Flyers chairman Ed Snider happily announced he has beaten cancer, and then talked about a variety of issues _ past and present _ in a far-ranging question-and-answer session with the media at rookie camp Saturday.
On the team being hamstrung by salary-cap constraints in the off-season:
"There's no rule that says you have to make changes _ salary cap or no salary cap. There's something to be said about stability and guys playing together for a long period of time. I'm cautiously optimistic about our team."
On new GM Ron Hextall:
"I think Ron has established a philosophy that is probably long overdue. I have probably been a little too anxious to win another Cup. I was very patient when I was young, when we built the winners. We let the other five teams trade away their draft picks and some of their top kids, and we didn't do that. We were not successful for the first, four or five years and then all of a sudden we were the best. So Ron Hextall has done a good job in my opinion in establishing what we want to do for the future."
On Hextall running the show:
"Ron's the GM and he says we have to be patient. He's the boss. We've got a lot of great, young players, and you don't want to rush them along too quickly. We have a great setup in Allentown. For our young guys, everything is going to be so much better than it has been. That's very important."
On his health:
"I'm done. I have no cancer. It's all gone. Well, you never want that Big C, but luckily it's all gone. I'm totally healthy. It's gone."
On the upcoming season:
"I feel very, very cautiously optimistic. If our young guys continue to get better, if Mason is everything we think he is, we've got a good team."
Do you say to yourself, 'I'm going to do this until I'm in the ground?'
"Well, if I stay mentally and physically healthy, that's the way it's going to be. Absoltely. (Laughing) IN THE GROUND, I don't plan on it."
Is it as much fun as it was 30 or 40 years ago?
"Absolutely. I love it.''
On his hopes for 2014-15?
"These young kids are getting a little older. They have some experience now, some playoff experience. You took the Rangers, who went to the Stanley Cup finals, to a seventh game." What is this team capable of?
"I have no way of knowing what would have happened if (Steve) Mason had been healthy the whole time in the first round. . .if we had gone further rounds. I mean, he was outstanding and he has the capabilities and we don't just have a small sample like we did last year. We had the whole year and the year before. The coaching is outstanding and I expect big things from him. We all know that goaltending is the giant key to the success of a team. Then I hear that (Jake) Voracek has come in in really great shape. That's good. This kid, in my opinion, has the ability to become a superstar. And to go along with (Claude) Giroux, who already is. We've got some nice pieces. The young defensemen that we did pick up, they're not that young. You know Streit is not that young, but he's young physically. They came in, now they'll have a full season, full training camp. Del Zotto, hopefully he can turn it around. But who knows?''
You said you were more patient than you used to be. . ?.
"No, I'm not more patient than I used to be. Hextall is.''
Does he have to talk to you about being more patient?
"Look, I don't make deals. I don't pick players. I just support the GMs. Let them do their jobs and he's the guy in charge. I really admire what he's doing and what he's meant to the organization.''
Without getting into what happened in the offseason, Hextall said the other day that he felt Giroux is an excellent leader but that there's room for growth there, that he needs to make the other players more accountable. Do you see that side of his character showing through?
"I thought he did a lot of that last year. I really do. Hexy's saying he still has room for growth. All of us do. I still have room for growth, too.''
Would you agree this team needs some accountability?
"No, I think all teams do. I don't think this team is different than any other team. How were we not accountable?''
On last year's turnaround:
"Yeah, no question, Craig (Berube) turned that around. I think everybody is in better physical condition. This is Craig's first training camp. When you think about it, that's another big plus for us. He did a great job without a training camp, just stepping in. So, you know, I think every team has to be accountable; we have to be accountable, but I don't think we were less accountable than anybody else.''
On whether this team is getting closer to a Cup:
"What I'm trying to say is I don't know how close we are, but I don't know what would have happened if we had beaten the Rangers. I don't know what would have happened if Mason started the series and played all seven games.
I'm not knocking (Ray) Emery, but I think if Mason had played all the games, we would have won the round. We'd have gone to the second round. Mason would have been the goalie. Look, lets face it. The goalies…Jonathan Quick is a pretty damn good goalie. Without him, I don't know where L.A. would be. In my opinion, you start down the middle and your goalie obviously is a key to your success, just like a quarterback is in football or a pitcher is in baseball. A goalie makes the whole team better if he's great. He makes the whole team better because people have confidence. They can take more chances. If they don't have confidence in their goalie, they're on their heels. That's where I start. I don't know how good Mason is. I think I know, but we've got to prove it. As far as the other players on the team, the core of our forwards is young. I feel that they're gonna get better. A combination of that and I don't think we have the world's greatest defense, but we've got a good solid defense. I think we can cause some damage.
On Ilya Bryzgalov:
"With Bryz, it was a lot less expensive than keeping him. We made a mistake. I'm proud of Paul (Holmgren) and our guys in the sense that they don't hide behind their mistakes. They don't say, 'Oh, we're gonna keep this guy because we'll be criticized for making this horrible mistake.' We made a bad mistake. The guy is not a bad goalie, but somehow or another he didn't fit here. We've had goalie problems for some strange reason. Hopefully they're behind us."
On the division race:
"I don't want to comment on other teams. I really only know what I know about my team. I'm not an expert on the other teams. I don't know who their kids are. I don't know who their prospects are. I really don't."
Are the so-called experts short-changing the Flyers?
"No, I don't think so. They're looking at it objectively. We've got to prove ourselves and we were on the (playoff) bubble last year. There's no reason for them to believe that without making big changes we won't be on the bubble or even miss the playoffs this year. The so-called experts don't know more than any of us know. You guys are the so-called experts and what the bleep do you know?"
Do you agree with Hextall, who said his goal is to get the Flyers into the elite group?
Snider: "If he says it, I agree."
Has he been better as a GM than you expected?
Snider: "No. I mean, I think he paid his dues and we wouldn't have made him GM if we didn't expect him to do a great job. I don't know what you guys know or don't know, but I didn't make that change. Paul Holmgren came to me and wanted Ron to be the GM. I think it's a credit to Paul. He knew more (from) talking with Ron every day. Talking hockey with him all the time. He had a better handle than I did, and he said he'd be a great GM. I said, 'Wonderful.' "
In hindsight, do you wish the team was more patient with Sergei Bobrovsky, or are you happy with the way things turned out with Mason here?
"Well, obviously, you don't like to let a kid like that go. I was responsible _ not for picking anybody (Bryzgalov). I was responsible for saying we can't have this goalie situation like we had. So the organization met. All the hockey guys met and they graded all the different people that might be available, and Bryzgalov was at the top. Now that may be an indictment on our scouting or whatever you want to call it, but we went out to get the guy. Then, the problem is, not only did we make a mistake on the long-term contract, but Bobrovksy's a young guy and he told Paul, 'As soon as my contract's out, I'm out of here.' He wasn't going to re-sign with us. He was going to go back to Russia (or) he was going to go with another team, but he wasn't going to be a second-string goalie for the rest of his life. So that was also a problem, and Paul made the best of the situation. It's not that we did not like Bobrovsky. The whole thing was a fiasco. We can't look back. What happened, happened, and here we are. But then Paul made what I think was a great move in picking up Mason, who's not chopped liver."
Now that you have a GM who was the last solid goalie here, have you sat down and asked him why this organization has had so many goalie problems?
"We're not looking back. You're talking about a goalie who is GM who should know what we need as far as goaltenders. We're looking forward, not backwards. We know the mistakes we made. But we had a lot of good goalies through the years, and then all of a sudden we had a terrible run _ for whatever reason. We lost (Pelle) Lindbergh. We had Hexy come in right after that. Prior to that, Bernie. We were good with goalies for years. Pete Peeters did the job when he was in there."
On past Flyers teams struggling when they reach the Cup Finals:
"Look, we're snake bitten for some bleeping reason. We put out some stats last year. I don't remember them completely, but I think since 1974 we've been in the Finals more or as much as any other team. I mean, we were in the Finals! There are 30 teams now. There were 16 then. The bottom line is that's success. To get to the Finals and then something always bleeping happens to us in the Finals. Like the goal nobody saw. You're talking about 1980 when there were two bad calls. There was the off-sides and also (Denis) Potvin hitting it in the net with a high stick. I've got it all. You don't remember that one? I remember that one. Bleep!"
If the NHL allowed coaching challenges:
I'd be throwing that damn flag all the time!
On Michael Leighton having a great 2010 playoff run before folding in the Finals:
"What did he have, three shutouts against Montreal? You don't think you have a problem. And then Bernie Parent would have won four or five Cups in a row. The third year we played Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals and they beat us in four games … by one goal in three of them and then (because of) an open net maybe two goals in the other game. Wayne Stephenson was a very ordinary goalie. They barely beat us. That team would have won four or so in a row. I just feel like somehow we're snake bit and somebody's putting pins in a doll. But I go back to the fact that we've been in the finals more or as much as anybody since '74. And that's success. That's nothing to be ashamed about. We've been in the hunt so many times. We've gone to the semifinals … Tampa Bay, everybody's bleeping hurt and we lost 2-1 in Game 7 so we don't go to play for the (2004) Stanley Cup. (Sami) Kapanen is crawling back to the (bench). It's crazy the injuries we've had and the bad luck we've had, but you can't cry about it. When people say, 'Oh, well they haven't won a Cup since 1975, well, bleep …
"Seriously, it drives me crazy. It drives me nuts. Like we're chopped liver. You know how many times I hear they haven't won a Cup since 1975? It's like we are chopped liver. It's said in a way that's a big negative. You know what I mean?"
Why beat up on chopped liver?
"I love chopped liver!"
When did you get the good news about cancer?
"I found out Aug. 13. I had radiation and chemo."
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.