NHL Playoffs 2002
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Tuesday, April 30
Updated: May 2, 10:24 PM ET
Clark: Players lost respect for their coach

Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Bill Barber was fired by the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, one day after players blamed the coach for the team's collapse in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

Bill Barber
With players complaining and the team sputtering its way out of the playoffs, Bill Barber had to go.

General manager Bob Clarke said veteran players lost respect for Barber.

"We just felt that there was no way of being able to heal the wounds that had developed between the coach and the players," Clarke said.

Assistant coaches Mike Stothers and E.J. McGuire also were fired.

Clarke said Barber would be offered another job in the organization.

Barber, the NHL's coach of the year last season, is the fifth coach the Flyers have let go since 1997. It is the sixth coaching change Clarke has made since returning to Philadelphia as GM in 1994, but his job is safe.

"What I'm looking for in a general manager is someone to put a team together that I think can win the Stanley Cup, and that's what he did," team chairman Ed Snider said. "Now because we didn't win it, do I change my mind? None of our players lived up to expectations."

The Flyers won the Atlantic Division with 97 points, earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But they lost a best-of-seven series to the No. 7-seeded Ottawa Senators in five games, scoring a record-low total of just two goals.

With a payroll of $55.5 million and a roster that included seven All-Star players and three former 50-goal scorers, Philadelphia was a favorite to reach the Stanley Cup finals.

"We let down the city, the fans and the players," Snider said.

The Flyers were 31-16-7 after Barber took over for Craig Ramsay in December 2000, but they lost in six games to Buffalo in the playoffs.

Barber was criticized Monday by several players, including captain Keith Primeau.

"We had the worst power play in the league, why are we not practicing it?" Primeau said. "All season long we said if someone makes a mistake, they're getting yelled at.

"We say when we come to the bench, make that adjustment. He wants the player to make the adjustment. Our job is to play. I felt like I was having to make the adjustments on the bench. I don't feel that's part of my job description."

A member of Philadelphia's only Stanley Cup championship teams in 1974 and 1975, Barber played his entire 12-year career with the Flyers, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990 and has been with the organization for 30 years.

He and Clarke were linemates on Philadelphia's Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s. Barber ranks first on the Flyers' career list with 420 goals, third with 463 assists and second with 883 points.

He spent four years as head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL affiliate, and led them to the championship in 1998 before becoming Ramsay's assistant.

Barber lost his wife Jenny to lung cancer in December, but didn't miss any games, preferring to keep his mind on work.

"I don't think it's all Bill's fault," Snider said. "Unfortunately, you can't trade all the players."

Clarke spent $101 million on long-term contracts last summer, including a $45 million, five-year deal for forward John LeClair, who scored just 25 goals and had no points in the playoffs. He also traded a top prospect and three draft picks for 39-year-old center Adam Oates at the trade deadline.

The Flyers struggled at the start of the season, and were 15-10-5-1 by the middle of December. But, they went 18-5-1-2 the next two months, and had the best record in the East at the Olympic break. Philadelphia won just nine of its last 26 games.

Goaltender Brian Boucher said Barber didn't make adjustments when the team was losing to Ottawa.

"All he ever said was `work harder,"' Boucher said. "We needed a game plan to somehow counter what they were doing. There's always a way to come up with a counter."

Clarke fired Terry Murray after the Flyers were swept in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals by Detroit. His replacement, Wayne Cashman, lasted only 61 games into the 1997-98 season before he was let go.

Roger Neilson underwent treatment for multiple myeloma after coaching 57 games in the 1999-00 season. Ramsay took over on an interim basis and led the Flyers to the conference finals, where they blew a 3-1 series lead to New Jersey.

After the playoff run, Ramsay was retained -- but just 28 games into the next season, Clarke replaced him with Barber.

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