Voorhees, NJ – As the Flyers came off of the ice on Monday morning following the fourth day of on-ice activity at training camp, they learned that their head coach, Ken Hitchcock, signed a new three-year contract that would take him through the 2008-09 season.
"I enjoyed playing for him last year, and I think he's a great coach," said Peter Forsberg. "He is really detailed and knows a lot about the game. I think that's great, and it gives more confidence to him, too, since this was going to be the last year of his deal. I congratulate him and hopefully it will be three good years."
Hitchcock was entering the final year of his original contract with the club, but was quickly locked up for an additional two seasons. Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke wanted to get the deal done before camp and made the following statement:
"I think it's the final piece of stability we were hoping to have at the start of training camp. Actually, it was my own fault, because it took me longer to sign a couple players," said Clarke. "Even though it's early in training camp, we wish it has been done earlier, but we knew going into training camp that we were going to get it done some time in training camp."
There was talk among the media that with Hitchcock having just one year left, it could prove to be a distraction. Whether or not that was the case is now a moot point.
"It creates a weird situation if you don't know if he's going to be here the next year or not," said Forsberg. "I think it's good that he knows he will be here for a couple years now. It's good for the organization and the players too to know that he's going to be around for a while."
"I think it's good for our club. He's obviously a good coach, and has proved that in the past and now," added Jeff Carter. "It's going to be good for us to build something here for a few years longer."
Carter is among a group of second year Flyers that Hitchcock is molding into the future of the team. Now, the coach will be around to see players like Carter, Mike Richards, R.J. Umberger and Joni Pitkanen continue to develop.
Carter says that is a good thing.
"I think he was a great help in adjusting us to the league last year," he said. "I think we have set a good foundation, so we have to keep building on it for a couple more years and hopefully put something good together."
"I think [Hitchcock] wants to be here so he can see those players be at their top," said Simon Gagne. "That group is going to be very dangerous in a couple of years."
The organization is hoping that Hitchcock can do with players like Carter what he did with Gagne, which is turning them into bona fide superstars. While it is fairly well known that Hitchcock is on the demanding side, his style was beneficial to Gagne.
"At one point, it was tough. He was tough on me, and I'm telling you, sometimes I had a hard time going home and not being comfortable," said Gagne. "But, now I understand that. I'm a lot better player than I was a couple years ago. He was a big part of that.
"I think it's important that you get the confidence from the organization. That is going to be good for us, for him and for the team."