Thursday, December 17, 2009
The inevitable happened in South Philadelphia last Friday as Flyers head coach John Stevens got the axe. At 13-11-1, the Chris Pronger–led Flyers—expected to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup this season—had plummeted through the Eastern Division standings, losing eight of their last nine games before Stevens' firing. Replacing him is former Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who led the Canes to a Cup victory in 2006. But the maddeningly inconsistent and perenially underachieving Flyers promptly got blown out in their first game under Laviolette, surrendering eight goals at home to a Washington Capitals squad playing without Alexander Ovechkin. Now a bewildering 2-5 since the coaching change, the wheels have completely come off this Flyers team, and it needs nothing short of a miracle to turn its fortunes around.
So I can't understand why Flyers brass didn't just replace John Stevens with Kurt Russell instead of Laviolette. Yes, Laviolette has solid credentials, but the Flyers clearly aren't responding to his direction and have proved themselves overmatched in nearly every game over the last month. Kurt Russell, however, worked a genuine hockey miracle in getting a down-and-out, listless long-shot to win Olympic gold. Who cares that he did it in a movie and likely knows nothing about actual hockey strategy? The Flyers would probably skate their butts off for a Hollywood celebrity—certainly more than they're currently doing for a legitimate head coach. Kurt Russell not only brings both star power and the inspirational aura of the late Herb Brooks to the Philadelphia bench—he also brings the survivability of R.J. MacReady, the machismo of Snake Plissken, the ruthlessness of Todd 3465, the courage of Bull McCaffrey, the persuasiveness of Rudy Russo, and the leadership of Captain Ron.
Once a proud and feared franchise, the Flyers, both this season and over this decade, have become an object of derision and predictable failure. But Kurt Russell could reverse all that by utilizing his rugged on-screen personas to lead this reeling squad to a surprise Stanley Cup victory. Not to mention—considering the long line of unimpressive, and sometimes absent, coiffures of such former Flyers coaches as Mike Keenan, Bob McCammon, Wayne Cashman, and Craig Ramsay—Kurt Russell would provide the franchise with, unquestionably, the greatest head of hair ever seen behind its bench, especially if he grows it back to Escape From New York length. Sure, Peter Laviolette possesses an admirable hairdo, but we're talking about the most lustrous mane in Hollywood. Let's face it: a coach with great hair is going to inspire confidence in his players—and the rudderless Flyers are playing right now like they're led by Colonel Kurtz.
And, as Hollywood's foremost eye-patch actor—he's worn an eye patch for two separate roles in three different films—Russell with one eye behind black vinyl would be the most intimidating head coach in hockey. No Flyer would dare take a lazy shift with a maniacal-looking coach prowling the bench as if it were the deck of a man-of-war, and all other coaches throughout the league would shudder impotently in his presence.
For good measure, Russell could even hire long-time squeeze Goldie Hawn as assistant coach. Not just nepotism—Hawn proved herself able coaching material in Wildcats and knows how to reach testosterone-laden jocks.
All a wild-haired, eye-patched Kurt Russell need do to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to the Cup is to look good, act mean, and reprise his words as Big Trouble in Little China's Jack Burton: "[I] feel pretty good. I'm not...uh...I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of...feel kind of invincible," and they'd follow him through the depths of hell.
It ain't Fred Shero's "Win now and we walk together forever"...but the Flyers need a miracle-worker.
(Photo of Kurt Russell in Miracle copyright Buena Vista Pictures.)