Flyers, Stevens agree to contract extension

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers and John Stevens
agreed to a one-year contract extension Friday that will take the
second-year coach through the 2008-09 season.

"John has built strong relationships with many of our young
players as well as with the players that joined us over the
summer," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We believe
that he is the right coach to lead our team in a positive

The 41-year-old Stevens has the Flyers (16-13-3) in a tie for
ninth place in the Eastern Conference a year after they endured
their worst season in franchise history. Stevens went 21-42-11 for
the Flyers last season after he was hired in October to replace the
fired Ken Hitchcock.

"It's exciting for me to continue on with this group, and
continue to build the relationship that I've had with Paul
[Holmgren] and Mr. Snider," Stevens said before the Flyers' game
in Buffalo on Friday night. "I'm excited."

Last season, the Flyers were the worst team in the league,
missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and set team
records for most losses and fewest points (56).

After signing prized free agent Daniel Briere over the
offseason, the Flyers started strong by winning six of their first
seven, but have struggled as of late. Philadelphia entered the game
in Buffalo, Briere's former team, having dropped four straight and
seven of 10.

"We've lost a few games now, and we all know how tight the East
is," Stevens said. "The games we've played recently we've played
better. We just haven't been able to play for 60 minutes, and we
let games slip away."

Stevens didn't think his situation as a lame-duck coach was
affecting his team, but he did acknowledge that his long-term
status was something that might have been lingering over the team's
collective shoulder.

"I never like any conversation about me, so it's uncomfortable
for me," he said. "Obviously the contract becomes an issue, but
for me it really isn't. I fully intended to focus on this year and
plan on working here longer after this year. But it does become a
distraction because it's out there, so it's good that it's done."

Stevens coached Philadelphia's AHL affiliate, the Phantoms, for
six seasons -- including winning the 2005 Calder Cup -- before
signing a one-year contract as Hitchcock's assistant to start the
2006-07 season. He was given a two-year deal in Nov. 2006 after
guiding the team to a 4-7-1 record in his first 12 games.

"They have a long history of winning here and I am excited to
be a part of that moving forward," he said.