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The way Wayne Cashman was chirruping about the virtues of being an assistant coach last week"I love working closely with players!" he saidyou could almost forget he'd just been publicly emasculated. After being fired as Flyers coach by general manager Bob Clarke on March 9, Cashman was still behind the Philadelphia bench as an assistant. For as long as he's there, he will symbolize his failure and the Flyers' desperation. "I've never been around a situation like this," says center Joel Otto. "We feel bad for Wayne."
If Cashman's demotion after only 61 games wasn't demeaning enoughafter all, the Flyers had a 32-20-9 recordconsider that it came about largely because he couldn't get the NHL's biggest club, which plays before the league's most bloodthirsty fans, to play tough. Cashman was replaced by Roger Neilson, 63, a highly respected tactician who nonetheless has been fired six times and has taken a team past the second round of the playoffs only once in 12 seasons.
Neilson is Philadelphia's third coach since the Flyers were swept by the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals last June. Under Cashman the Flyers were a combined 0-7-1 against the league's premier clubsthe Avalanche, the Devils, the Red Wings and the Starswhich caused Clarke to panic.
For Cashman, who has accepted his reassignment with equanimity because he wants to stay involved with a contender, these shenanigans probably mean he won't be taken seriously as a candidate for another head coaching job. For the Philadelphia players, who went 2-0-1 in their first three games under Neilson, including last Saturday's 6-1 win over Detroit, Cashman's presence behind the bench provides a vivid and unsettling reminder that management is playing scared.
Issue date: March 23, 1998
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