Stasiuk will deploy some of the extra muscle to help protect the Flyers' only sound scoring threat, the line of Jean Guy Gendron, Andre Lacroix and Dick Sarrazin, which last season produced 60 of the team's 174 goals. While experimenting with two other forward lines, Stasiuk is urging his defensemen to think attack, to "forget defense until possession of the puck is lost." This is certain to increase the pressure on 24-year-old Bernie Parent, the best young goal-tender in the league.
"This year we'll be tougher," says Stasiuk. "We spent the entire training camp trying to find out how much defense we can sacrifice for more offense."
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The trouble with Hal Laycoe, they say, is that he coaches dull hockey. Laycoe, who won seven Western Hockey League championships in his last eight years at Portland before moving to the Kings this season, retorts that the only people who criticize him are those who have lost to him. "The most exciting hockey is junior hockey," he says. "Why? Because they make so darn many mistakes. I could have the most exciting team in the world—but we wouldn't win."
In one grand concession to show biz, however, Laycoe has signed the former Boston strong boy, Eddie Shack, and has moved him from left wing to center, the position Shack likes best.
Laycoe's game is position play with a lot of passing and tight checking. Since L.A.'s checking was exceeded in mildness only by Pittsburgh last year, Dennis Hextall and Ross Lonsberry were picked up to help Shack bloody some noses. To step up the scoring, Laycoe spent a lot of time in training camp looking for a center to force-feed Cowboy Flett, the club's best shooter, and a wing to run interference for Center Eddie Joyal, who scored 33 goals.
At the other end of the ice, the Kings gave up too many goals—more than any other team except Minnesota—but it wasn't Goalie Gerry Desjardins' fault. In Desjardins and his backup man, Wayne Rutledge, Los Angeles has one of the better combinations. The problem was getting the forwards to come back and help out on defense, something Laycoe's orthodox style should help solve. Bigger and rougher than last year, the Kings could rise to second or third place.
In the two years of the West's existence, Pittsburgh has been its invisible team—a club incapable of generating excitement or success and the only one to miss out on the playoffs both years. Now the Penguins have been shaken well, and some class has been added in the person of Coach Red Kelly. This is the classic maneuver of installing a "winner" on a losing team to give it a kick in the psychological fanny. Undeniably a winner as a player with Detroit and Toronto, Kelly coached Los Angeles to second- and fourth-place finishes in the past seasons, and the consensus is that he squeezed from the Kings the best that was to be gotten—even while wrangling with Owner Jack Kent Cooke and General Manager Larry Regan.
Among the manifold problems Kelly inherited at Pittsburgh was a player shortage down the middle and on defense. The only holdover at center is Wally Boyer, still undistinguished at 32. Ron Schock was drafted from St. Louis, and Bryan Hextall was picked up from Vancouver, and Kelly hopes the association with these pennant winners will rub off on their teammates. Kelly also believes the veteran Billy Harris can be of help. "I played with him in Toronto," says Red. "I may have visions of grandeur, but I think his true abilities haven't come out." Wings Dean Prentice (obtained from Detroit) and Glen Sather ( Boston) should strengthen the offense somewhat. The Penguins are O.K. in goal with Les Binkley and Joe Daley, but have only two defensemen of quality: Bob Woytowich and Bob Blackburn.