Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why I Don't Like John Stevens

I swore after the Flyers made an impressive run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year that I'd do everything in my power to try and not badmouth the guy. Turns out, I can't do it. So let me tell you why I don't like John Stevens.

For starters, last season, the Philadelphia Flyers went winless in 10 straight games. They were incredibly inconsistent, starting out red hot, then fading, then playing really well and really poorly the rest of the way. Stevens juggled the lines on an almost nightly basis, and the Flyers were never able to gain any cohesion.

Then suddenly, the Flyers picked up their game, led by Jeff Carter's emergence when Mike Richards went down to injury, and made that run to the conference finals. Suddenly, everyone forgot about just how inconsistent the Flyers were, and how incompetent the coach was. I seemed to be the only human being alive that still questioned John Stevens. Maybe I just can't flip sides. Or maybe the guy really can't coach.

Which brings me to last night. Well, this season as a whole really. Even though I wasn't cutting him any slack last year for the team's incredible inconsistency and his very quick trigger on switching lines, at least it was understandable. It was Stevens' first full year as an NHL coach. So after having a very fine playoff, I figured maybe, just maybe he'll learn from his mistakes and become a better coach.

Then the Flyers started out slow, then played well, then struggled, then played really well and then looked awful down the stretch. Stevens was juggling lines a bit, a little less than last year, but still too much for my liking, and when the Flyers had everything to play for down the stretch, he failed to motivate the team. In April alone, they lost to Toronto, the Senators and the Rangers twice, giving away home ice advantage, and they looked like a lazy, undisciplined team in all those losses.

That comes down to coaching, and just like they had all April, the Flyers looked uninspired and lazy last night, getting completely manhandled by Pittsburgh in the opening period and going 12 minutes without a shot in the second. They fell behind 1-0 in the first, and a frightening stat popped up: in 20 of their last 24 games, the Flyers have trailed after one period. That's embarrassing. And it all comes back to the coach. He fails to get his players ready to play. Last night, he failed to do so again, and some of his decisions were atrocious — for instance, his decision to play Jared Ross.

Ross had played a grand total of 10 games for Flyers this season and hadn't seen action with the big club in months. Plus, it's not like he lit it up with the Flyers, what with his -4 in those 10 regular season games. Sure, Andreas Nodl wasn't playing great, but he wasn't playing horrible either. At least he had been with the team of late. Instead, Stevens dresses a guy who has no business being there in the first game of the playoffs. Apparently, he didn't learn a damn thing from the Steve Downie incident last playoffs.

The other thing that drove me insanely nuts about Stevens last night is the way he changed the lines. Not that he changed the lines. The Flyers were playing horrible and needed to juggle things to see if they could spark something. But here's the thing that killed me … he put guys together who had really not played much at all together all season. If I recall correctly, and I know I do, the Flyers beat the Penguins 3-1 last time they played in the regular season, and the Flyers had recently shifted the lines. In that game, Giroux was with Gagne and Knuble, Richards with Lupul and Carcillo, Carter with Hartnell and Briere, and Powe with Cote and Asham. Why not put those lines back together (obviously with Ross replacing Cote) and see if you could get the same outcome? Instead, Stevens made up entirely new combinations on the spot. Am I missing something here?

I don't know, maybe I'm just a perpetual coach-hater. I despise Andy Reid. I'm not a fan of Tony DiLeo. And until last year, I wasn't always the biggest Charlie Manuel fan either. But I think I'm a reasonable man. I thought Ken Hitchcock and Terry Murray were very good coaches. I liked Larry Brown (as a coach, not a personnel guy). And I love Charlie Manuel now.

But John Stevens. This guy, he's not my kind of guy.

Oh, and reunite Coburn and Timonen. Braydon was awesome with Kimmo, and now he kinda sucks without him.

Jordan Staal is a beast, and it's not fair that Malkin and Crosby are on the same team.

And Randy Jones sucks.

That is all.

Wait, no it isn't. Fuck Pittsburgh. That city is trash.

Now that's all.

BallHype: hype it up!

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