Earlier this year, both Craig Berube and Ron Hextall talked about the need for the Flyers to evolve from the social experiment they’ve long been to a team that relies, at least in part, on data and modern thinking to progress into this century. Berube, for his part, helped steer the OB out of a really bad start and into one of the best finishes in hockey last season. For once, it seemed like maybe, maybe things were changing.
Hextall hasn’t had enough time to do anything truly impactful on the roster, so it’s hard to judge him at this point. But we’re now more than a full year into Berube’s tenure as coach, and cliché-filled quotes like these make it feel like this is still the same old Flyers. From CSN Philly:
“Yeah, at times,” Berube said of his players’ pressing. “But I think it’s a hard game. That was a hard game against Anaheim. They are a big, strong team.
“They have a strong work ethic. Our guys battled hard and did a lot of good things. A lot of times when you press too much, you get burnt the other way.
“The sooner we get out of this, I’d rather them just enjoy the game and play. More than anything, that is the biggest thing. Enjoy the game and play. They’re good players. They know the system, play it and trust it.”
“No, they’re not trying to be Superman,” Berube replied. “They all want to win. They all want to do it. They really do. That’s a good thing. We have good character on this team. I said that last year and it hasn’t changed this year. It’s a good-character hockey team.”
Coaches don’t give the media much, so it’s possible that this is just Berube saying the bare minimum here. But it’s all a refrain we’ve heard before. Battle, system, character are the sort of buzzwords that should make you cringe. They’re the words that SNL would use in a skit about Flyers hockey. Instructing players to enjoy the game is not the instruction needed to get of a six-game (really?!) losing streak. At a certain point you have to acknowledge that there’s a skill deficiency and an organizational problem.
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but I was really beginning to like Berube by the end of last season. Now, though, he sounds like Keith Primeau’s version of Bill Barber– work harder, make adjustments. It sounds like he doesn’t have answers, which, in turn, sounds like a coach who’s on the verge of becoming a special assistant to the GM.