Hockey

Clarke claims Neilson "went goofy"

Just when the spotlight on Bob Clarke couldn't get any brighter, the Philadelphia Flyers general manager made things worse on Thursday in a televised interview when he took a shot at former coach Roger Neilson.

In an interview aired on TSN's Molson That's Hockey, Clarke - responding to a remark from host Gord Miller that there was never a dull moment in Philly - showed little emotion in explaining why he decided to not give Neilson his job back when he returned from cancer treatment during last year's playoffs and keep Craig Ramsay as head coach.

"The Neilson situation - Roger got cancer - that wasn't out fault," Clarke said. "We didn't tell him to go get cancer. It's too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us."

Neilson, who is now an assistant with the Ottawa Senators, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer last winter and received a stem-cell transplant. Craig Ramsay was named as interim head coach on Feb. 20.

After receiving medical clearance from doctors, Neilson returned to resume his job just in time for the second round of the playoffs, but Clarke refused to let him resume his job, saying that his health was a concern. Neilson was informed of Clarke's remarks during the Sens game against Columbus on Thursday.

"That's all behind me," Neilson told the the Ottawa Sun. "I don't even think about that any more."

While Neilson sat in the press box, taking notes, Ramsay guided the Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals and was named head coach in the summer.

Plagued by injuries to John LeClair and Mark Recchi and a sub-par start by goaltender Brian Boucher, the Flyers struggled at the start of the season and Clarke told Miller that he had no choice but to fire Ramsay over a week ago and replace him with Bill Barber, the team's fourth head coach in as many seasons.

"Right from the start, we didn't think Craig took very good control of the team," he said. "He let the assistants run a lot of our practices and our team really played with no zip, no enthusiasm.

"We had no choice, we think, with Roger and the same thing with Craig."

Clarke also addressed the Eric Lindros situation. He said that he hasn't received any formal offers for the restricted free agent.

Lindros, who hasn't played a game since he suffered a concussion in last year's Eastern Conference finals, said that he only wants to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Clarke, whose battles with Lindros and his family have been well-documented for the past year, said that he'd like to trade the former Hart Trophy winner as soon as possible, but no team has expressed any interest yet.

"We like to get it off our plate, we'd like to get it over with and get moving," Clarke said. "But we can't dance ourselves. We've had no team make us an offer, including Toronto.

"If someone calls us and wants to trade for Lindros' rights, we'll trade him. We don't care who it is. If he says he won't go anywhere, won't sign with anybody else except Toronto, then he's blocking his own rights to come back to the NHL."

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