Harder to break up the Flyers now

IN LATE MARCH, Paul Holmgren answered a question about the Flyers’ disappointing season by saying, “There are certain guys on this team that are going to be back here next year. And there are certain guys who aren’t.”

Asked if he had a “pretty good idea of what you would do,” the Flyers’ general manager hesitated not a lick and said, “Most of it, yeah.”

Most of us made our lists from there, and most of us had the same names on the wish-not list. Braydon Coburn would not be back if they could get anything for him. Danny Briere and his big contract would be tough to move, but if you could . . .

Scott Hartnell
? He was soooo gone.

They needed a goalie. Again.

There even were discussions about moving Simon Gagne , and discussions about his resiliency or lack of it.

The Flyers needed to be tougher, swifter, hungrier, more mature. That was the consensus. They needed to be one of those teams that seemed to appear perennially at this time of the year in places like Detroit, Buffalo and North Jersey, as well as random spots in the south.

And now?

“When you’re winning, everyone looks good,” Hartnell was saying after practice yesterday. “When you’re losing, everyone looks terrible and not at their best.”

Said Briere : “Winning changes everything. This business is all about winning. You win, it changes people’s mind-set.”

Why, yes it does. Now the Flyers are gritty, determined, an unselfish bunch who block shots with their orbital bones; break, then skate on broken feet; make pretty plays around the other team’s net or blast slap shots over the goaltender’s shoulder. And their goalie, whoever he is that night, is far more often the reason they have won a close game than he is the reason they lost.

That is this month’s consensus. Or at least this week’s.

When Holmgren is asked about the upcoming offseason now, there is less certainty in his voice, much talk of “continuing to evaluate” a team that has realized Briere’s preplayoff prophecy that it was “built for the playoffs.”

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