BRING ON KHARLAMOV!
Old-time hockey fans probably remember the wicked two-handed
slash Bobby Clarke used to bludgeon Russian superstar Valeri
Kharlamov right out of the Canada-Soviet Summit Series back in
1972. Well, that's apparently nothing compared to what he'd like
to do to some of the current Flyers.
"Some players take shortcuts in practice," Clarke recently told
the Philly media. "I think we should demand more of them. Maybe
we're taking it too easy on them."
Clarke often means more than he says. And words like those are
usually followed by swift action. Call me crazy, but I can
picture Alex Daigle, Chris Gratton, and Dainius Zubrus being
ordered off to anal electrocution therapy as I type this.
In an even funnier conversation, Clarke recently responded to
questions about a rumored impending Daigle trade with a quizzical
look and the classic response, "Who would want him?"
For 15 wonderful seasons, Clarke solved all the Flyers problems
with a stick. Maybe it's time for him to give it another try.
Incredibly, the Flyers' skid has resulted in rumors that yet
another coaching change is on the horizon. The new whispers have
Phantoms coach Bill Barber or Neilson's assistant Craig Ramsay
taking over if the team fails to show marked improvement by the
Rumors are what they are, but I think there may be some truth in
this one. Seasoned Flyers observers know that when Clarke is on
the warpath, heads are going to roll. Maybe this makes him the
new George Steinbrenner of hockey, but at least he looks a little
less disgusting in a zebra-skin thong.
If the coaching change rumors are true, here's hoping that Clarke
pins the tail on Billy Barber this time. Barber's success with
the Phantoms is proof that he's more than just a name guy. And
his "bad cop" style might be just what this mistake-prone bunch
needs to snap out of their stupor.
MORE HAPPY THOUGHTS
Interestingly enough, Clarke isn't the only one finding fault
with the Flyers work habits in practice. Eric Desjardins, one of
the few Flyers who can actually claim to have seen the Stanley
Cup, had even harsher words for his teammates' work habits.
"I've always believed for years that you play like you practice,"
Desjardins said. "It's like golf, if you're on a practice green
and putt some balls and don't think about it. Then when you get
into a game with a five-foot shot you haven't practiced, you
can't focus. We have to learn to practice like it's a game
situation. But that is not easy. It doesn't come naturally to
everybody. Sometimes, we just go with the flow."
Gee, think the good vibrations that emanated from the Flyers'
fast start have started to wear off a little?
Fortunately, somnambulant team captain Eric Lindros was quick to
respond with a typically confidence-inspiring quote about
everything being "fine." Wow. I feel much better now. Sic' em,
Although the Flyers recently banished Mike Maneluk to the
pressbox for a couple games, it looks as though they're going to
give the speedy newcomer a legitimate chance to stick with the
first line. Since the two-game hiatus, Maneluk has looked much
more comfortable, recording two goals and three assists in his
first three games back. Two of those assists came on nice
backhand feeds to Eric Lindros, who's been an unabashed supporter
of the rookie right winger.
The news is far less happy on other fronts. Like Old Yeller, the
"Dog Line" of Chris Gratton, Alexandre Daigle, and Dainius Zubrus
was finally taken to the shed and shot. Daigle was banished to
the pressbox for the Buffalo game, leaving poor Mike Sillinger
the impossible task of invigorating Alex's goalless linemates.
And what was Sillinger's reward for setting both of them up for
numerous good chances? No points and a minus-2 rating. I'll bet
that a return to the fourth line never sounded so good to him.
Hopefully some of the lineup shifting will result in some more
scoring balance. Since the last issue of LCS hit the Net, all
Flyers not named Lindros, LeClair, or Brind'Amour have scored a
grand total of six goals. Ron Flockhart, where are you?
DELMORE LOOKING GOOD
The recent rash of injuries to the Flyers' defense contributed
mightily to their recent skid, but at least one positive emerged.
Rookie call-up Andy Delmore showed considerable promise filling
in on the blue line. Paired mostly with Chris Therien, Delmore
logged more than 20 minutes of ice time in some games and showed
"I think Delmore, in particular, has shown that he could probably
play in the NHL right now," Neilson said. "He has a good shot. He
anticipates well, he passes well, and moves the puck out."
A Luke Richardson trade could open up a spot for Delmore. Rumor
has it that Richardson may be paired with one of the Flyers
underachieving forwards in a deal for a scorer.