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January 30, 2006 - Flyers make Hatcher interim captain

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Flyers make Hatcher interim captain

The move came a day after a 6-0 beating by Tampa Bay. Gagne and Kapanen are alternates.

By Tim Panaccio
Inquirer Staff Writer

Maybe it was the severity of the 6-0 beating the Flyers took Saturday at the hands of Tampa Bay. Maybe it was their having lost seven of the last 10 games.

Or maybe the coaching staff and management realize that if they don't get a handle on the rut the Flyers are in, they could lose the team.

All of the above likely factored into yesterday's decision to appoint defenseman Derian Hatcher, 33, as the team's interim captain, pending the return of Keith Primeau. Hatcher will become the 13th captain in team history.

Simon Gagne and Sami Kapanen will wear the "A" as alternates.

"When things are not going well, you need to have firm direction in the locker room and not have people waiting for it," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The team clearly needs leadership on defense. The Flyers have taken a nosedive since returning home in mid-January after an an 8-2-1 road trip, and poor defense has played a big role.

"Hitch's biggest concern is that there be a voice in the [locker] room," Hatcher said. "Hold guys accountable to the team."

General manager Bob Clarke and Hitchcock met with Primeau yesterday to discuss the change. Primeau has been out of the lineup with post-concussion syndrome since Oct. 30.

"They said the team is kind of like a lost ship at sea right now and is floundering and we need some direction," Primeau said. "With my uncertainty... we are in a tough patch and need direction."

Primeau, who took over as captain for Eric Desjardins in 2001, said he agreed with the decision.

"Derian is a strong person; he'll demand a lot from the guys," Primeau said. "That is what we need right now."

Hatcher served as captain during Hitchcock's reign in Dallas, including 1999, when the Stars won the Stanley Cup.

"Working with Hitch before and being the captain in Dallas for nine years, I can definitely bring some of that," Hatcher said. "It wasn't always good times. There were bad times, too. Hopefully, I can bring some of that [experience] here."

Gagne, the Flyers' leading scorer, said he was offered the captaincy earlier this season but turned it down, feeling that he was too young.

"We are doing the right thing," said Gagne, 25. "We have so many young guys, if they have questions, it's tough for them to find somebody, and now they have someone to go talk to.

"It will be an honor to be captain in the future."

After Saturday's rout, Hatcher spoke like a captain.

"This might be my all-time lowest defeat," he said. "When I said every player should be embarrassed, I mean that. To go out there and have that effort - at home or on the road, for that matter - is unacceptable."

Tonight, the Flyers will play in New York against the Rangers. When the Flyers reached the midway point of the season with 60 points, they had the best record in the NHL. The Rangers were nine points back. This morning, the Flyers are third in the Eastern Conference and the Broadway Blueshirts are just three points behind.

"This is the best time to build the team," Hitchcock said. "When you hit a rough spot like now, this is a chance to build some steeliness in your hockey club... . I told the players we have to take advantage of this situation.

"Nobody feels sorry for us... . If we don't take advantage of the situation, we will continue to flounder."

Hatcher says he will take a proactive stance as a captain.

"I don't want to say it, but it's a lead-by-example type of thing," he said. "When talking about that, I guess I am also putting that pressure on myself."