Flyers give head coach John Stevens one-year contract extension

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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 direction."

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 off-season, 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.

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