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Inside the Flyers: Why Flyers' failures could cost Berube his job

EDMONTON, Alberta - The Flyers are broken, and it would be surprising if the organization doesn't hire another coach to try to put them back together.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)
Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)Read more

EDMONTON, Alberta - The Flyers are broken, and it would be surprising if the organization doesn't hire another coach to try to put them back together.

Coach Craig Berube is a good hockey man with strong principles, but he has lost this flawed team. Many of the players are upset with Berube's singling out goalie Steve Mason three times in the team's eighth consecutive road loss, a 4-1 defeat in Calgary on Thursday.

Berube has not seen eye-to-eye with Mason recently, and he seemingly took it out on his goalie Thursday by pulling him late in the second period after Mason allowed the second goal on a shot he still hasn't seen. Defenseman Nick Schultz inadvertently screened Mason.

Pulling Mason was a curious, disrespectful decision because he arguably has been the team's MVP, has dutifully returned to the lineup after knee surgery, and finally has given the Flyers a top-notch goaltender.

Berube, perhaps frustrated by the mounting losses and growing speculation that he soon will be replaced, removed Mason in favor of Ray Emery with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the second period. The Flyers faced a 2-0 deficit at the time.

The benching was the first sign that Berube was throwing his goalie under the bus.

Afterward, Berube said both goals allowed by Mason - even the one he didn't see - should have been stopped.

There would be a third time when the coach's tire treads marked Mason.

"There's going to be screens. You have to fight through it, find pucks," Berube said.

Mason and Berube talked before practice in Edmonton on Friday, and the goalie insisted there was no animosity between the two. Recently, they have talked more frequently because Mason's sounding board - goalie coach Jeff Reese - is no longer with the team.

"He's well within his right to take me out if he thinks that it'll help the momentum of the game or if he didn't like the goals," Mason said after Friday's practice at Rexall Place. "But at the end of the day, I'm a big boy. I'm still going to come to the rink and work hard."

Without Reese, Mason doesn't have a buffer between himself and Berube, someone who can counsel him when the goalie invariably goes through a tough stretch.

"I think I've got 24 guys that are extremely supportive," Mason said. "I've gotten pretty thick skin over the years. You can't let things affect you. My parents also get phone calls after games . . . but right now, I'm in a pretty good place.

"We're not having success on the win front, but I work extremely hard and I'm in a spot with my game where I'm real comfortable with it. Obviously, goals go in the net you'd like to have back sometimes, but it's just a matter of how you respond to that, and I think I've done a pretty solid job of that."

The Flyers have not given Mason much offensive support, especially on the road. That's another reason Berube's benching Thursday was so baffling.

Mason, who is among the league leaders in save percentage (.925) and goals-against average (2.28), deserves respect for what he has done, not a quick hook.

The Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 17 of Mason's 19 road games. They have scored a total of two goals for him in his last four road starts.

Overall, the Flyers have averaged just 2.25 goals per game this season for Mason, which is 51st among goalies, according to

On Friday, Berube said he would pull Mason again in the same situation.

Mason is the least of Berube's problems. The Flyers have fallen behind too often this season, have had a horrendous penalty kill for most of the year, and could be headed for their lowest goals-per-game production since 1968-69.

"We grip our sticks too much, we stop skating, we play too safe instead of keep skating and initiating the play," defenseman Mark Steit said. "That's when you get too passive and give the other team space and time to make plays."

The problems have become so prevalent that the Flyers held a players-only meeting after Thursday's loss. Berube said the meeting won't mean much if the players don't back up their words.

"I've been in a lot of them" as a player, Berube said. "They're OK. Again, they have to bring the talk onto the ice. We can all go in there and talk things . . . it's got to be action. Go on the ice and do it."

When you combine the Flyers' repeated failures with the growing tension in the locker room, it's fair to wonder whether first-year general manager Ron Hextall soon will make a coaching change.

Hextall, we presume, wants to hire his own coach.

Berube was hired by then-GM Paul Holmgren.