Although at times last year they did not have a roof over their heads and had to schedule "home" games in Quebec, New York and Toronto, the Philadelphia Flyers finished in first place in the expansion division. This year they will have a roof to play under—or at least the Ben Franklin Institute says the Spectrum's top will not collapse or fly away as it did a year ago—but the Flyers will not finish first again.
The reason is that Philadelphia does not have a single consistent goal-scoring threat. The Flyers scored only 173 goals last season (the second lowest total in the NHL), and they had only two regular players who scored 20 goals, Leon Rochefort and Bill Sutherland.
They won their division because 23-year-old Goaltenders Bernie Parent and Doug Favell permitted the opposition only 179 goals (the third best record in the NHL), because the young defensemen Joe Watson and Ed Van Impe played well, and because the Flyers hit.
Rochefort, an underrated player, is back, but Sutherland was lost in the draft. Rookie Center Ron Buchanan was drafted from Boston, and if the Flyers have their usual luck with a Bruins' reject, Buchanan may score 25 goals. Brit Selby, the NHL's Rookie of the Year three years ago with Toronto, has recovered from all his leg fractures and could be one of the West's best forwards. The Flyers also have promoted the line of Andre Lacroix, Simon Nolet and Jean-Guy Gendron from Quebec. "They scored 114 goals down there last year," said Bud Poile, the general manager. "I'll be happy if they score 70 for us." So will Coach Keith Allen.
Conclusion: the Flyers will be as strong as they were a year ago, but not strong enough because the rest of the league has improved.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
In his letter welcoming the Kings to training camp, Owner Jack Kent Cooke proclaimed: "Having proved to all the doubting Thomases that we are National Hockey League caliber, we can start where we left off last season: the best team in the Western Division."
The Kings didn't exactly prove they were the best team in the West last year, finishing second by a point to Philadelphia and losing to Minnesota in the Stanley Cup quarter-finals. But they were a surprise, especially to the established clubs, which they beat 10 times and tied twice.
On paper, and on the ice in their gaudy purple-and-gold uniforms, the Kings certainly do not look as formidable as Minnesota or St. Louis. They need a left wing desperately and, having failed to trade for or develop one, Coach Red Kelly experimented with a pair of defensemen at camp. As a result, the defense—one of the weakest in the West—is weaker still. Goalie Terry Sawchuk, 38, seems chastened—but not necessarily revitalized—by the fact that the Kings left him unprotected in the draft and tried all summer to unload his $50,000 contract. Wayne Rutledge, who played well in 45 games last season, reported overweight, but he should again split time with Sawchuk.