He was once touted as the next Jaromir Jagr. Now, at the age of 21, Pavel Brendl is fighting for redemption.
Once heralded as one of the top teenage prospects in the world, the Olomouc native was selected high in the first round of the 1999 draft by the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, the fourth pick overall. If there hadn't been some nagging questions over his health, he likely could have gone as the first or second player chosen that year. He scored a whopping 172 goals in just 178 games for the Calgary Hitmen of the junior-level Canadian-based Western Hockey League.
Since turning pro, however, his career has hit roadblock after roadblock. His rights were traded by the Rangers to the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the blockbuster trade that saw disgruntled All-Star center Eric Lindros sent to New York.
So far Philadelphia has been unhappy with Brendl. He scored only 15 goals for the Flyers' reserve team last season and the Philadelphia brass have been critical of what they say are Brendl's poor work habits and lackluster defensive-zone play.
Hitchcock is a coach who focuses on technical hockey, has a proven defensive system, and is known for strong special teams. He drove Dallas players crazy with his attention to details, which Hitchcock believes is the essence of winning a Cup. However, like old time Flyer coach and Clarke mentor, Freddy Shero, Hitchcock knows that regardless of how good your system, the main factor is motivation.
"Before you can even talk about winning, you have to build a team," Hitchcock said. "You have to have a group that is tight and cohesive and has a real spirit to fight together... . If you build a spirit within your group, you can overcome a lot at the end."
Let's hope Pavel catches some of that motivation!