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Sports Illustrated Ranking: 9
By Kelley King
Observers at the Flyers' training camp in Peterborough, Ont.,
were struck by the team's fitness. Right wing Mark Recchi was
fully recovered from the concussion he sustained last season,
defenseman Chris Therien had shed 10 pounds, and, despite back
troubles that would hinder them during the preseason, John
LeClair and Eric Lindros were skating with the team. From the
goal nets to the front office, the message seemed clear: If the
Flyers don't shape up this season, owner Ed Snider could be
shipping many of them -- including Lindros and general manager Bob
Clarke -- out. "We all feel that this has to be our year," says
goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.
| 1998-99 Leaders |
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
The Flyers also entered last season with a lot to prove, and they
quickly dispelled most concerns with an Eastern Conference best
28-10-11 start. Then Lindros's lung collapsed when he fell on his
stick during an April 1 game, and the team buckled without him.
Arguably more disheartened than disabled by the absence of their
captain, the Flyers scored only 13 goals in their final seven
regular-season games before being ousted from the playoffs in the
first round by the Maple Leafs. The series ended in Game 6 when
Toronto scored a power-play goal in the last minute after LeClair
was called for elbowing, a penalty that left Snider so incensed
that he was fined $50,000 by the league for his public outburst.
Despite an off-season marked by the lingering disappointment
over that early playoff exit, the retirement of onetime
goaltending star Ron Hextall and the death of rookie defenseman
Dmitri Tertyshny in a boating accident, Philadelphia's attitude
is positive. "This is the best team I've had since 1994," says
Clarke, who re-signed standout defender Eric Desjardins, as well
as free-agent forwards Recchi, Keith Jones, Mikael Renberg and
Valeri Zelepukin. This older group will also be counted on to
usher in a new generation of Flyers. The most promising young
prospects include defenseman Mark Eaton, a 1998 free-agent
signee from Notre Dame, and 19-year-old center Simon Gagne, a
first-round pick in '98 with superior skills. Last season the
6-foot, 165-pound Gagne scored 120 points in the Quebec Major
Junior Hockey League.
Despite the new talent that waits in the wings, for this year, at
least, the Flyers hope that experience takes them over the
Issue date: October 4, 1999
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Rod Brind'Amour is working on the league's longest iron man streak at 484 games. He has played in 778 of a possible 782 career games.
After a couple years of constant tinkering, the Flyers stayed quiet this summer and hope the stability will kick in.
Eric Desjardins is coming off a career-best 15-goals, 51-point season in which he collected Norris Trophy votes.
John Vanbiesbrouck made Bobby Clarke look good last year, but if he falters this year, 22-year-old Brian Boucher may get a good look.|
They can downplay the injuries to Eric Lindros and John LeClair as minor, but back injuries are funny things. And not Ha-Ha funny.
RW Keith Jones' surgically-repaired knee is also acting up, meaning the whole No. 1 line is hurting.
People, Places and Things
GM: Bob Clarke
Coach: Roger Nielson; 2nd full season (47-35-21); 15th overall (414-355-147)
Assistants: Wayne Cashman; Craig Ramsey
Captain: Eric Lindros
Last year: 37-26-19 (7th overall)
Playoffs: Lost to Toronto 4-2 in first round
PP: 10th (16.8%)
PK: 16th (84.1%)
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Sat., Oct. 2: Home opener against Ottawa.
Wed., Oct. 20 and Fri., Oct. 22: Home-and-home series with the Rangers (Wednesday in Philly, Friday in New York) are the last meetings until February.
1.83: Goals-per-game the Flyers scored in their six-game playoff loss to Toronto; Philadelphia had averaged 2.81 goals-per-game in the regular season
"We don't need any crap this year. We've got a real good team. There's a lot at stake. I've committed for one more year here. I enjoy playing with my peers, playing for the coaching staff." -- Eric Lindros