Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren: Team needs to be more competitive

Coach Peter Laviolette's job could be on the line. "The urgency has to increase, and the execution has to be better," Laviolette said of his 12-15-1 Flyers.
Coach Peter Laviolette's job could be on the line. "The urgency has to increase, and the execution has to be better," Laviolette said of his 12-15-1 Flyers. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 16, 2013

General manager Paul Holmgren said he was not considering a coaching change, and he criticized the Flyers' "compete" level during an impromptu news conference at the team's practice facility in Voorhees on Thursday.

At first, Holmgren gave coach Peter Laviolette a seemingly lukewarm endorsement.

Asked if Laviolette was on the hot seat, Holmgren said, "I don't think so."

Holmgren later added: "I haven't even thought about" making a coaching change, and he was "not at the point" of consummating a major trade.

The Flyers have underachieved big time. They are 12-15-1 after Wednesday's 5-2 trouncing in New Jersey, have not had a winning streak of more than two games, and are five points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The general manager chastised the Flyers' effort against the Devils.

"If there were 100 puck battles, I don't know if we won a handful of them," he said.

Holmgren said the Flyers are "making a lot of mistakes. Some of them are from a lack of competitiveness, and I think our team needs to compete better. I don't think we can let the players off the hook here."

Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers' veteran defenseman, agreed.

"It's not [Laviolette's] fault. We play the game," said Timonen, whose team will host New Jersey on Friday. "It's always easy to blame the coach. He only places the system down, and we have to execute the system."

Asked if he felt pressure for Laviolette, Timonen said, "I don't think about it. We shouldn't be thinking about that. We should be thinking about how we're going to beat the New Jersey Devils. If we start thinking about issues going on off the ice, it's not going to help us. What happens, happens."

The Flyers, who have a head-scratching 4-11 road record, have 20 games left in the shortened season.

"It's been a tough year. It's been a completely different year for most of us who have never been a part of a lockout," winger Jake Voracek said. "It's been a lot of tough games, a lot of traveling, a lot of back-to-back games. It's something different, but I don't know why anyone would put [the blame] on Lavy. I would never say that."

Captain Claude Giroux, who has had an uneven season, said it was a "joke" to even consider a coaching change.

On the record, the Flyers support Laviolette. On the ice, they are not playing that way. They frequently fall behind and lose their fight, and they rarely play a sustained 60 minutes.

Last summer, Laviolette was given a two-year extension through the end of the 2014-15 season. In his fourth season with the Flyers, he has a 134-88-27 record.

After replacing John Stevens early in the 2009-10 season, Laviolette directed the Flyers to a 28-24-5 record, and that team made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers went 47-23-12 (winning the Atlantic Division) and 47-26-9 the next two seasons.

The Flyers have a team similar to last season's, when they finished fifth in the East. They subtracted three key players (James van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle, and Jaromir Jagr) and added players such as Luke Schenn, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Simon Gagne - after they failed in attempts to sign marquee free agents Zach Parise, Shea Weber, and Ryan Suter.

At 12-15-1, the Flyers have 25 points - 14 points behind last year, when they were 18-7-3 at a similar juncture.

A lack of execution, winger Wayne Simmonds said, has been the biggest problem, "and at the same time, I don't think we're playing our hardest, our best, and this is when we really need to play our best."

Simmonds said that the Flyers "definitely have what it takes in here" to make a playoff run, but he added that "talk is cheap; there's not really much more to say except to go out and do it."

"The urgency has to increase, and the execution has to be better," Laviolette said. "If we choke ourselves to death trying to do it, that won't help, either, so there's got to be a fine line you walk to realize the importance of a game, but to stay loose enough . . . to compete well."

Breakaways. Defenseman Luke Schenn, who missed Wednesday's loss with the flu, sat out practice, while Timonen and Gagne had maintenance days. All are expected to play Friday. . . . Before practice Thursday, the Flyers looked at video of their dismal performance in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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