ST. LOUIS _ Speaking to a group of reporters Wednesday, general manager Ron Hextall said he would have to "evaluate" the Flyers' leadership group in the off-season because of the team's "inconsistencies."
On Thursday, coach Craig Berube conceded that the Flyers have missed Kimmo Timonen's calming influence on the ice and in the locker room, but said he was satisfied with the leadership group, which includes captain Claude Giroux, and alternates Mark Streit and Wayne Simmonds.
"I think G and the leaders have done a good job, to be honest with you," Berube said after the morning skate in St. Louis, where the Flyers will face the Blues on Thursday. "I think they've prepared themselves night in and night out to compete hard and work hard and perform at the same time. It's still a learning process for these guys. Giroux is still a young captain."
Like Hextall, Giroux said it's not just himself and the alternates that are the leaders.
"It's not one, two or three players, it's everybody that comes together" he said. "It could be one game that one line steps up, the next game it could be another line. But at the end of the day, you have to come here and do your job and play as a team."
Giroux, 27, known for his relentless play, said there was nothing he would do differently this season, as far as the way he serves as captain. He said the team has a great chemistry away from the game, but that it "wasn't as good as we went it to be" on the ice.
"This team is one of the most important things in my life and I take it to heart," Giroux said of the Flyers' fade from playoff contention.
The Flyers got off to another miserable start for the third straight season, and they have lost their last six games (0-5-1) to teams not in a playoff spot. As a result, they will miss the playoffs for the second time in Giroux's three years as captain.
The recent losses to lightweights is puzzling because the Flyers have points in their last seven games (4-0-3) against teams in playoff positions.
"I don't know how to explain it," Giroux said. "It's like when we have big games, we kind of find ways to play at our best. I don't know if we're not ready, or our motivation isn't that good when we play teams that are not as good. It's obviously something we have to look at. Good teams find a way to be consistent every night."
Hitchcock aims for No. 700. Berube played for Ken Hitchcock in juniors and with the Flyers, and coached with the Phantoms when Hitch was the Flyers' head coach, so he knows first-hand why he has been so successful.
On Thursday, Hitchcock will try to become the fourth coach in NHL history to reach the 700-win mark when his Blues host the Flyers.
Berube said Hitchcock was an offensive-minded coach when he directed his junior team. "I think he mirrored the Edmonton Oilers a lot. Being he's from Edmonton and watching them and seeing their offense," Berube said. "But when he got to the NHL, he became more of a defensive-minded coach. He went to Dallas and realized you've got to play good defense to win, and he brought that structure to Dallas and they won the Cup there."
Hitchcock "demands a lot; he demands a lot of the little things on the ice that are important," said Berube, who picks Hitchcock's brain with summer phone calls.
Flyers defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo played for Hitchcock in St. Louis.
"Hitch was a very smart coach who really made you prepare for every moment and every game," he said. "He comes from a great background of winning, whether it was international or juniors, or the NHL level. He's a great motivator, and he's really good at explaining things so that you could understand them quickly. For us, when he came to St. Louis, he was a great voice-change _ someone with that much experience and knowing what it takes and helping us get to the next level."
Colaiacovo was asked to compare the coaching styles of Hitchcock and Berube.
"Chief has a great personality _ I'm not saying Hitch doesn't _ but Hitch gets really emotional during games, and sometimes lets the stress get to him a little bit," Colaiacovo said, smiling. "Chief is more of a laid-back kind of guy. He played the game and I think that's really the difference….He knows the kind of things guys go through on a daily basis."
Colaiacovo said both coaches "preach the same things _ playing strong defensively, which is what you need to do to be successful on this level."
Berube responds. Berube responded to a report that suggested goalie coach Jeff Reese stepped down because he disagreed with the head coach's handling of Steve Mason's recent injury situation: "People make things up because they don't know the truth."
Pressed on what the truth was, Berube said he wasn't at liberty to discuss it, that it was a "mutual decision." Flyers officials have implied that it was a personal matter involving Reese.
Breakaways. Steve Mason (13-15-9, 2.32 GAA, 923 save percentage) will face the Blues' Brian Elliott (22-10-2, 2.21 .920)…..Hitchcock has a 699-424-183 career record; he is 74-68 in the playoffs.