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"Hockey Historian, Author, Broadcaster, and HockeyBuzz Trivia Blogger"
Ardmore, PA • United States • 67 Years Old • Male
HockeyScoop HockeyScoop
For the third time this season, last night a team played the Flyers in Philadelphia immediately before or after firing their coach. Just two weeks into the season, the Atlanta Thrashers dismissed Bob Hartley after falling to the Flyers, 4-0, for an 0-6 start. On November 23rd, the Washington Capitals edged the Flyers, 4-3 in OT, immediately after Glen Hanlon had been relieved and replaced by Hershey Bears' coach Bruce "Gabby" Boudreau giving him his first NHL coaching victory after 32 years in the game as a professional player and coach. And last night the Flyers defeated the Ottawa Senators, 3-1, in the first game after former Flyer winger John "Too Tall" Paddock had been relieved and replaced by GM Bryan Murray with less than six weeks left in his first campaign behind the Sens' bench despite sporting a 36-23-6 record and having been sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference for all but the final day of his tenure.

As in the other two cases, again, unfortunately, another good coach had to take the fall for the failings of his players. I have known "Tall" as both a player and a coach for more than thirty years and can attest to his being one of the best hockey people I have ever known. I have known Bryan Murray almost as long, and know the respect he has for John and am quite sure that removing him was really the last thing he wanted to have happened. (And I also know from people within the Sens' organization that this "call" was really not made in the GM's office.) But as they say, you can't fire all the players...

John Paddock has had very considerable success as a head coach in the AHL over many years winning Calder Cup titles with three different teams (Maine, Hershey, and Hartford) as a coach and two more (Maine) as a player. The Sens were a juggernaut over the first month of the season, but, I think, still a flawed team in a number of ways, particularly in goal and in overall talent after the top line and the 210 points supplied by Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatley which represent more than 40% of the team's total offense. These three players are also a combined +73 while all of the rest of the team together is +49.

Former Chicago Blackhawk coach Trent Yawney, another good man who had great success as a coach in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals, was fired by the Hawks last year in a similar situation. Now a pro scout for Anaheim, I have had the opportunity to sit down with my old friend a number of times this season when he has been in Philadelphia to scout the Flyers and Phantoms and he said an interesting thing to me about coaching in the NHL as opposed to in the AHL and other leagues. "In the minors it is really a coaching job in the literal sense in that you are a teacher first and foremost," he says. "In the NHL, however, being the head coach is much more of a job 'managing' players, dealing with their various personalities and quirks, and getting them to play as a 'team' then it is teaching or the other aspects of coaching."

In the pressbox before last night's game I asked another old friend, Detriot Red Wings' pro scout Mark Howe, what he thought of that assessment and he agreed. "This is why Scotty Bowman was so successful," Howie noted. "because he knew just how far he could push every player he had to get the most out of him without pushing so hard as to lose him. They may not have always liked it, but Scotty made them win."

With the much higher expense of salaries at the NHL level, and the limitations imposed on what managers can do in tweeking their rosters by the salary cap, GMs are far more limited on what they can do to help the coach in adjusting the makeup of the roster. Coaches, however, are relatively inexpensive, are not under the Cap, and have no guarantees in their contracts other than it be paid off. And so another fine coach has paid the price for the failures of his players. Nothing is 100% anybody's -- players', coaches' or managers' -- fault, but I think things would have been much different if the considerable distractions and other difficulties caused by the problems in goal could have been resolved by a change in personnel in that department

"Tall" did not get "stupid" all of a sudden, and he will be back behind the bench of another professional hockey team again. It may not be in the NHL right away, but the next group of players who will be his charges will benefit greatly from his wisdom and talent as a coach ... and as a teacher. It's just too bad that some of the players on the Senators apparently were unable -- or unwilling -- to learn what he had to offer them.
Filed Under:   ottawa   senators   paddock  
February 29, 2008 7:15 AM ET | Delete
I think that the Sens might miss Paddock more than they realize. If the Flyers are smart, they will pick him up in some capacity and keep him around if things do not work out for Stevens. I would love to see Tall coach the Flyers. Nice work Scoop. SYF
February 29, 2008 7:26 AM ET | Delete
Good Job Scoop! Very insightful
February 29, 2008 9:49 AM ET | Delete
Another priceless step in everyone's hockey education from Professor Scoop. Thanks so much!
February 29, 2008 12:18 PM ET | Delete
Great bit, Scoop. I almost got the feeling that the media in Canada forced Bryan Murray's hand. It seems they were talking about Paddock being fired and began their Bataan death march before anyone from Ottawa's front office gave any indication that it may happen. It's a shame, Tall seems like a good guy and as SYF said above, I'm afraid Ottawa "don't know what they got until it's gone." ~ Evil
February 29, 2008 1:59 PM ET | Delete
Call me a whining boy if you will...
February 29, 2008 2:54 PM ET | Delete
From a sens fan perspective, it's obviously very hard to not feel very bad for the firing of Paddock. I think it was something that needed to happen for the players though. While he may not have been at fault- the players needed a change. It's really too bad Paddock had to take it for the team, but I think the sens will hopefully gain some confidence again. Not that we have incredible goaltending, but I think once our confidence level gets back, we can return to last year's form. Im just hoping it doesn't take too long.
February 29, 2008 4:46 PM ET | Delete
Great piece Scoop. I was having a debate the other day on the boards about how it is still important for a professional coach to motivate his players even though they are multi-millionares. Great quotes from Yawney and Howe in regards to that.
February 29, 2008 4:52 PM ET | Delete
He simply could not implement a defensive system in Ottawa. He's a good guy, but he wasn't the right fit on the Sens.
February 29, 2008 5:52 PM ET | Delete
Great piece Scoop, I personally think if this was any other city than Paddock woulda been safe. The problem is in Ottawa is that everyone thinks they are better than they really are. After you get past Alfie, Spezza and Heatley... they aren't the Ottawa Senators of old
February 29, 2008 6:00 PM ET | Delete
Everyone who knows Paddock says he's a good coach, he did some great work with the Bingo Sens and hopefully, he'll get another chance to prove his ability soon.
February 29, 2008 7:38 PM ET | Delete
The Devils did the same thing last year, but no one really questioned it. If they felt like Paddock wasn't getting the absolute most out of his roster then I don't think they have to justify anything. He may have done a good job early on, but this isn't a team that can take solace in that. They need to get back to the finals to take care of unfinished business. If Murray didn't think Paddock could get them there then Murray himself deserved firing if he would have kept Paddock as coach.
February 29, 2008 10:54 PM ET | Delete
Great Job Scoop, Paddock took the fall because it was the least expensive way out
February 29, 2008 11:36 PM ET | Delete
Paddock was hamstrung by the GM. Murray knew the Sens needed secondary scoring since last year's playoffs and didn't address it until the Stillman trade. He obviously knew there was going to be a need for goaltending, yet made little more than a half-assed attempt to address it at the deadline. As often happens when a coach is let go, it's not his fault.
February 29, 2008 11:39 PM ET | Delete
IScoop!!!! Excellent Job...Your knowledge on the games history is what makes your blogs so enjoyable to read. Honestly I think Murray never wanted to stop being head coach and this was a perfect opportunity for him to step back in.Again Great Job!!!
February 29, 2008 11:47 PM ET | Delete
Love the depth, Scoop. Great work. I have never been big on Paddock as a coach, I've always looked at him as a downgrade to Murray. I don't doubt he has been unfairly fired because his players are struggling, but two shut-outs in a row is telling me that his system might be a little skewed. Great work.
March 1, 2008 1:20 AM ET | Delete
Got to echo many of the above comments Scoop. Thanks, as always, for the insider's view, the great quotes, and the continuing historical perspectives and knowledge you provide. This subject is especially relevant these days as we near the end of the season. So many fans whose teams' are on the playoff cusp want to immediately fire the coach if their team strings together a losing streak greater than one. Admittedly, there are hard decisions to make when it comes to how to fix a problem, so now I'll do the flip-flop, and acknowledge the truth behind the title of your blog. (I still don't like to see coaches fired prematurely, but that's just me.)
March 1, 2008 2:42 AM ET | Delete
Thanks to all for reading and commenting so thoughtfully on my humble words. I fully admit to a certain prejudice in this matter as Tall has been a friend of mine for decades. Professional sports is big business now, and as such the days of a "tenured" coach will never return. Unfortunately there are only two kinds of coaches anymore: "Them's who have been fired, and them's who are gon'na be." But you can also be sure that John Paddock will be back behind the bench again -- to the benefit of both those who will be playing for him, and of our game as well.
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