When the Edmonton Oilers introduced Craig MacTavish as general manager, a question was asked during the media availability that infuriated president Kevin Lowe. MacTavish had previously acted as the team's head coach from 2001 until being fired in 2009 and a member of the Edmonton media wanted to know what had changed between that time and the present day.
Was MacTavish being hired because he was the best person for the job? Or was MacTavish being hired because he was the best person for the job, who also had a history with the franchise? (In addition to his tenure as coach, he won three Stanley Cups with the club as a player and a total of four as a teammate of Lowe).
Seven months later, the same question was poised to Philadelphia Flyers management as they introduced new head coach Craig Berube. When the concept of an insular atmosphere was brought to the attention of team owner Ed Snider, his reaction to the question mirrored that of Lowe's.
"No, we don't need a fresh perspective," is the headline you've seen everywhere this story has run. "We have a pretty good culture, and we know who we're dealing with."
In firing Peter Laviolette, the Flyers opted to hire Berube, a man who began his playing carer with the Flyers as an undrafted free agent and began his coaching career as a player/coach with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Since his decision in 2003 to move from sitting on the bench, to standing behind it, Berube has been a member of Philadelphia's organization.
His assistant coaches, Ian Laperriere and John Paddock, also played for the Flyers and have been working in the organization in various roles. In addition, the team promoted Kjell Samuelsson to Laperriere's old position as director of player development, with Derian Hatcher acting as his assistant. As is the case with the others, both played for the Flyers during their careers. The same can be said of manager Paul Holmgren, his understudy Ron Hextall and vice president Bobby Clarke.
While the Flyers and Oilers each share similarities in their hiring qualifications, there is a distinct difference between the two situations: the Flyers win, and they win a lot.
Since the franchise's inception in 1967, only two franchises -- the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens -- have appeared in more playoff games than Philadelphia. With the exception of a five-season drought in the early '90s, the Flyers have never gone consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. Dating back to the 2000 playoffs, the team has made four Eastern Conference Final appearances and came two wins shy of winning the 2010 Stanley Cup.
The Oilers have missed the postseason for eight years and counting.
The point isn't to compare the two. The point is the Flyers management team has been successful year after year for a staggering period of time. The problem? No third Stanley Cup. The crux in any defense of the team's decisions comes down to that minute detail, which is microscopic in the larger scheme of running a successful business but so massively huge in the essence of running a successful sports franchise.
You play to win the game and the Flyers haven't won the game since May 27, 1975.
The perception -- whether true or not -- is that Snider, at times, is his own worst enemy. He is perceived as a hands-on owner who has demanded player personnel moves over the years, some of which have backfired. The most notable of which was the decision to trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, two popular players who helped lead the Phantoms to a Calder Cup and helped the Flyers return to the Stanley Cup, so that the team could acquire and sign Ilya Bryzgalov.
While Bryzgalov's contract will forever be remembered as a misstep, it's important to remember the massive hole that was left in the team's lineup with the career-ending injury to defenseman Chris Pronger. Pronger was a critical component to the team's construction and made
a lot of every player around him better. How could the team not take a step back in his absence? Whichever way you choose to slice it, the loss of Pronger is a void the team hasn't been able to fill and, truth be told, likely never will.
Now, the team moves forward with a new boss, who everyone assumes is the same as the old boss, while the big boss continues to face increasingly difficult questions each time commissioner Bettman hands the Cup over to a captain without a Flying-P on his chest.