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Inside the Flyers: Will Hextall keep Berube? Here are the pros and cons

Ron Hextall and Craig Berube were Flyers teammates for five seasons. For the most part, they have been organization lifers.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Flyers head coach Craig Berube. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

Ron Hextall and Craig Berube were Flyers teammates for five seasons. For the most part, they have been organization lifers.

Hextall, the club's first-year general manager, says that doesn't make it more difficult to make a decision on retaining or dismissing Berube, who has been the Flyers coach for nearly two seasons.

Human nature says otherwise.

Hextall said Wednesday he was still mulling whether to bring back Berube for the final year of his contract. The longer he waits, the longer he allows Berube to twist in the wind. It gives the appearance that he has major doubts about his coach.

That won't make it easy if Hextall surprisingly decides he wants Berube to return. How can the players have confidence in Berube knowing that their GM has been wavering?

Hextall shot down the theory that a new general manager wants to bring in his own coach. The fact that Hextall didn't hire Berube - he was appointed by then-GM Paul Holmgren - will not affect his decision, he said.

"If a guy's a good coach, I don't care who hired him," Hextall said. "Craig's fate is not going to be because [Holmgren] hired him or I hired him or somebody else hired him. . . . That has zero influence."

In the coming days, Hextall will grapple with his decision, examining the pluses and minuses Berube brings.

Plus: Berube received some coach-of-the-year consideration after replacing Peter Laviolette early last season, leading the Flyers to a 42-27-10 record and a spot in the playoffs, where they took the faster, more talented New York Rangers to seven games.

Minus: The Flyers got off to a miserable start this season, losing five of their first six games, and never fully recovered. They went just 33-31-18, including 8-18 in games that went beyond regulation, and missed the playoffs.

Plus: Berube had the guts to bench high-priced players (see Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, and Vinny Lecavalier) if he thought they were underachieving, trying to light a fire.

Minus: Berube looked the other way with winger R.J. Umberger, inexplicably playing him despite an awful season that ended because of hip and abdominal surgeries.

Plus: Under Berube, goalie Steve Mason and right winger Jake Voracek had career years and were among the NHL leaders in several categories.

Minus: Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, young forwards considered to be a big part of the team's future, were inconsistent and didn't show much growth.

Plus: The Flyers had a 23-11-7 record (53 points) at the Wells Fargo Center, their most points at home since 2003-04.

Minus: The Flyers finished 10-20-11 on the road and averaged just 2.29 goals per game, a significant drop-off from the previous season (three goals per game on the road).

Plus: Berube got the most out of left winger Michael Raffl (21 goals, plus-6 in 67 games) and helped rejuvenate the careers of defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz.

Minus: The coach did not use Lecavalier properly, playing the center at right wing on the fourth line for most of the season and making him a healthy scratch 17 times, many in favor of unproductive Zac Rinaldo. Lecavalier's best days are behind him, but he should have been given a few weeks as the second-line center to see if he could still be productive.

Plus: Berube, who has a perfectly timed, dry sense of humor, never gets rattled and has the respect of most of his players.

Minus: Berube frequently juggled lines and pairings, causing some players to tense up because they were afraid a mistake would knock them out of the lineup.

Plus: Even though he made his living as an enforcer during his 17 NHL seasons, Berube is flexible and willing to change with the times. He and Hextall sent Jay Rosehill to the minors before the season, meaning the Flyers did not have a heavyweight enforcer for the first time since the early 1970s.

Minus: You could argue that the decision to demote Rosehill didn't work, that the Flyers didn't play with enough of an edge and weren't hard to play against.

Plus: Berube got his team prepared to play against talented teams. The Flyers finished the season on a 12-2-4 run against playoff teams and went 19-16-9 against teams now competing for the Stanley Cup.

Minus: The Flyers played down to their competition. They lost their last 12 games (0-7-5) against teams not in the playoffs when they met, and they finished 14-15-9 against those not playing in the postseason.

Plus: The team registered points in 12 of 13 games from Jan. 20 to Feb. 22 to climb back into the playoff race.

Minus: The Flyers were inconsistent most of the season and had too many slow starts in games. "We don't come to play every night," said high-scoring winger Wayne Simmonds, a quote that is probably still ringing in Hextall's ears.