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New Flyers general manager says team better than 1-6-1 record suggests

He'll soon find out. The Flyers, with new coach John Stevens behind the bench, play seven of their next eight games at home, including Thursday against Atlanta.

"If you throw out the real poor game (9-1 loss) in Buffalo, we haven't been that bad," Holmgren said Wednesday from Philadelphia. "We've been in these other games and been very competitive in stretches of those games. But for whatever reason just something seemed to happen at the wrong time of the game and we come out on the wrong end of it.

The eight-year assistant GM was promoted Sunday when longtime GM Bob Clarke resigned in the wake of Philadelphia's terrible start.

Holmgren believes the Flyers will play a little more aggressively under Stevens than they did under fired coach Ken Hitchcock.

"I think John and Hitch are similar in a lot of respects. I think they both view the defensive side of the game as a large part of the game. And I think the one subtle difference in their approach is that John would have the tendency to be a bit more aggressive when possession is really in doubt - more on the balls of your feet rather than on the heals of your feet.

"I think John's team will be more aggressive than what we're used to. I think he's a bright young coach and a strong, strong communicator."

The rumour mill has Flyers owner Ed Snider perhaps reaching out to Ron Hextall, the assistant GM in Los Angeles and former Flyers goaltender, if things don't work out with Holmgren this season.

Observers are keen to see if Holmgren will blow up the Flyers via the trade route or sit back and wait.

"Initially and preferably, I'd like to sit and watch for a period of time anyway," said Holmgren. "How long, I guess we'll see. ...

"If something came along that we felt would improve our team right away we would certainly have to look at it."

The Flyers salary-cap number dropped to about US$40 million - the limit is $44 million - after defenceman Nolan Baumgartner and his $1.2-million salary was sent to the AHL, where he joined veteran centre Petr Nedved ($2.35-million).

But Holmgren isn't exactly overjoyed with the extra cap space.

"You can look at that two ways, yes it's off our NHL cap but we still have to pay them," said Holmgren. "That's not an ideal situation either. I'm not sure it means necessarily that you can go out and spend that money. We'll see."

On Monday, Holmgren sat down with Snider and team president Peter Luukko.

"We talked about a lot of things," said Holmgren, who played for the Flyers from 1975 to '84. "I don't think either of them know me as well as they know Bob. I think they wanted to hear my ideas. Where it goes from there, I don't know."



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