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Flyers greats laud last season's performance

by Mike G. Morreale
Former Philadelphia Flyers winger Bob Kelly admits he and his former teammates would have gladly passed the championship torch had last year's team celebrated a Stanley Cup victory.
"I think all Flyers alumni felt last season's team was a unanimous choice to take over as Cup champions for this city," Kelly told
But it never happened as the Chicago Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup following a 4-3 overtime decision at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center in Game 6. recently caught up with former "Broad Street Bullies" and two-time Stanley Cup winners Kelly, Bill Clement, Dave Schultz and Orest Kindrachuk to discuss the Flyers and their chances of making another postseason run.

"It's certainly possible to return (to the Cup Final), but the odds against it happening are really strong by virtue of the fact 29 other teams have an opportunity to do something," Clement said. "The Flyers are a deeper team, especially on the blue line, so it's certainly possible."

Schultz was impressed with how the Flyers came together at the most crucial time in the season to put together an unforgettable run.
"It's still a long ways from the start of the season to the Finals and winning it, but you look at what Pittsburgh was able to do -- going to the Final and losing one year (2008) and returning and winning it the next (2009)," Schultz said. "A lot of people predicted the Flyers to go to the Stanley Cup last year and then that all changed as the season went along and they fell on hard times."
Schultz still holds the record for most penalty minutes in a season (472 in 1974-75) and led the League in penalty minutes three other times over a career that spanned nine seasons. He sees many similarities between the Flyers' captain of his era, Bob Clarke, and current captain Mike Richards.
"I think he's excellent," Schultz said of Richards. "He reminds me, as he does a lot of people, like another Bob Clarke. He loves the game, he plays hard. He might not be the greatest skater, but he gets it done."
Kindrachuk said it's not going to be easy, but the return of a strong leadership group to the roster will certainly help the Flyers' cause.
"They're not going to sneak up on anybody, but they've got a good young core," Kindrachuk said. "They've got a tremendous leader in Mike Richards -- he's a throwback guy. It's not by coincidence that he happened to also captain other teams that have won championships so it's bred in him. I can't see him stopping not to succeed."
Kelly likes the off-season changes made by General Manager Paul Holmgren, which includes the addition of defensemen Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros.
"I think Homer's done a great job -- it's a challenge like anything else," Kelly said. "When you win the Cup or are on top, everyone wants to pick you off. I think we made some good changes here. We brought in that big Jody Shelley to offset (Derek) Boogaard signing with (the) New York (Rangers). We have a couple young kids in goal (Michael Leighton, Johan Backlund), who can hopefully mature and come along, and we picked up some help for (Chris Pronger) on defense."
The former players also appreciate the fact there seems to always be a surprise team that comes out of nowhere to make an incredible postseason run. Long gone are the days when teams had a legitimate shot at winning three or four consecutive Stanley Cup crowns.
"I think a dynastic team like Detroit is a good thing, but to have too many of them every year, wouldn't be that great," Clement said. "I like the fact that people all over the League can look at their team and say, 'Look at (the Flyers), they're all over the map with their goaltending, they have problems, they barely squeaked in and still came within two games of winning the Stanley Cup.'
"There's a sense of … that can happen to us," he added. "So, it's the eternal hope that I always want to see exist in the eyes of every fan when they see the roster of their team and the opening faceoff begins the brand new season. I like to know that every fan feels their team has a chance, so while I don't mind the dynasty, I don't want a handful of teams dominating the League every year."
To Schultz, today's players are not only bigger and stronger, but faster. That makes for some very exciting hockey.
"There's just no comparison to the training done now and when I played," Schultz said. "These players today are so big and fast, so they had to open up the game. The obstruction was crazy with the trap and many of the games became boring. Watching turnover after turnover takes away from a nice line rush and fans still love to see that part of the game."

"I think all Flyers alumni felt last season's team was a unanimous choice to take over as Cup champions for this city." -- Bob Kelly

But don't think for a second that Schultz doesn't still appreciate a good fight every so often.
"I still think the game has a unique aspect to it in the fighting end but you see teams with those enforcers, willing to do that, but they don't really have a whole lot else to do," Schultz said. "They have to be so careful so not to get additional penalties, and the instigator rule really changed things. If I was playing today, I'd just have to stick to my skills and score a lot of goals."
For the record, Schultz scored 79 career goals and amassed 2,294 penalty minutes in 535 games.
Clement enjoys the faster game that has replaced the one he participated in during the 1970's.
"I equate it to the stock market," Clement said. "The NHL is still a live stock, so don't sell. Don't give up on it. Don't go anywhere, because it's a buy stock because it continues to improve. There's a formula for improvement -- the players are involved and the competition committee is in place. I can't tell you what positive transformations took place during that one year of pain (work stoppage of 2004-05), but the way the game has improved certainly has offset any pain we experienced that year."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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