Philadelphia Flyers Preview

The Off-season:

The headliner of this summer for the Flyers was the all too predictable hiring of Coach Ken Hitch*****. The introduction of another head coach by the Flyers management (a management core which has become the laughingstock of the NHL) leaves many questions, such as how will the players respond to another disciplinarian? Does this team really need another ego in its crowded locker room? Will the Flyers have the patience to play in Hitch*****’s restrictive system?

In addition to the coaching position the Flyers gave the roster a tweaking as well. First order of business was the Adam Oates release. While it was obvious that Oates was not a fit with the team, he did express an interest in signing a short term contract. Why Clarke didn’t seal his rights and trade him to a contender is a question that plagues all Flyers fans. So Oates walked and Flyers lost Maxime Ouellet and three picks in the upcoming draft for few assists in another dreadful spring.

The Flyers also parted ways with fan favorite Luke Richardson. Granted his asking price was too high and the team has already committed big bucks to J.R and John LeClair, but this will put the Flyers defense in peril. If draftee Joni Pitkanen is not ready this year they will have to rely on the late round wunder-kid Bruno St. Jacques.

Despite Clarke’s lack of imagination in the hiring of his new coach and the Oates’ situation he did pull off two amazing trades that will give the Flyers a silver horizon. The first of the two deals gave the Flyers clarity in goal and brought forth a Selke candidate and potential 30 goal scorer. The Michal Handzus and Robert Esche deal for Brian Boucher, will give the Flyers a great boost.

Even though the Handzus trade was a great deal for the Flyers, it doesn’t begin to compare for the pre-draft swindling he performed in Toronto. The Flyers gave up B prospect Ruslan Fedotenko for the 3rd overall pick. The Flyers picked up a Finnish defenseman with great puck handling skills named Joni Pitkanen. Off-season shoulder surgery will slow this youngster down for now, but Pitkanen contends that he will be another Janne Niinimaa, but with more offensive skills.

The final order of business before training camp starts is the signing of restricted free agent Simon Gagne. Gagne is looking for slightly more than the Vincent Lecavalier deal reached last season (3.5 mil to 4 mil a season).

In a Nutshell:


Michal Handzus

Robert Esche

Ian MacNeil


Luke Richardson

Brian Boucher

Adam Oates

Ruslan Fedotenko

Jiri Dopita

Mike Watt


Todd Fedoruk

John Slaney

Neil Little

*Simon Gagne (in negotiations)

Front Office:

The team had the potential to do what was best by cleaning out the front office and starting anew after last season’s eruption. Instead they took the conservative route, by signing a coach with Stanley Cup credibility and making improvements that will not augment the payroll, and giving into the demands of players. While fiscal responsibility will be a welcomed addition to this front office, the Flyers could have laid the foundation for long term success by dumping some of their underachieving veteran contingent for the young talent and picks; they chose the cop out.

At First Glimpse…

…the Flyers are banking on chemistry and disciplined play this year. The team will tell you the collapse last year was due to a lack of chemistry and the restrictive style of Bill Barber. The pundits will tell you that the Flyers talent is washed up and a youth movement needs to take place. While the latter of the two is a damning prospect, yet it must intrigue Flyers fans.

Key Parts:

Jeremy Roenick

Despite the fact that Jeremy Roenick suffered a drop in production last year, his plus/minus was second in the league. His metamorphosis to a more complete player may translate into a MVP caliber season.

John LeClair

Too much surgery, too much money, too many expectations, in a perfect world the Flyers could give him a change in scenery, but his obnoxious salary prevents. He needs to return to form in order for his team to be successful.

Simon Gagne

New contract, new role, new position, how will Gagne handle the pressure? Hitch***** has sent an early challenge to the youngster by moving him back to center, a position he was out-manned in, in his rookie season. Gagne upset the team by returning to Quebec for the second consecutive off season. The Flyers encouraged him to stay in Voorhees and work with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim McCrossin (like Justin Williams did for the last two off seasons), but he has not taken up the offer or participated in Flyers Summer Charities (string of staged training sessions and softball games benefiting firefights and children’s charities). If he wants to be a leader he needs to bulk up and establish himself in and out of the locker room. Hitch***** wants to stop the carte blanche treatment he’s been getting. The Flyers are about to make him a very rich man, he needs to return the favor.

Roman Cechmanek:

Talking about returning the favor, Cechmanek has had his hindrance removed (Boucher), now its time for him to step up? His numbers over the last two years are among the best in the league, but his postseason record is abysmal (3-7). While the reasons for his postseason failure can be passed on to the team in front of him, he needs to straighten up and fly right. The Flyers made him the undisputed starter (finally), he needs to step up.


In my humble opinion the hiring of Ken Hitch***** could have devastating results for the Flyers. Another ego in that locker room will not bring about the change this team needs, they will refuse to listen to him. While it is a given Hitch***** is more knowledgeable and has better credentials than Bill Barber did, he is a disciplinarian at heart and will not be able to tolerate lapses in the system. When the Flyers band of unapproachable veterans starts a mutiny, nobody will be able to bring them in. The luster will wear off and the rifts seeded in miscommunication and cowardice will develop. Expect the Flyers to jump from the gate, but to sputter as the season goes on.

A strong contingent of veteran talent mixed with the impending greatness of Simon Gagne will make this a competitive team, a lock for the playoffs. When the team rushes back together and gets serious for a playoff run they will fair better than before, but how much better? Go enough to win a championship? I doubt.

Eastern Conference Forecast

1. New York Rangers

2. Ottawa Senators

3. Washington Capitals

4. New Jersey Devils

5. Philadelphia Flyers

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

7. Montreal Canadiens

8. Boston Bruins

Second Round:

New York Rangers

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Philadelphia Flyers


New York Rangers

Ottawa Senators

Eastern Champ:

Ottawa Senators


Detroit Red Wings

31 Responses to Philadelphia Flyers Preview

  1. Glen says:

    This is very abnormal for a Flyers fan not to be biased. Maybe we are just coming to our senses and realizing our teams curse? But TGray just wrote the best Flyers piece in a long time. Excellent article. I think another key role is the resurgence of Eric Desjardins. He has to step up his game. He is only in his mid 30’s and should be the quarterback of the power play, not Recchi. He has the experience and skill that it takes to salvage our power play. If he steps up, that we be a huge plus for the club.

  2. big_booty says:

    Pitkanen was the fourth overall pick. And the surgery he recently underwent was to his right knee, not his shoulder.

    I don’t get why you didn’t even mention Keith Primeau or Mark Recchi, but to call them “unapproachable veterans” is just plain wrong. These guys WANTED to be coached, They WANTED to be led. They didn’t get what they were looking for in Barber. In no way am I condoning what they did at the end of the season, nor will I say that they didn’t underachieve. But these are the kinds of players that Hitchkock thrives upon. He is a teacher, and these are eager students.

    “The team had the potential to do what was best by cleaning out the front office and starting anew after last season’s eruption.”

    No. When are you people going to get it? There is absolutely no potential for front office turnover as long as there is life in Ed Snider. Snider will never, ever, fire Bob Clarke. These two are cut from the same cloth, and there will be no seperation between the two of them. Those of you out there who are still calling for Clarke’s head on a platter will never see that wish come to fruition.

    As for calling their off-season moves a “cop-out,” well, I don’t quite get that. This was a team that last year was a pre-season favorite for the Cup. Everyone and their dog echoed that sentiment. With the exception of adding Jiri Dopita, all of their 2001 off-season moves were great. So their 2002 off-season, with similar moves made on a smaller scale, is a “cop out?” No. The Flyers did what they had to do this off-season. The team has a significant amount of money invested in these players, and wants to see the investment pay dividends. Just because the payroll didn’t increase doesn’t mean the team is worse off for it.

    Additionally, I disagree that management was “giving into the demands of players.” I happen to think that it’s just the opposite. All these players should know that they have a gun to their heads this season. Their play got one coach fired, but the tables are turned this time. Management is behind Hitchkock. Their whining and complaining won’t work again. That should act as extra incentive for them to play their guts out and leave it all on the ice.

    The Rangers finish first in the East? C’mon, that team is full of ifs and question marks, with a three-headed monster for a coach.

    The Senators are the East champs? Patrick Lalime caught lightning in a bottle against a Flyers team that didn’t really feel like playing last season. Don’t expect the world of him, or his team.

  3. J-ME says:

    I am surprised that anyone would give Ottawa this much credit, especially since Ottawa fans are so hard on the Sens. I would love to see them get to the finials, but there are too many questions at left wing and centre right now. They have too many 2nd or 3rd line players, but besides Alfredsson they haven’t any solid first liners.

    On to Philli now, besides there defence they have an exceptional team. If Hitch***** can get the players to buy in they will be a force.

    In my opinion, the Rangers will fall flat on their faces again, where they belong.

  4. aafiv says:

    Ottawa to win the East? Rangers first? I just can’t see it. The Sens will not be as good as they were last year – they had a lot of luck. The Rangers, although having the talent and although they will make the playoffs, will be hampered by chemistry and ego as they always are.

    1. Philadelphia

    2. Toronto

    3. Washington

    4. Rangers

    5. Ottawa

    6. New Jersey

    7. Montreal

    8. Islanders

    Second Round:



    New Jersey





    East Champ:


    Stanley Cup:

    1. Detroit if they get this far.

    2. Philadelphia if they get this far and are not playing Detroit.

  5. Habfan4 says:

    You’re underrating the Sens: Outside of Alfredsson they have Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Todd White and Radek Bonk and believe me all of these guys (perhaps not Bonk) are bona fide first line players. Their D is outstanding, they move the puck quickly, generate a decent level of points and can play physical.

  6. ooJUXEoo says:

    Once again, I must say, that this team needed an X’s and O’s type of coach after last season. Could you imagine what they could have done if they scored 10 or 20 more goals on the Power play? They didn’t even practice it under Barber!

    Everyone knows that the new coach isn’t going anywhere. They will and must play disciplined. Anyone who has ever played hockey will tell you, that everyone must be on board. I think think this team is capible of that.

  7. mikster says:

    The relationship between the players and Hitch***** will turn out the same as when you bet heads or tails on a coin.

    Miraculously, THN presented two interesting points with the Flyers. One, when Roenick made fun of a Dallas Star who was being coached under Hitch’s boring system. Two, the fact that the players aren’t as fast as Hitch’s players from his successful years in Dallas. Recchi, Gagne, and Williams are fast. Down the middle the team is kinda weak. If Primeau fails to score 20 goals, then he is completely a 3rd or 4th line center at best. Why not put him as a winger? He has a good wrister i think.

    Gagne playing center? No worries. I think that even if Gagne scores like…25 goals and 65 points but shows defensive qualities, then his value just sky rocketed. I think Hitch will do well with Gagne and i think Gagne will accept it and succeed. If not, then there is a problem.

    Roenick will have to accept Hitch being his coach with the most boring and uninteresting system, and keep his big mouth shut. The coach and the players have to form a chemistry, and if they can’t then the team will not go anywhere. It happened with Barber and the Flyers, and with Hitch and the Stars.

    Hitch is a great coach on paper, but he is not worth it if he can’t connect well with his players.

    Handzus cannot be the Flyers 2nd line center, because that shows poor depth in the middle. He is a good 3rd line player, worth Boucher? I don’t know, i don’t think so. Boucher could most likely become a starter, push Burke out of the way, the Coyotes will reach the playoffs, and maybe go further. Meanwhile, Handzus is the Flyers 3rd line player. How is that a good trade? It isn’t, it’s a bad trade….but it all obviously depends on Boucher.

    Cechmanek will be fine under Hitch’s system. He will have good solid numbers but he won’t win a Cup, he is not a team player. He is the type who would disagree with Hitch, be upset about it and demand a trade. Esche doesn’t even count….he is just an ordinary back up.

    Moving on with the defense. It’s fine, the defense is actually perfect if Desjardins can put up 45 points or so. It is total BS that THN thinks that Kim Johnsson will have a large decrease in point totals. He is inconsistent, but Hitch will use him so well……, well enough to make him score 50 points. Fedotenko for the 4th overall pick, in this case Pitkanen, was a steal. Pitkanen will be better than Niinimmaa but no better than Lidstrom. He is a 2nd defenseman who will wear an A someday, making $5 million while Bouwmeester might be more offensive, but wouldmake $7.5 million. I’d take Pitkanen in a flash.

    I think Primeau, Leclair, Recchi, Gagne, and Hitch will determine where this team will go. They could end up 1st or 6th. It depends how they adapt to Hitch’s style. If they can’t adapt to it easily, then this team didn’t improve at all, and it won’t even be a threat.

    As for your standings, all i can say is, ‘no way’. I mean, for the Rangers to finish first it would mean that Lindros plays 78 games, Bure plays 80 games, Richter plays 50 games, Holik scores at least 55 points and finishes with a +20, Leetch would have to score 55-60 points with Malakhov and both finish with a +25, the PP and PK would have to be in the top 10. I mean, seriously….it’s almost impossible. If it does happen though, then i’ll buy you lunch tgray. The Rangers would be the team of the year, Trottier the coach of the year, and Sather the GM of the year. It would be great if it happened, so everyone would shut up, but i doubt it.

    I think the Rangers will make the playoffs. If they reached first place last season, then they can do it again with Bure, Holik, Kaspar, a better coaching staff, and probably better special teams. The big teams in the East didn’t get stronger, so the Rangers can do it.

    I think Ottowa is one of the most underrated teams in the East. They are young and their youngsters are getting better. I think they need a playoff role player though.

    Rangers will finish 4th, and in the playoffs….it depends who they play, but i think they are a better team in the playoffs than in the regular season.

  8. BWbullies says:

    First I highly doubt the Rangers will finish first in the east. They will make the plaoffs but not first. After reading your collum are you sure your a Flyers fan becuase judging by what you wrote you don’t follow them that much this off season. The club said it’s Hitch’s way or the high way.

    Hitch was really the only choice they had. They needed a proven winning coach and not a 1st year head coach. This way they know the coach can win. So if the team finishes this year like they did last year, they know its the players. If that happens they will clean house next year.

    I think the only real question mark is JR. He really doesn’t like the system so there is a chance he might not finish the year with this team. As for LeClair he will have a very up year. He has been very possitive about his back and after reading his interviews it almost sounds as if the first opperation never really corrected his problem. He says he feels great nothing like he felt after the first one.

    I don’t think they will be the top team in the east this year but within the next couple years they will be.

  9. BWbullies says:

    Has any heard what the Flyers and Devils are going to do during thier preseason games? They will only allow line changes on the fly and on powerplays . They want to see if this will speed up the game and have less defensive schemes.

  10. aaron says:

    *jaw drops* Was that just an unbiased Rangers post by Micki? I’m impressed. :p

    As for Handzus, he’s pretty good, and Boucher is extremely overrated, IMO. I like that trade for the Flyers. Handzus can be a great two way player for them. And all they gave up was their backup (and you are totally doing a disservice to Burke by suggesting Boucher has a shot at his job…Burke is awesome).

  11. mikster says:

    Burke’s getting old. Boucher was a starter and a back up and i think the organization mishandled it.

    As i said though…it all depends on Boucher. If Boucher does do well enough to be the starter of the Coyotes, then they get a great deal. A starter who is 26 years old for a 3rd line two way player?

    I’m just being realistic. Anytime you see me write pro-Rangers stuff, i am trying to get attention and start a discussion. It worked since i am popular on this site and i became vice-admin. 🙂 Sometimes you have to be hated for what you write in order to get popular.

  12. tgray says:

    First, I don’t take press conferences with Philly’s lackluster hockey media facing Bob Clarke, Ed Snider and Ken Hitch***** as the word of God.

    Pat Burns would have been a much better fit in Philly and I could have easily happened.

    Nothing wrong with first year coaches, but I would have had to come with new GM.

    The team didn’t fail last year on account of Roenick alone. They did nothing to address lack of scoring in the offseason.

  13. tgray says:

    I think its funny people took the players side in the events that happened last spring. They were an embarrashment to the city. Tell me when in you life have you said to your boss/teacher/parent…please lead me do not coach me. The only way to address that kind of cowardly banter is to give a quick kick in the ass.

  14. tgray says:

    I’m a Flyers fan, not a Sens fan

    Ottawa has young talent that the rest of the conference can only be envious of.

    Alfredsson, Bonk, Hossa, Hlavat, Fisher, and Redden and Chara are great defensive anchors…

    Lalime will have the benefit of another year of starting experience…

  15. tgray says:

    I think you assessment is fair, i originally wrote this article with a similar bend you did, but i revised it and thought of the factors that did them in last year and reassesed where i think they are now…you’re guess is as good as mine

  16. tgray says:

    I expected only negative feedback from this article, but i appreciate your praise.

    I think you made a good point on Desjardins, the Flyers talking heads assure everyone that he has been hurt and is returning to form. I hope they’re right.

  17. BWbullies says:

    The lack of scoring was due to lack of coaching, poor positioning, poor puck control and last but not least no heart. Hitch is better then burns.. As for your cry out of change in GM, he provided top players here and the coach could not get them to play. The Flyers were no different then the Rangers last year and that is a bunch of individuals and no team.. This year who ever it might be that will not perform like a team will go. Wether that is JR, LeClair or Fedoruk, nobody is safe.

  18. aaron says:

    lol, good point. :p

    Bouch ain’t a starter yet though. Burke has that job until he retires, he has been unbelievable in goal for them.

  19. FlyHigh says:

    I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE. The Flyers didn’t sign Oates cause they’re cap is already huge. Since when is richardson a fan favorite, not since I’ve been in Philly which was a couple days ago since i live 10 miles away. The Bouch deal was horrible. We traded away a franchise goalie to keep a guy who has 5 good years left. Pitkanen won’t play this year. Anyone who has knowledge of the Flyers knows that. WTF is with people bashing Hitch****. He wins wherever he goes. Since when is Handzus a Selke canidate. JR was top 5 in the league in assists when he was injured. The injury is why he wasn’t higher on the points list. Please write articles that make sense. That is not a put-down, it is a piece of advice. Thx.

  20. Overtime says:

    Some of your statements are laughable. High on the list is your speel on Primeau and Recchi. I guess if I was a Flyer fan, I’d rather be able to refer to them as leaders than “eager students.” The trouble is, they aren’t leaders. Conspicuously absent from ANY of your comments is the word “leader” when describing the Flyer players. Do you really have a clue what it takes to win the Cup? I don’t think so. I’m amused at your statement, “This was a team that last year was a pre-season favorite for the Cup. Everyone and their dog echoed that sentiment.” Imagine being a pre-season favorite “for the Cup” when you have zero leadership on the Flyers. My dog never echoed that sentiment. My dog’s smarter than you are.

    Why do you seem optimistic about the Flyers? Is it because Hitch…. stresses defense. So did Barber. Is it because Hitch… has the support of Clarke? So did Barber. Hitch…. did win a Cup, but since then his team turned on him. They tune him out. Sounds like the Flyers. Why so optimistic?

    Please explain to all of us, big_booty, where the Flyers are going to find the guts and leadership to become champions? Who are the GO-TO guys on the Flyers? hehehe

    I do, however, agree with you on the silly idea that the Rangers will win the East. That’s another laugh. Will they be better? Likely Yes. Will they win the East? NO WAY!!! Even though the Eastern Conference of the NHL is an absolute disgraceful, I don’t see the Rangers prevailing. At all.

    The BEST news for non-Flyer fans is your statement, “There is absolutely no potential for front office turnover as long as there is life in Ed Snider. Snider will never, ever, fire Bob Clarke. These two are cut from the same cloth, and there will be no seperation between the two of them. ” YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

  21. mikster says:

    Nice comment, except he is too pro Flyers to not understand a true leadership captain like Stevens, Messier, Sakic, Koivu, and Yzerman.

    Flyers do not have a real captain….

  22. Game67 says:

    Am I crazy for thinking that the Sens will not make the playoffs this year? I think their goaltending is way overrated and their defence is thin. No offence man, the only way you will see a New York Rangers-Ottawa Senators conference finals matchup is in NHL 2003.

  23. mxianieri says:

    No, they don’t and haven’t had any leadership since Brind’Amour left and Tocchet got hurt.

  24. mxianieri says:

    Interesting article. If everything goes right the Flyers could win it, but the odds are long that everything will. As you state the potential that the combination of this team and Hitch***** will blow up is fairly good, seeing how they turned on Ramsey and Barber when they hit a little trouble. Also, I don’t think it is a good bet that Leclair and Desjardins will both go injury free for the season. It is more likely they will both get hurt.

    I am not sure what the rush is to move guys around. I don’t know that Gagne has the strength or the face-off skills for center. What this does to the potential line combinations is anybody’s guess, given that Leclair is now proably too slow to play with Roenick or Gagne.

    It looks like it will take the team a while to jell with all the changes. Given the age of several of the core players, they might run out of gas again at the end of the season.

    The conference forecast somehow leaves out Carolina, who should at least make the playoffs. I think it will go like this:

    1. Sens

    2. Canes

    3. Devils

    4. Flyers

    5. Caps

    6. Bruins

    7. Rangers

    8. Canadiens

  25. titans says:

    As a Flyer fan all my life who has supported the team through thick and thin I have only one thing to say… GO BRUINS!!

    Flyers have succeeded in alienating me along with a ton of other loyal fans!

  26. Glen says:

    Luke was one of two Flyers to have their own chant last season. ‘Luke’ and ‘Bouch’ were the only ones that had their names chanted from the stands. Your Handzus comment is completely wrong. He was a finalist. And if you’d like to talk stats, maybe you should look at Cechmanek’s stats last season. He along with JR was top 5 in most categories also. Do your homework before you criticize.

  27. Glen says:

    loyal fans don’t bail

  28. tgray says:

    when you were corrected his comment you could have included that Oates would have signed for a four million dollar deal over two years (less then what Richardson is making in Columbus) and you could have noted that i praised JR in my bit on him, thank you again for sensible analysis.

  29. tgray says:

    when you were corrected his comment you could have included that Oates would have signed for a four million dollar deal over two years (less then what Richardson is making in Columbus) and you could have noted that i praised JR in my bit on him, thank you again for sensible analysis.

  30. tgray says:

    I may think Bob Clarke is a complete idiot how is a week decision maker, but not for a second did i ever think that he wasn’t TRYING to improve the team—that’s all you can ask for…same for Snider.

  31. vasko says:

    Maybe Hitch has learned from his Dallas experience, may be not. How the players react to him over the full season should be of interest. I’m an optimist here. I believe the core players will respond to Hitch. They are under the gun. If they do not perform, they will be banished. Players like Philadelphia. The Flyers pay them well; there is very little unfavorable press coverage and significant opportunities for off ice monies.

    Primeau and Recchi for sure under the microscope.

    Barber was Snider’s pick not Clarke’s. Clark passed him over at least three times. Ed is known as a vindictive sort. The reason, the Flyers made no free agent moves – Clark wanted Guerin and Guerin was willing to come for less money- was Snider. He wants the players to put or shut-up. They wanted a coach who would tell them what to

    do. He gave them that in Hitch. If they go out in the first round again, the bloodletting will be extreme and it will not be Hitch that goes.

    Flyers have needed a leader ever since Brind’amour was traded. More specifically, they need a defensive leader. none there.

    The Flyers will make the playoffs and could get to the finals if Hitch is successful and they have few key injuries.

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