It is Time for the Flyers to Produce from Within
A HF’s look at the prospects in Philadelphia by John A. D’Amico
Losing in the first round of the NHL playoffs in consecutive years is bad enough. But doing it while spending enough money to dwarf the gross national product of a small European country makes it that much worse. Flyers GM Bobby Clarke has tried to build a winner by buying the priciest free agents that the sport had to offer. Unfortunately for Clarke, a bloated price tag does not assure success. And unfortunately for the Flyers season ticketholders, (after taking the gaspipe in back to back playoff years), all they have to show for their ticket buying dollar is a rather substantial price hike for their seats.
A concerted effort to build from within is now a priority for Clarke and it looks as though he does have some nice talent on the way up. This crop of prospects could be the best group that the Flyers have had stabled since the early eighties when Hextall, Tocchet, Zezel and Smith danced their way on to Broad Street to carry the team to two NHL Finals later in the decade.
Part 7: Euro Draft Statistical Breakdown
Times have certainly changed in the NHL over the last quarter century. It is now truly a global league. Locker rooms commonly feature players from seven different countries and there are a smattering of players from several other lands. European talent scouting has become more crucial than ever as the league has continued to expand and more and more European-born players have come to be selected in the early phases of the NHL draft. Today, many European fans follow the NHL with equal or greater passion than they do the leagues in their own country. NHL hockey has become a global entity. So have the Philadelphia Flyers, sometimes blazing trails at the forefront, sometimes being dragged kicking and screaming.
Appendix: European Flyers by the numbers
Through 1998-99, there have been 28 European-born players who have worn a Flyers uniform, not including players who dressed only in pre-season games, such as Toni Porkka and Vladislav Boulin. Here is a county-by country breakdown:
Czech Repubic [or Czech portion of former Czechoslovakia] (8)
Russia (7) Read more»
Part VI: The Return of Bob Clarke
On June 15, 1994, Bob Clarke left his post as GM of the Florida Panthers to return to Philadelphia and once again become the Flyers General Manager. After his firing by Jay Snider in the summer of 1990, Clarke had become GM of the Minnesota North Stars. Despite having some success in Minnesota, including a surprise trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, Clarke longed to return to Philadelphia. The Flyers also wanted him back in the fold, although not in a major decision making capacity. They hired him as their “Senior Vice President,” which turned out to be a largely ceremonial title, much to Clarke’s dismay. Farwell rarely came to Clarke for any important decisions. Even Clarke’s staunchest critics would admit that he is a man who is no more comfortable taking money for nothing than he is accepting what he deems lazy effort from a player. That was Clarke’s main rationale for leaving Philadelphia to take the Florida job. Read more»
Part V: European Drafting in the Farwell Years
New Flyers General Manager Russ Farwell inherited a mess from Clarke in 1990. The team had a paper-thin farm system and, on the big club, little front forward talent remained, the blueline was shallow and, with Ron Hextall battling ongoing groin injuries, the goaltending was at most adequate. Farwell immediately set about a rebuilding program that he intended to be primarily accomplished at the draft table, relying on his own knowledge of Canadian junior hockey and his strong contacts in North America and overseas. Inge Hammarström was hired to revive the Flyers foundering European scouting program, including their first full-scale forays into Russia. Hammarström and North American scout Bill Dineen became two of Farwell’s most trusted advisers at the draft. Given his short preparation time, Farwell did a marvelous job at the 1990 draft, the first of several good drafts he ran. While the on-ice results were modest during Farwell’s tenure (no playoff appearances), his draft and trade moves assembled much of the nucleus of the Flyer’s revival in the middle and latter part of the 1990s. Read more»
Part IV: The First Clarke Administration
Although Sinisalo, Lindbergh, and Eklund blossomed during Bob Clarke’s first tenure as the Flyers general manager, they were initially drafted and/or signed to the organization while Keith Allen was still the general manager and Clarke was an active player. This was also the case for the vast majority of key North American players from the Keenan/Clarke era Flyers; including draftees Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Rick Tocchet, Ron Sutter, Peter Zezel, Derek Smith, Lindsay Carson, and enforcer Dave Brown; undrafted rookies such as Tim Kerr and Dave Poulin (signed after playing with the Division One Rögle club in Sweden); and key trade acquisitions such as Mark Howe, Brad McCrimmon, and Brad Marsh. Thus, it was actually Keith Allen, rather than Clarke, who was the primary architect of the Flyers success in the mid-1980s. Clarke’s main contributions to the strong teams of the mid-1980s were the hiring of Keenan and the trades that brought Murray Craven and Kjell Samuelsson to Philly. Read more»