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Yes, and there are nights when the Flyers will ring some bells. In the first period of a Feb. 17 game against Edmonton, for instance, Wilson drew a five-minute major for viciously high-sticking Jaroslav Pouzar. Later, Flyers Scout Joe Watson (Jim's brother and a Philadelphia defenseman from 1966-67 through '77-78) called the incident "one of those hits early in the game that let them know we were going to get a piece of them every time they touched the puck." The Flyers went on to defeat the Oilers 7-3.
While two NHL coaches, Scotty Bowman of Buffalo and Glen Sather of Edmonton, and one general manager, Emile Francis of St. Louis, all use the phrase "more disciplined" in describing the 1982-83 Flyers, many other rivals seem to feel that, deep down, the Flyers are still...the Flyers. "Maybe they have cut down on the third-man-in violations and bench-clearers," says New Jersey Goal-tender Chico Resch, "but they're still a physically intimidating team, especially around their net. Other clubs might trip or hold you, but the Flyers will crosscheck or slash you."
Touché. But whereas previous Philadelphia teams would mix it up—at times goon it up—in any situation, this season's Flyers are, according to McCammon, "more careful when the score's close." A case in point: After Ranger Center Ron Duguay wrestled Cochrane to the ice in the first period of a Jan. 23 game in Philadelphia, any Flyer fan might have expected immediate retaliation from Cochrane, a good and eager fighter who last season led Philly in penalties with 329 minutes and who at week's end was No. 1 again with 186. Instead, Cochrane bided his time until the final seconds of the game when, with Philadelphia safely ahead 3-1, McCammon moved him from left defense to left wing and put him on the ice against Duguay's line. Cochrane immediately grabbed Duguay and hammered home a couple of punches.
"It's people like him [Cochrane] who give hockey a bad name," said Duguay after the game.
"No one is going to win the Stanley Cup wearing skirts," says McCammon.
What McCammon has done is discipline the Flyers without sacrificing their traditional toughness. He has a sharp eye for mistakes and a sarcastic tongue. "Way to go, Pelle, way to watch 'em," said McCammon to Goaltender Pelle Lindbergh after the rookie let in a 70-footer at a morning practice a while back. When Holmgren mishandled the puck on a good scoring opportunity at another workout, McCammon, who's a native of Kenora, Ont., said, "Holmgren, you chopped that puck into 18 pieces. Aw, what do you expect from an American?"
No one escapes. Recently McCammon's son, Joe, a goaltender at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, phoned his father to report that he'd played well in winning his first college start, a 10-4 victory over Potsdam (N.Y.) State. "Four goals?" said the elder McCammon. "Yeah, you really must've been great."
"I don't take coaching or myself as seriously as I did when I was here the first time," says McCammon. "A lot of coaches kid themselves into thinking they play a big part in the wins. You do what you can in practice and maybe move a few guys around in games. In the end, though, it's the players who win or lose."
All of which is a self-deprecating short sell of McCammon the tactician. While old-fashioned discipline may have rid Philadelphia of its proclivity for gooning, strategic innovation and good use of personnel have enabled the Flyers to realize McCammon's second priority: improved penalty killing. Since Nov. 21, when Philadelphia penalty killers were the second worst in the league with 22 goals allowed in 80 shorthanded situations, the Flyers have moved to first place in that department, giving up 11 goals in 127 chances. More impressive, over a 22-game span, from Dec. 26 through Feb. 13, the Flyers allowed only seven goals in man-down situations while scoring eight shorthanded goals. In other words, their penalty-killing unit was plus one.
"The key is Mark Howe," says McCammon of his top defenseman, who was acquired last summer from Hartford in a trade for much-penalized (275 minutes in 1981-82) Center Ken Linseman. "In late November, Howe came to me and said that when he was with the Whalers he sometimes killed penalties as a forward and he thought he could help us doing that. I moved him up with Bobby Clarke. With Clarkie's puck-handling ability and Howe's breakaway speed, they not only kill penalties but they actually give us a scoring threat." At week's end Howe had five shorthanded goals, which tied him for the league lead.