Importance of Laperriere's hire

Posted: October 15, 2013

CRAIG BERUBE didn't want to send the wrong message.

In each of the three games he has been behind the bench since taking over for Peter Laviolette last week, Berube has seen improvement in different areas.

Yet, the Flyers are 1-2 under Berube and 1-5-0 this season. Only the brutal Buffalo Sabres have fewer points in the Eastern Conference.

If you missed the notice, the Flyers don't condone a losing culture - even though it will take time to turn this team around.

"We don't want to get comfortable with losing, but I thought we played a pretty good game," Berube said Saturday night in Detroit. "A solid game with guys having a lot of urgency. But it's not good enough. We've got to be better."

But Berube, 47, has the perfect guard dog on his bench to keep the Flyers from getting comfortable with losing: assistant coach Ian Laperriere.

The promotion of Laperriere from director of player development to assistant coach last week may have been lost in the splash of Berube's hiring, but Laperriere might be general manager Paul Holmgren's most shrewd move in a long time.

Berube agreed on Laperriere, but it's pretty clear Holmgren was the one who made the call. Berube is extremely close with former roommate and former NHL head coach Rick Tocchet, who probably would have fit on this staff.

No player wanted to win more - and did more for less glory - than Laperriere in his 16-year NHL career. Laperriere ended his career with a winning record (497-496-90) in just eight seasons. His teams made it out of the first round only three times and he played through some lean years in Los Angeles and Colorado.

"The way he played the game, to teach our players about commitment and desire, doing the things he did, you can't ask for anyone better," Berube said. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm and positive energy."

Watch Laperriere on the bench for 2 seconds and his positive energy is obvious. Even three games into his coaching career, his teaching and constant chatter with players can be seen from the press box.

There are few people with more grit and determination. This summer, even battling the postconcussion symptoms that prematurely ended his playing career, he completed the IronMan triathlon near his hometown of Montreal. He finished the 2-mile swim in 1:13:00, the 112-mile bike ride in 5:42:56 and the full marathon of 26.2 miles in 5:05:21.

Laperriere, 39 and believed the be the youngest assistant coach in the NHL, is the perfect blend of experience and talent to connect with both older and younger players.

With 1,083 regular-season games under his belt, Laperriere made a believer out of the veterans on the Flyers' roster. He played alongside Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Ray Emery.

More important, Laperriere was the director of development while a few of the Flyers' youngest players - like Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn - went through the rookie and development camps. He's already caught their attention, and Zac Rinaldo is already calling Laperriere a mentor.

"He's fresh off of playing," Rinaldo said. "That's relevant. He knows what it's about. There's so many things he's told me in the last 3-4 days that I'm already putting to use and practice."

Laperriere said it's not a challenge to coach players who were his teammates just 3 years ago.

"I played myself with a couple of those guys, and that's the dangerous thing, but I won't change," Laperriere said. "I'll be myself. If I change, it would be so hypocritical."

Laperriere is also the perfect blend of skill and grit to coach units like the penalty kill. Yes, he made his living in the NHL playing special teams and blocking shots, but he also had flashes of talent. He was a 140-point scorer in one season in junior hockey, a stat that players don't forget.

"They're going to work," Laperriere said of his players. "I will work on all of those things those [other coaches] don't have time - not time, but so many things go on - like positioning and things like that. To play at the high level, those guys need to be in better shape. I don't know if they were, but they will be."

To help him, Laperriere said he will pick out the best things he learned from his own coaches and teammates along the way. In Los Angeles, Andy Murray pushed him to be a better player. Hall of Famer Larry Robinson taught him how to treat people and motivate individually.

"You can't scare these guys," Laperriere said. "It's about finding the right buttons to push, and everybody's got a different way to get them going. That's our job to find their way and make sure they're happy coming to the rink every day and coming to work. As individuals, they will make the team better."

INJURY UPDATES

-- Scott Hartnell will miss the next 2-to-4 weeks with a vague, upper-body injury, according to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. The full nature of Hartnell’s injury wasn’t revealed, but the injury is worse than originally suspected since “it’s in a position that affects his side-to-side movement.” Replays were inconclusive as to exactly how Hartnell was hurt. It’s a tough break for Hartnell, who played just three games at the start of last season before missing the next 16 with a fractured foot.

-- Vinny Lecavalier will need about a week to recuperate from his lower-body injury, suffered in the same game against Phoenix on Friday night. Holmgren said Lecavalier “jammed himself” behind the goal line against the Coyotes before leaving the ice. Lecavalier, 33, missed 27 games over his last two seasons in Tampa Bay.

REINFORCEMENTS?

Holmgren said he’d like to stick with call-ups Michael Raffl and Tye McGinn at the moment, rather than make a trade. McGinn, 23, picked up the fourth goal in his NHL career against the Red Wings on Saturday — which was also Raffl’s first NHL game.

“I’m anxious to see what Michael and Tye can do,” Holmgren said. “They’re both big bodies and they can play a bit higher up in the lineup. Hopefully they can give us a little life and enthusiasm.”

STAT WATCH

1: Assist for Claude Giroux in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Detroit, finally breaking his five-game pointless skid. His career-high pointless streak is eight games, set Jan. 1-Jan. 17, 2010.

29th: Flyers’ rank in NHL in goals per game (1.33) with eight goals in six games. Only Buffalo (0-5-1) is worse with just six goals (1.00). San Jose’s Thomas Hertl nearly has as many goals (7) as the Flyers.

1: Number of times the Flyers have gone into a season without scoring at least three goals in one of their first six games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

6: League-high number of Flyers defensemen making more than $3.5 million this season, not including Chris Pronger. No other team has five defensemen pulling in more than that amount — and only Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Anaheim have four.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

Email: seravaf@phillynews.com

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