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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Icarus falls in Philly
It's time for Clarkie to go.

It was a spectacle every Philly fan dreads.

Yet another pro sports team overcomes injuries, the odds and national criticism only to fall flat when it counts the most.

This time it was the Flyers whose wings melted in the sun.

We should all feel numb to it by now. Heck, most of us even expect the pain, having lived through similar disappointments so many times in the last three decades.

This should never have happened. Not in a city so starved for a champion that it has to grab onto a Bucks County thoroughbred and claim the horse as its own.

I put the blame on one man's shoulders.

It was Flyers General Manager Bobby Clarke who built this team.

It was Clarkie who traded erratic goalie Roman Chechmanek away for almost nothing, a full season after most fans had lost faith in him.

It was Clarkie who blew millions on journeyman goalie Jeff Hackett, only to watch him develop a bad case of vertigo from atop that large pile of money.

It was Clarkie who recognized that there probably won't be an NHL season this winter and started a hockey arms race, packing his team with as many veteran linesmen as he could get.

It was Clarkie who traded away strong veteran defensemen and promising youngsters, mortgaging the franchise's future for one last desperate run at the silver cup.

And before we get the wrecking ball and dynamite out, it's Clarkie who should now pay a price.

Don't get me wrong, I love Bobby Clarke.

For me, he will always be the gap-toothed Flyers captain of my youth, hoisting Lord Stanley's most prized possession high.

But those days are gone now. Fading memories amid the Eric Lindros snafu and years of bad trades, impotent power plays and player turmoil.

This team, Clarkie's team, reflected all of it.

From the moment the puck dropped in pre-season, this team didn't know what it was supposed to be.

Were they the second coming of the Broad Street Bullies, ready to give a black eye to the Senators and Maple Leafs? Were they a bunch of old-time snipers like the Red Wings, who have owned the cup for much of the past decade? Were they muckers and grinders like the Devils?

They could be any of those three on any given night. It all depended on the opposition.

But one thing became abundantly clear, even to this layman and die-hard fan, as the season progressed.

Speed kills.

Despite proud performances from Keith Primeau and Robert Esche in the playoffs, the Flyers' aging corps of big, but slow linesmen - handpicked by the team's GM - simply couldn't keep up.

That is why the Lightning dominated the Flyers in the regular season and eventually won out in the seven-game series.

More than anything it's Clarkie's inability to recognize the shift in the style of play that brings success in today's league that says it's time for him to step aside and let Assistant GM Paul Holmgren and coach Ken Hitchcock rebuild.

At least one commentator on Comcast SportsNet apparently agrees. He said so when the Flyers' pre-game show Thursday faded to black and the Phillies game came on, caught unaware that his microphone was still on and broadcasting.

Why he didn't feel comfortable saying it while the camera was on him isn't much of a mystery, considering Comcast owns the Flyers. 

Go Smarty Jones.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

May 24, 2004