I have read all the posts in here and have a couple thoughts, I apologize for the length. It is not fair to say Hitch doesnt share at least some of the blame. I hate to sound cliche, but you win as a team or lose as a team, period! Including the coach, but to blame him for this, IMO, is insanity.
To say that Hitch cant coach in the new NHL is ridiculous. As myself and someone else said, if this was the case then they would have struggled from the beginning of the season and wouldnt have come within a couple games of winning their division. What makes it even more evident is with all the man games lost to injuries. I hate to blame things on injuries, and most of the time I dont, however, when you play a 20-25 game stretch with 4 of your top 6 dmen from the AHL, and the other two playing with injuries, you are going to have major problems and somehow this team was able to stay near the top of its conference for most of the year. To me, that is the sign of a great coach in the fact that he had to take a bunch of moving parts and attempt to get them playing together. Lets face it, teams always play with injured, and "hurt" players but the injuries this year were terrible. The defense was ravaged. We lost our dman that was probably best suited for the new NHL. Not to mention losing your leader and best pker at the beginning of the year, and Handzus being hurt as well. Knowing what we do about Handzus, the fact that he missed any games shows you just how badly hurt this guy had to be. The team was never able to regain the chemistry it had at the beginning of the year and no one stepped up to take the leadership role vacated with Primeau's injury. Finally, the injury thing is worse this year because of the cap. In prior years, the Flyers would have gone out and picked up players to make up for it but you couldnt this year.
As for the rookies, when one of them showed that they deserved the playing time, Hitch gave it to them, as evidenced by Meyer playing so well. Carter came into the year not in playing shape due to the offseason problems he had and took several months to get up to speed IMO. During the 2nd half of the year, his time went up and when they got Dimitrakos they were getting 2nd line minutes, but dissappeared come playoff time. In most cases, he really didnt make a case for having more playing time, especially during the playoffs. Richards got more time cause he is more well rounded then Carter and does other things really well. DOnt forget, this was also the longest season either of them has played.
Everyone on this board calling for Crawford, Torterella, etc. No matter what coach was on this team this year, they didnt have the personnel to play run and gun like a buffalo or TB. Last time I checked we dont have LeCavlier, Richards, St Louis, Prospal, Fedotenko, Modin, etc. Also, Crawford won with Colorado. Not to take anything away from him but I think any one of us could have coached that team and won. Give us Roy, Forsberg, Sakic, et al and this team is still playing, regardless of the new or old NHL. If there is one thing about Hitch, he is extremely smart. I believe he played the way he was able to with the personnel he was given. There were times when this team was playing very aggressive and at times it worked, but when they came up against buffalo, they got caught.
People, I am embarrased and ticked off as much as the next fan on here. I bleed orange and black like most off the people on this board, havent missed a game since the beginning of the lindros era. However, there is a simple explanation to what happened here. There were injuries, many of them, but you cant blame it just on that. The rules changed but every team had to deal with this, cant blame it just on that. Hatcher and Rathje were not the best signings for the new NHL, but you cant blame just that. The rookies that we were relying on too much in my opinion which is what everyone was calling for all year, came up really small in the playoffs, but you cant blame just that. It is a combination of all of these things mentioned above and the simple fact that Buffalo was the absolute worst match up for the Flyers, plain and simple. They still very easily could have won game one which would have put them in a 7th game if the series went the same, or may have changed the tone of the whole series. Hitch should not be fired, he should be given a better cast of players (just tweak the roster, dont overhaul the entire thing). We need to hope the injuries are not as bad. We need to hope that the year experience for Carter, Umberger, Richards, Meyer, etc. works out well for them and they take a huge role with the team next year. Pitkanen needs to get back to the dominant form he showed at he beginning of the year. Teams like Buffalo, Edmonton, and TB from their cup year showed how important it is to keep teams together and let them grow together.
We now know what to expect this year with all the rule changes. Lets see what Hitch and Clarke can do about it this offseason. IMO I think Hitch can adjust, the question is can Snider and Clarke or will they continue to bring in the same style of player they always have.
The trouble is that worked in the old NHL, it doesnt in the new NHL and Hitch wont adapt to that. Thats why he has to go. Every single fan knew sitting on the lead led to a comeback, why couldnt the coach see it?
to say focusing on defense doesn't work is asinine. if you stop the other team from scoring on a regular basis, you're going to win... is it harder to play defense now? yes. however, here's the news flash... the reason we struggled with our "defensive game" wasn't because of the style we played... it was because our PK was 27th in the league. if we fix THAT aspect of our game, the way this team plays throughout the year is fine.
more to the point are main struggles "defensively" stemmed from a turnover problem in our own zone... which has NOTHING to do with sitting on the lead. many of the teams, including Buffal, were playing a 1-2-2 by the end of the season when they had leads... "sitting" on a lead is something that everyone started to do effectively.
My only hope is that the Flyers go from a traditional trapping team to a system that is utilized in Carolina. It's time that we start using the speed of our forwards to create scoring chances and not consistently rely on defensive positioning all the time to create scoring chances.
As well, the approach of resting on a lead doesn't work anymore. Any team that has even the slightest bit of speed can really ruffle the feathers of the Flyers defensive game plans because they can't neutralize the speed. Yeah, we've got size, but size means jacksh!t if you don't have the speed to go along with it. That's what I'm hoping Clarke and Hitch really begin to focus on. It's time to get rid of the whole dinosaur/trap is good mentality and start using speed to our advantage.