Work in Sports
ATLANTIC DIVISION |
2 Philadelphia Flyers
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 8
By Mark Bechtel
To be considered the Flyers' best player, it seems you've got to be able to put the puck into the net, and you've got to carry a little baggage. Last spring the oft-prostrate Eric Lindros, who played the role of Philly's top gun for the past eight years, ripped the organization's treatment of the chronic concussions that caused him to miss the last 14 games of the regular season and all but two postseason matches. In turn, general manager Bobby Clarke proclaimed that Lindros owed the team an apology and stripped him of his captain's C .
With Lindros all but certain to be traded whenever he's well enough to play (expected to be about New Year's), his successor as the Flyers' go-to guy is left wing John LeClair, a three-time 50-goal man whose inability to strike a long-term extension has led to rumors that he, also, may be traded. So will LeClair be too distracted to perform at his best? "We don't see that," says coach Craig Ramsay. "He scored two goals in the first preseason game and one in the next."
In fact, the whole team appears to play better with distractions. While the Lindros saga played out, the team won 16 of its final 25 games to surpass the Devils for the best record in the Eastern Conference, then rode the hot goaltending of rookie Brian Boucher to within a game of the Stanley Cup finals. Losing Lindros's goal-scoring punch will hurt, but his replacement is another towering burly fellow, 6'5", 230-pound Keith Primeau, who arrived in a trade with Carolina last January after sitting out the first four months of the season in a contract dispute. He and LeClair didn't always gel last year, but now that they have some time together they should be a formidable pair.
They are joined on the first line by 19-year-old rookie Justin Williams, a skilled right wing. Another 19-year-old upstart is first-year goalie Maxime Ouellet, who is considered by some NHL observers to be the best netminding prospect in the league. "This kid wants to be the guy," says Ramsay. Of course, Boucher, 23, was the guy last season, and his 1.91 goals-against average was the lowest by a rookie in 50 years. Add bulked-up second-year center Simon Gagne, and there's no reason to think the new Flyers are anything but better than last year's model, even if the Lindros situation doesn't get resolved for a while. "We're a team that only thinks about the players we've got," says Ramsay. "I only coach the guys who are here, and we like them a lot."
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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