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Jim Matheson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2006

EDMONTON - Does Bobby Clarke have a lifetime free pass in The City of Brotherly Love?

Yes, he does, as long as the Philadelphia Flyers' chairman Ed Snider has his back, and Snider hasn't forgotten those two Stanley Cup teams Clarke captained, even if it was 30 years ago now, and even if the long-suffering Flyer fans are starting to wonder what the greatest Flyer of them all is doing as general manager to get them to the final dance like Tampa Bay or Carolina in the last five years.

Clarke's Flyers have won eight playoff rounds in the last eight years. They've gone out in the first round four times. They last were in a Stanley Cup final in 1997, losing to the Detroit Red Wings. Two other Clarke-run teams, the '85 and '87 Flyers, fell to the mighty Edmonton Oilers in the Cup final. Their celebration drought is almost as long as the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't won since 1967.

Judging by the Flyers' humiliating loss to the Sabres Tuesday, when Buffalo scored nine goals in a 25-minute span on Robert Esche, some heads are going to roll, although all you pretty much can do in today's cap world is put guys on waivers to change things up.

There aren't a lot of big trades to fix problems. Clarke should been looking in the mirror himself, but he's not going anywhere. Coach Ken Hitchcock, who doesn't deserve it, might take the fall.

Hitchcock is a terrific coach, one of the game's best, with a 408-248-99 NHL record in Philly and Dallas. He just got a new contract that runs him through 2008-09, but Clarke, who said a new deal for Hitchcock was "the final piece of stability," would probably swallow it even if he's 131-82-38 as the Flyers coach. Clarke has had six head coaches since '94 when he started his second go-round as Flyers GM (Terry Murray, Wayne Cashman, Roger Neilson, Craig Ramsay, Bill Barber and Hitchcock, who came on board in May, 2002), so his rope is pretty short. Hitchcock's assistant John Stevens, who was up for a few other head jobs at other NHL places, and their former AHL Philadelphia Phantoms coach, would undoubtedly take over if there's not a quick Flyers turnaround.

"The bottom line is we have to identify the problem and fix it and it's not just one or two players," said Clarke.

That sounds ominous for Hitchcock, who is having to put earrings on a pig in Philly. He's stuck with a team that's not fast enough, with only one puck-

moving blue-liner, Joni Pitkanen, in the New NHL when you have to get the puck up to the forwards, in a hurry, and no solid No. 1 goalie, just two guys -- Antero Niittymaki and Robert Esche, both who've had hip problems and are making $2 million US total, when other teams are paying stud fees for their top goalies.

Truth is, the Flyers have had only three star goalies in the last three decades -- Bernie Parent, the late Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall, now assistant GM in Los Angeles.

Hitchcock has won a Stanley Cup in Dallas, been part of two Canadian Olympic coaching staffs and knows his stuff inside and out, but you know how it works in the coaching merry-go-round? The job is always on the line.

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Maybe it's true. Maybe he is married to the owner's daughter. :dunno:

If it is, then, I mean, what's he going to do, fire his daughter's husband?

Nuh-uh.

Can I get some clarification on this?
 

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Shoot... That's one way to handcuff yourself. :laugh:

I wonder what Flyer fans think about this. :p
 
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