There was a time during the hockey season when John Stevens' ability to coach the Flyers to the playoffs was questioned. It was in the middle of a losing streak, when the Flyers fell from the top of the division and, seemingly, out of playoff contention.
But Stevens stood behind his team and his staff, and yesterday, Stevens was honored by The Hockey News, which named him coach of the year for leading the Flyers from the bottom of the league to the Eastern Conference finals in one season.
"[Stevens] is the coach that we deemed did the best job in the regular season and postseason," Hockey News editor Jason Kay said yesterday. "John did a great job in leading a great turnaround, but also the style that he employs, such a calm demeanor behind the bench, is an example of his leadership.
"The way that he carries himself showed with the product on the ice, particularly in the playoffs, the way that team stuck together and held together when a lot of people didn't anticipate they would do as well."
In his typical out-of-the-limelight style, Stevens refused to accept the award as an individual honor.
"To me, this is more of an organizational award than a coaching award," Stevens said. "I think that it's a reflection of all the good things done from [general manager Paul Holmgren] down to the players. The honor was given to me, but in my mind it should be given to the entire organization for all the work that everyone has done."
Team chairman Ed Snider and Holmgren did not agree.
"There was a lot of pressure on John and his staff coming into this season," Snider said. "It's truly remarkable what he was able to accomplish, taking us from last place a season ago into the Eastern Conference finals. Our entire organization is extremely proud of all that John and his team accomplished this year."
"John did an exceptional job in his first full season as a head coach in the NHL and of our hockey club," Holmgren added. "He is very deserving of this award." *