Capitals show new Flyers coach just how much work he has to do

December 06, 1991|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,Evening Sun Staff

PHILADELPHIA -- The whole thing sounds as if it was nightmared up by Bob Irsay during one of his infamous lunch hours.

Picture it: You're a man with impressive hockey credentials, but the fact is you haven't been behind the bench coaching in some time. You've been off scouting the minor leagues and the amateurs for the big club and your birth certificate says this is the autumn of your years.

Out of the blue, a call comes from the big boss, you're invited to watch the big club play and, afterward you're offered the job to handle a team in the National Hockey League for the first time.

The above all happened to Bill Dineen so fast, the new coach of the deeply troubled Philadelphia Flyers says he hasn't had more than a couple hours sleep, total, the previous three nights.

He has the numbers of the players committed to memory, but admits he's not up to putting a name with a face yet. Heck, before Wednesday, he wasn't absolutely certain where to park at the Spectrum.

In a way, it was fortunate the Flyers continued their sorry play while being bombed by the Washington Capitals, 6-3, last night. Dineen saw firsthand his team is fully deserving of its recent 0-7-1 record.

"We've got lots of work to do," he said over and over after watching the opposition repeatedly sashay right up to the goal and score nearly at will.

The new man's record as a coach in the old World Hockey Association and the minor leagues, mostly in the American Hockey League (with Adirondack up until two seasons ago), gives indication the job ultimately will get done. But the task looks about three exits beyond monumental right now.

"I felt fairly comfortable behind the bench [calling the shots]," said the soon-to-be sexagenarian, "until a penalty or something threw me off. I tried to match lines off what I knew going in, but once play gets going, there's a lot of shifting going on. I've got some homework to do."

One thing burned indelibly in his mind throughout: "We just ran around unbelievably in our own end. That will be our No. 1 priority. If we get that cleaned up, heck, we're talking about a 3-3 game tonight."

Dineen has the reputation of being a motivator and a teacher and a guy good at raising the confidence level of young players. He'll have every chance to hone those skills because the Flyers have fallen a surprising distance behind the once-again potent squads of the Patrick Division.

The stories dominating the Philadelphia media ever since Dineen accepted the job to replace Paul Holmgren Tuesday night were standard fare.

The players said it was their fault, they haven't been performing and that poor Homer, Holmgren's nickname, was the fall guy. "Easier to fire one guy than 20," noted defenseman Kjell Samuelson.

After missing the playoffs the last two seasons following a brilliant run of about 15 years, general manager Russ Farwell cleared out the locker room, replacing 13 forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. It appeared as if Holmgren was expected to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again within two dozen games, during which the Flyers were 8-14-2.

Holmgren, a company man to the end, held off saying anything for a day for fear he might explode. Even when forced to a hotel across the river in New Jersey yesterday, because the club said there was no room at the spacious Spectrum, Holmgren stuck with mild words like disappointed and hurt.

Shortly after the puck was dropped, Philly was on the scoreboard via the most unusual manner, scoring while two men down. The Caps scored three times -- Dale Hunter, Randy Burridge and Kevin Hatcher doing the honors -- then rested.

Early in the second period, the Flyers had a five-minute power play when Kelly Miller was sent packing following a high-sticking call and didn't even threaten Washington's end of the ice seriously.

The Caps had another run of three goals -- Burridge, Dino Ciccarelli and John Druce this time -- and the loudest noise of the night occurred when the public address announcer informed, "last minute of the game." Needless to say, they were not screams of joy.

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