Primeau set to retire, but it may not be final

September 14th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Primeau set to retire, but it may not be final

Although Keith Primeau will be behind a microphone today at a news conference that could be defined as a retirement announcement, it is not clear whether he is retiring for good.
Not unless he's determined to walk away forever and is prepared to say so today.
"That's a decision that only Keith can make," Gary Dorshimer, the Flyers' team physician, said yesterday.
Primeau's state of mind has been an issue shadowing the Flyers since he was clocked by Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin in a game Oct. 25. The resulting concussion ended his season, though not a wave of speculation last spring when Primeau worked so hard to return for the playoffs.
The speculation increased during the summer. But with the Flyers pressing him for a decision - they can clear about $3 million under the salary cap if Primeau retires - and with Dorshimer confirming yesterday that Primeau would not be cleared to start training camp, he is expected to announce his retirement today.
"I told him, 'You don't want to be a distraction, and if you can't play, we have to go on without you,' " Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said of Primeau. " 'If you're going to play, the doctors are going to have to clear you to play. But we have to have a decision.' "
For now, the decision to walk away has been made. But only Primeau, who requested peace from the media last night to discuss the matter with his family and some friends, can say whether it will be a permanent retirement. Perhaps he doesn't know that himself just yet.
"Keith has been very realistic all along about it," Dorshimer said. "He said he needed to try to get back. It's a game he loves. It's not just a career, it's a passion."
Dorshimer said the 34-year-old Primeau still is experiencing "a little bit of symptoms... a disequilibrium," that seemed to worsen with a bad cold in July. When it took him an especially long time to recover from the effects of that cold, Dorshimer said, Primeau apparently "saw this writing on the wall."
"As a teammate, I would love to see him in that locker room because he's a big part of the team," said Sami Kapanen, whose allegiance with Primeau goes back to when they played together with the Hartford Whalers, who are now the Carolina Hurricanes. "But at the same time, as a friend, I want to make sure he's making the right choice for his health and for the rest of his life."
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said his team would be missing "a good player and a great leader," and now can address the question of who succeeds Primeau as captain.
Clarke said 21-year-old Mike Richards would not be a candidate, although "he'll be captain here some day."
Peter Forsberg is expected to be named captain after camp opens. That was almost guaranteed after Simon Gagne turned down an interim captaincy when Primeau was sidelined.
"I was hoping [Primeau] would be back and be the captain again," said Gagne, who just signed a five-year, $26.25 million contract. "For a player it's a lot of pressure, and you need to be ready for it. You don't want it to affect your game. Last year [when Derian Hatcher was interim captain], I didn't think I was ready for it."
Flyers' Training Camp Begins
The Flyers' veterans and selected prospects will report to the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Camden County, today for physicals. Tomorrow, they will be on the ice as camp officially begins. Here are some of the issues and hot topics surrounding the team:
The problem the Flyers have is there are too many bodies for 23 jobs. There will be 52 players in camp. Prospects Lars Jonsson, Alexandre Picard, Ben Eager, Riley Cote and Stefan Ruzicka are competing for perhaps one or two vacancies. There are virtually no forward spots open unless, say, Niko Dimitrakos loses out to Ruzicka. On defense, Randy Jones has a one-way deal. If Picard were to beat out Jones, Jones would surely not survive waivers. He is too talented to slip through. Even if he did, the Flyers are stuck paying him an NHL salary with the Phantoms. Either way, bodies figure to be moved before it's over.
Hot prospects
Steve Downie and Claude Giroux dominated the rookie scrimmages. Downie will get a long look. He must go back to juniors if he doesn't play in the NHL. He cannot go to the Phantoms because he has junior eligibility remaining. Giroux will not make the Flyers this year.
Youth movement
Flyers chairman Ed Snider said he wanted to see more youth. Well, the Flyers have Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, R.J. Umberger, Joni Pitkanen and Simon Gagne. Because of the number of players already signed, it's going to be very difficult for Picard or Ruzicka to make the roster. Both young players are going to get a long look from coach Ken Hitchcock.
There's the rub
The Flyers lost 388 man-games to injury last season, which put them in the top five in the league, a statistic no coach wants to see at season's end. Hitchcock is convinced that, with a few exceptions, last season's injuries occurred to players who did not play during the lockout. They became fatigued in the second half of the season and vulnerable to breakdowns. He is equally convinced that it will not be the case this season. Players such as Peter Forsberg, Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje, Sami Kapanenand Gagne have recovered from off-season surgery. Keith Primeau (post-concussion syndrome) has not recovered and has decided to retire.
Who's gone
Primeau, Kim Johnsson, Brian Savage, Donald Brashear, Michal Handzus, Eric Desjardins, Branko Radivojevic, Turner Stevenson, Chris Therien, and assistant coach Wayne Fleming.
Who's new
Brought in via trade/free agency: Kyle Calder, Geoff Sanderson, Nolan Baumgartner,Matt Cullen, Marty Murray and Randy Robitaille.
Sort of new
Former Phantoms head coach John Stevens joins Hitchcock's staff as an assistant.
Who's No. 1?
Carolina proved a team could win the Stanley Cup while alternating two goalies. But would either Robert Esche or Antero Niittymaki be happy as the backup? No way. Can Niittymaki assert himself as the starter? He must or he's No. 2.
The practice routine
The team hits the ice beginning tomorrow at 10 a.m. daily. Scrimmages will be held in the middle of the week. Emphasis will be on two practices daily to get all systems in place. (Practices are free and open to the public.)

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