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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fewer bullies, more talent?

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PHILADELPHIA -- Even though they managed a gritty 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon, the Flyers are having a head-scratching season: a 14-17-3 record that has them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Now look at the same juncture last season and swallow hard: a 21-9-4 record for 46 points -- 15 more than this year's team.

No wonder winger Scott Hartnell said when he met with club chairman Ed Snider the other day, "you could see the hurt in his eyes by obviously the way we're playing."

Cynics will say Snider is despondent because of the millions the Flyers will lose if they miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 years.

But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Snider is beyond wealthy. It's not the money that matters at this point in his life. It's the prestige of overseeing a Stanley Cup champion. It's the joy he wants fans to feel, like they did in 1974 and 1975, when the Flyers won consecutive Cups.

Or like they felt Saturday as the Flyers unveiled a statue outside of Xfinity Live, depicting Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent hoisting the Cup.

It was a stirring, classy ceremony. But some say the Flyers need to let go of the past and put together a roster that thrives on talent and doesn't use penalty minutes as a calling card.

The Flyers snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday, but they probably need to win 10 or 11 of their last 14 games just to sneak into the playoffs.

Snider said general manager Paul Holmgren's job is safe, and that he and Holmgren will evaluate coach Peter Laviolette after the season.

From here, Laviolette's job seems secure, but if the team gets off to a slow start next season...

The Flyers started the season 0-3 and have been climbing a hill ever since. Two steps up, three steps down. Their longest streak is two games.

"I really don't want to make excuses, but we had a very tough schedule to start off with and we got off on the wrong foot and never regrouped," Snider said.

Maybe there would have been more wins if the Flyers had been able to add Shea Weber or Ryan Suter.

"We were trying to overcome the loss of (Chris) Pronger," Snider said. "We don't talk about that often, but Pronger... we gave up a lot to get him and he was a force for us. Not having him has really been rough. It would be the same as Boston without" Zdeno Chara.

And now the defence is also without three other injured players: Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann.

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 31, 2013 B2

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