If the Flyers fire Craig Berube this week - and the drumbeat emanating from Ice Station Groundhog is certainly familiar - the lucky new coach, whomever he is, will be the team's 10th in the last 20 years.
It's quite a list, traveling all the way from Terry Murray to Berube, with station stops at Wayne Cashman, Roger Neilson, Craig Ramsay, Bill Barber, Ken Hitchcock, John Stevens and Peter Laviolette.
Here's the funny thing about the coaches on that list, and it tells you more about the nature of the franchise than it does about the respective abilities of the coaches or the quality of the teams with which they were entrusted.
None of them left with a losing record.
Think about that for a moment. If general manager Ron Hextell holds to tradition - and there is no tradition like Flyers tradition - he is going to fire Berube and the team will have parted ways with nine straight coaches who were .500 or better on points percentage. I would challenge anyone to find another franchise in professional sports that went through as many coaches in a 20-year span and never fired a loser.
Well, Ed Snider always said he wanted the franchise to make history. This record will stand for a while.
If Hextall really wants to send a message to the players and the entire organization, he will stand in front of the microphones Wednesday at his season-ending news conference and give Berube a contract extension. Berube isn't the problem. The problem is believing that a little tinkering with the roster and a new coach will fix things.
In the past, that has seemed to be the overriding philosophy and it is one that comes directly from Snider. He had willing allies in general managers Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren for most of the last 20 years, men who didn't have a problem trading tomorrow for today because all it really takes is a goalie, hard work and players willing to listen to the voice behind the bench.
Some seasons paid off better than others. The Flyers were in the Stanley Cup Finals just five years ago, but the organization couldn't sustain that success as it needed to constantly replenish its stock of fading mercenaries. There has been bad luck with injuries, but worse luck with adjusting to the changing style of the NHL. Under Clarke and Holmgren, the Flyers weren't always behind the curve, but they were never ahead of it, either.
Hextall has a chance to operate differently, but only if allowed, and that will be the most interesting aspect of the next couple of seasons for the Flyers. His first season as general manager was notable because of what he did at the trade deadline with the team still in contention for a playoff spot. He was a seller, collecting draft picks that will help rebuild the roster.
During this offseason, he should keep stripping away the parts that are not very useful (Zac Rinaldo and Niklas Grossman, near the top of the list) or are misplaced here (Vinny Lecavalier, for example), and clear out room for younger players to rise up through the system. It will represent a step back in some ways, and next season will almost certainly not be a winning season, but it might put a stop to this endless patch-and-fill nonsense. Snider doesn't see it that way and was quoted recently saying he still wants to go for the Stanley Cup every year. That push-pull between Hextall's plan and Snider's petulance is what will define this next stretch.
As for Berube, it's probable that Hextall heard some criticism of the coach when he held private exit interviews with the players on Monday. There is nothing more certain in professional sports than a player finding another location for placing blame.
Berube has his faults. His competitiveness can morph into belligerence when combined with temper, as was the case when he yanked Steve Mason during a late March game in Calgary and then said that a goalie, even when badly screened, has to "find pucks." Mason, who set a team record for save percentage this season, had earned better treatment.
The coach also couldn't figure out a way to get value from Lecavalier, but whatever he didn't like, it was based on 40 years of playing and coaching hockey. If the organization valued his insights as he turned around the team and got it to the playoffs a year ago, then it should feel the same way now.
No one knows the strengths and weaknesses of the roster as well as Berube. He was in the rink with the players every day. When Hextall sits down to draw the blueprint for the next phase, he should have Berube sitting next to him, not some guy just in the door.
History can repeat itself, but it doesn't have to. The Flyers can break the pattern of their own history and stick with a quiet, long-term plan for a change. Otherwise, in another two years, their next bright idea will be fired as well.
Probably with a winning record.