Friday, October 20, 2006

No Fly Zone in Philly

The season is but only a few weeks old and already there are rumblings that all is not well in the City of Brotherly love. TSN spent a good portion of its telecast of the Flyers and Lightning game on Thursday night, wondering aloud for the future of Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock.

With Philadelphia off to a horrid start and something seemingly missing on the ice, the first casualty of the coaching fraternity this season may be the guy behind the Flyers bench.

The Flyers have played of late like a team that has tuned out their coach, the embarrassment of the slaughter to Buffalo of a few nights ago, a punctuation mark on a desperate situation. The best indication of the troubles in Philly could be the situation involving Hitchcock and his goaltender Robert Esche. Esche had openly complained about playing time and his icy relationship with his coach, finally given a chance to show his stuff, Esche was greeted to the Armageddon of shots and goals dirceted by the Sabres this week. When it came time to walk the walk, Esche balked, assisted ably by a team that simply walked!

Speaking of talking, Mike Richards delivered a blistering examination of the play of himself and his fellow team mates and no one could quibble with his comments, in fact he may be the clearest thinker on the team these days.

Featuring a hands on owner who doesn’t like to lose, the current crop of Flyers are tempting fate by losing in most spectacular ways. Year in and year out the Flyers are selected as one of the top echelon teams, yet in recent years that normally translates into a playoff exit and a promise to find the missing ingredients to build a winner.

Judging by the results of the early part of the season, they must have lost a recipe book or two in the off season. With one win to show for seven games, the questions are starting to pile up. The Flyers do not seem to play with a purpose, nor any chemistry, a collection of players merely skating up and down the ice, involvement in the play an option, scoring goals not a priority and as the debacle against Buffalo proved stopping goals ain’t too high on the list either.

All of this points to change and in a city that prefers winners to losers, change had better come quick. With an owner who is less than impressed the time is quickly ticking out for any kind of quick turn around of fortunes.

The first move of the desperate was the demotion of three players to the Philadelphia Phantoms line up, including the always enigmatic Petr Nedved. All three cleared waivers before moving to the farm team across the road, nary an indication of interest from the 29 other members of the NHL lodge.

Perhaps the fact that Bob Clarke did not endear himself to his fellow GM’s in the off season will come back to haunt him. Rather than throw the combative GM a life line by way of trade, many will watch with amusement as he thrashes about in the shark infested waters of the NHL.

The Flyers lost to the Lightning on Thursday, a game that many said could determine what has to be done by Snider, Clarke and Hitchcock (if he’s still part of the big picture). Most observers say that they played a with a bit more interest than the game against Buffalo provided, but once again they faded badly when they fell behind. A worrisome trend that isn’t something normally associated with Flyer teams.

However, their first concern must be the status of captain Peter Forsberg injured during the game with a wrist injury. They will have a better idea of his situation on Friday after some tests are done.

Once they check out Forsberg’s wrist perhaps they could order up some cardiac evaluations, the Flyers don’t show much of a heart these days. It might be time to see if perhaps it’s time for some transplants.

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