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January 08, 2015

Is Craig Berube's job in jeopardy?

Flyers' first-half struggles may not be the only threat to Berube's future

Flyers NHL

With the season halfway over, don't let the fact that the Flyers have won back-to-back games* cloud the big picture. They have not been very good, entering play on Thursday with 37 points, tied with the Devils for third-worst in the Eastern Conference. Over their last seven games, they’re just 2-4-1, with losses to New Jersey and Carolina, the only team in the Metropolitan Division with a worse record.

*They beat the Capitals, 3-2, in overtime on Thursday and edged the Senators in a shootout on Tuesday. Before that, they lost four straight.

If the team's recent struggles weren't enough to put coach Craig Berube on the hot seat, there are rumblings that, despite overachieving so far this season, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock may be on his way out of the Motor City due to his contract situation.

  • Halfway there
  • After 41 games, Flyers are 16-18-17 and in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division
  • Jake Voracek is the NHL's leading point scorer with 49 (16 G, 33 A). His career high is 62 points (23 G, 39 A).
  • The Flyers' 39 points this season is their lowest total at the midway point of an 82-game season since 2006-07, when they had just 26.

“We keep linking Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs because that's what we in the media speculated. But let's not assume there won't be other teams interested in Mike Babcock as an unrestricted free agent coach as well, who perhaps are willing to pay that kind of money," TSN’s Darren Dreger said on Winnipeg’s TSN 1290. [Transcript via]

What kind of money are we talking about here? 

Babcock is reportedly mulling an offer from the Red Wings worth $3 million per year and would make him the highest-paid coach in hockey. According to CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio, the organization - or more appropriately, Comcast - has plenty of money to spend.

And if the Flyers season continues to go south, it’s certainly a rumor worth paying attention to.

”Do you think Philadelphia is thrilled with the job Craig Berube is doing right now? Things are going sour in Philadelphia,” Dreger continued. “It's not all on the coach. But there's another team that would like to take a swing, I'm sure, at Babcock if he leaves Detroit."

Even if Babcock does become available, as Dreger points out, it would all depend how interested the Flyers are, how the team plays going forward, and how aggressive* they're willing to be in their pursuit.

*Would they get into a bidding war with a team like Toronto? And could that be nothing more than an attempt to drive up the price for any other interested teams?

"But if he leaves Detroit, and there's reason to believe that he will - he hasn't signed his extension yet - then he's going to command top dollar. Top dollar, in my world, is going to be somewhere around $4 million. But could it reach as high as 5? I guess it depends on how eager the suitors, be it Toronto, Philadelphia, or someone else, are willing to spend and how eager they are to get him."

For now, Babcock, who recorded his 500th career win Earlier this month, is still the guy in Detroit. As is Berube in Philly.

It's an interesting rumor, but it's just that. And is a new coach going to have an immediate impact in terms of on-ice performance?

Some would say they need a #CultureChange first.

Here are some other observations from the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Caps:

Healthy Mason gets start

A day after leaving practice early to undergo an MRI, Flyers goalie Steve Mason was back on the ice against the Capitals.

The Flyers downplayed the seriousness of the injury on Wednesday, as you would expect, but it turns out there wasn't actually anything to  be worried about.

Mason seemed to hurt himself again Thursday night, but after the game said that he "just tweaked something" and "it went away pretty quickly. For the rest of the game it felt good."

Defenseman Luke Schenn also returned to action after being a healthy scratch against the Senators and made his presence known right from the outset.

Grossman leaves with injury

Andrew MacDonald was out of the lineup to make room for Luke Schenn, but he'll likely be back when the Flyers host the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

That's because defenseman Nicklas Grossmann left the game after taking a big hit from Caps' Tom Wilson.  It appeared to be a shoulder injury, but the team only said it was an "upper-body injury." He did not return to the game and there was little update from the Flyers after the game.

"It’s tough to say yet," Berube said. "I think after tomorrow we’ll know a lot more..."

"He’s a big guy that plays against top lines and is extremely important for our team," Nick Schultz, when asked how Grossmann's potential absence would impact the team. "It’s hard to lose someone like that and try to fill the void.”

Ovechkin's laser

In the least-revelatory observation yet, Alexander Ovechkin has a quite a shot. He scored the game's first goal (16:52 of first period) on a Capitals power play, and what a goal it was.

The shot, which beat Mason high on the glove side, never had a chance at being stopped.

Finally, a comeback

Despite having a poor record* (5-16-4 entering Thursday's game) when giving up the first goal of the game, the Flyers were able to come back twice against the Capitals.

*Washington's record is worse (1-10-5), but they're 20-1-2 when scoring first, making the Flyers ability to tie it up twice even more impressive. And winning...that was the most impressive.

Some other notes

- Thursday’s OT win was the 100th overtime win in Flyers history.  Their all-time overtime record is 100-93.

- The Flyers improved to 4-17-6 in games when scoring fewer than four goals, winning in that situation for the second consecutive game. 

- The Flyers improved to 4-2 this season in games that ended within the overtime period.