on Saturday when the Flyers host the Washington Capitals. He'll be joined by assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, an assistant under Paul Maurice in Carolina who had worked under Laviolette with the Hurricanes and was allowed to go to Philadelphia.

"I know this was a very difficult decision for Paul to make. And, I really feel bad for John because he's been a terrific long-time member of our organization," Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider said in a statement. "I was hoping that the team would play better and that this could have been avoided, but after last night's game, I think Paul felt he had to make this change. I make it a policy never to overrule my general manager, because once I do, it means I've lost confidence in him. I really want to wish John the best."

Laviolette has previously coached the New York Islanders and the Hurricanes. He led the Islanders to the playoffs in both seasons as coach, but was let go after the 2002-03 season. He was named coach of the Hurricanes after Paul Maurice was fired 30 games into the '03-04 season and led the 'Canes to the Stanley Cup in 2006 -- but they missed the playoffs in each of the next two seasons, and he was replaced by Maurice early in 2008-09. He had about 2/12 seasons remaining on his contract when he was let go.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and Laviolette have worked together previously with USA Hockey.

The Flyers were considered Stanley Cup contenders in October but have dropped three in a row and six of seven to fall to 10th place in Eastern Conference with a record of 13-11-1. They've been shut out in each of their last two games, including Thursday's 3-0 home loss to Vancouver.

Over parts of seven season in the NHL as head coach (2001-02 to 2008-09), Laviolette has compiled a record of 244-184-59 in 487 games coached with the Islanders and Hurricanes.

Stevens coached the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms for six seasons before being named coach of the Flyers early in 2006-07, taking over for Ken Hitchcock early in the season.

Holmgren said the coaching change wasn't easy.

"This was a very difficult decision for me to make, given my relationship with John," he said. "I want to thank him for his service to the Flyers organization over the years. However, in watching the team over the past few weeks I felt a new voice was needed in order to get us out of this and in the direction we expect," said Holmgren. "Peter Laviolette brings experience along with a different approach to the game. We look forward to him putting his stamp on the team quickly and getting our team headed in the right direction."

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

The Flyers missed the playoffs that first season -- but in 2007-08, they advanced to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to Pittsburgh. The Flyers were again eliminated by the Penguins in 2008-09, but this time in the opening round. Much was expected from them this season, especially after Holmgren brought in All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger from Anaheim in an off-season trade.
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