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."
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.
like him [Cochrane] who give hockey a bad name," said Duguay after the
"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
"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.