The Philadelphia Flyers' dreary, lockout-shortened season ended last April 27 with a 2-1 victory in Ottawa, although the most notable thing that night occurred off the ice.
Cued by a "Canadian reporter" (probably Brent Wallace, a real troublemaker), Philly's media said it had "heard" head coach Peter Laviolette was going to be fired after the off-season. Suffice it to say, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was not thrilled.
"I'm not even going to comment on the f-----g sources," Holmgren fired back. "Some idiot made it up ... I'm not saying a f-----g thing ... How many times do I have to tell you, I haven't even thought about firing the coach. How many times?"
Holmgren admitted Monday he did briefly consider the idea. But he thought "it was important Laviolette get another shot with a training camp." It became very clear, however, the GM and Flyers owner Ed Snider quickly realized that wasn't going to fix the team's problems.
Holmgren said he was worried right from Day 1 of camp -- "We didn't look like a team at all" -- while Snider said it was "the worst training camp I've seen."
The evidence is pretty compelling that, even if Holmgren made the change in the summer, Craig Berube had a serious shot at being the replacement anyway.
There is no interim tag here (cue the "You're always an interim coach in Philadelphia" jokes). Berube certainly fits the "once a Flyer, always a Flyer" mould, but it's unfair to paint him solely with that brush.
Berube played 1,054 NHL games the very hard way and has not cut corners in his route to becoming a bench boss. He spent the last decade learning the trade as an AHL and NHL assistant, with the Flyers giving him one season as coach of their minor-league affiliate so he could learn to run a team. The organization had hinted his chance would come.
"He has waited a long time for this," one friend said Monday in a text. "He will be hard, but fair.
"If anyone will command respect, it's him."
For all of the questions about defence and goaltending, Berube's biggest challenge will be igniting a team with just three goals -- only one at even strength -- in three games. Like most humans, I was watching the offensive extravaganza between the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon, but flipped through the Flyers' 2-1 loss in Carolina later in the evening.
"I don't think we're playing well enough without the puck," Berube said Monday.
And you can't argue. Sunday's setback was kind of was stunning for the Flyers. Not only did they have just three third-period shots while down a goal, they had an awful time even getting the puck.
Ron Hextall's return to Philadelphia as assistant GM plays into this, too. He's got a new Stanley Cup ring (he was assistant GM with Los Angeles in 2012) and is ready for his managing chance. There's no way Hextall's undercutting Holmgren, but the current GM has to see where this could be going.
The Flyers made the wrong gamble by trading forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, lost defenceman Chris Pronger (concussion) before his time and whiffed on free-agent defenceman Shea Weber. A 39-point improvement the year after their last playoff miss (2007) doesn't help the patience level, either.
Berube won't be scared by a tough challenge. But this is not an easy fix.
Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC
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