Baumer paying for Flyers' sins

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Nolan Baumgartner wouldn't bite when asked if he was paying for the sins of others.

No surprise. The high road is a path the veteran defenceman has chosen to take through each of his 11 professional seasons. That's why his sudden demotion to the Philadelphia Phantoms from the parent Flyers just two weeks into the season resulted in no public whining.

Not that he didn't want to.

"Obviously when you don't win changes have to be made," the former Manitoba Moose captain said from his home in Moorestown, N.J. yesterday. "You've seen that numerous times this year already. Things weren't going right in Philly and something had to happen -- it was either the coach, players or management.

"In this case it was everybody."

Baumgartner was a player Flyers general manager Bob Clarke immediately signed to a two-year, $2.4 million deal once free agency opened its doors last summer. Fresh off a career year with the Vancouver Canucks in 2005-06 (34 points in 70 games), Baumer finally looked secure in his NHL life.

But the Bullies had one win in six games. Changes were blowing in.

Following a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of Buffalo Oct. 17, Baumgartner was one of three players sent to the Phantoms. Four days after that, coach Ken Hitchcock was fired and Clarke resigned.

And the critics chirped in unison.

"Clarke couldn't adapt to the 'new' NHL."

"He overpaid for Nolan Baumgartner."

The 30-year-old went from Philadelphia's biggest free agency catch to a poster boy for all of the Flyers troubles.

During that flurry of uncertainty, a disappointed Baumgartner met up with some of his neighbours who lived down the street.

They say things happen for a reason. Running into total strangers gave the defenceman some much needed perspective with regards to his situation. He needed to be reminded there was still a lot to be positive about.

"I met two neighbours of mine and the one guy, he just got diagnosed with cancer," Baumgartner explained. "That kind of stuff just puts it ... it shows you there are more important things in life than just playing a sport. I still have my health, I'm still doing something I love.

"Suddenly, it wasn't all that bad anymore."

Baumgartner doesn't knock the Flyers for the move, what bothers him now is his trek back to the NHL is roadblocked. Should the Flyers summon him, the Calgary product is required to pass through re-entry waivers. If another club claims him, Philly would be on the hook for the rest of this season's dough plus half of next year's contract.

Hard to imagine the cap-challenged Flyers rushing to the phone to call Baumgartner up any time soon.

"That's not the kind of person I am, to sit around and mope about it," the blue-liner said.

"I'm still in this organization because someone still sees some good in me. And if not, there are 29 other teams out there and hopefully one takes notice.

"I just have to continue to work hard and be patient. You never know what could happen."

Baumgartner's Phantoms take on the Moose tonight (6 p.m.) at the Wachovia Spectrum.


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