The major problem is Keith Primeau and his inability to shake his concussion symptoms. Not only is he
the captain of the team, but he provides much needed size up front. The team has said that if he is not ready by Feb. 26,
the end of the Olympics, that will be the end of his season. His salary will be taken off the payroll and a trade will be
made in an attempt to fill-in the hole he leaves behind.
And that's a big hole come playoff time. The Flyers won't just be losing a big, physical scoring forward,
which are hard to come by, but they will be losing their captain.
Not to mention the fact that in his time with the Flyers, Primeau has always stepped up his game in the
playoffs. During the last season, he was instrumental in the Flyers run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Meanwhile, every
hockey fan, who stays up past 2:30 a.m., remembers his game winning goal in the fifth overtime against the Penguins in the
2000 playoffs, which again propelled them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Replacing him doesn't seem possible so Flyers
fans better hope his head stops spinning.
Although replacing Primeau is tough, that's not going to stop Clarke from trying. He already made a significant
move last week trading Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, who had trouble staying health and was surpassed in play by rookie Freddie
Meyer, for veteran Center Petr Nedved.
While the 34-year-old Nedved has had 30 and 40-plus-goal seasons, he had just two goals and 10 assists
this season with Phoenix. But, in his first two games with the Flyers, he's already racked up a goal and an assist. He's also
given Forward Michal Handzus, who, because of injuries, has been jumping from line-to-line and position-to-position, some
stability. Now, Nedved will center the line with Handzus and Branko Radivojevic on the wings.
But that alone will not fill the hole left by Primeau. True, Nedved does add the scoring touch the Flyers
have been missing since Primeau was injured. However, they continue to miss his physical play.
If Primeau can't return,
Flyers fans better hope Clarke's got a trade up his sleeve. Otherwise, they will be headed into the playoffs without a big
piece of the puzzle.
Moreover, they will have to pick another captain. Eric Desjardins is next in line. He's a veteran player,
a team leader and he's held the position before. The only problem is he's hurt too. While he's expected to return sometime
next month, what if the Flyers go into the playoffs without him as well?
You can't trade for someone and make them the captain. So, who's the next likely candidate for the "C"?
Mike Richards is the future captain of the Flyers but they can't put that load on the shoulders of a rookie. Peter Forsberg
is not vocal enough to be the captain. That leaves Simon Gagne, who lacks the intangibles that a captain possesses. But the
best person suited for the role is Derian Hatcher. He's worn the "C" before under Ken Hitchcock with Dallas. The only problem
is this is his first season with the Flyers and doesn't have the seniority. But he does appear to be the only resort should
Primeau and Desjardins remain on the injured list.