Danny Belisle, who rarely enjoys a day off from his unenviable task of lifting the Washington Capitals to competitive status, rose at 5 a.m. Sunday to catch a 6:55 flight from Detroit to Philadelphia, where his family still resides.
When the Capitals flew out of Detroit at 9:45, bound for Washingotn, Belisle was still waiting in an adjoining lounge, his Christmas Eve plans shattered by fog at the plane's origination, Los Angeles.
A few hours' delay was unwelcome, but hardly distressing, to a man who has been waiting since his hiring on Oct. 9 for some of his players to display major-league ability.
Saturday, before the Capitals played a 2-2 tie with Detroit, Belisle angrily told the team that he expected results soon, or he would ask General Manager Max McNab to make wholesale changes.
"I told them I could find a dozen guys in the American League who could come and play better than they had been doing," Belisle said. "We had just played Philadelphia and ordinary American Leaguers like Paul Evans and Blake Dunlop, and Yves Preston, who was in the International League, were playing a lot better than some of our guys who are making a lot more money.
"We have to have full effort from 18 guys, and in Philly some guys were just out for a skate. You have to be able to take a check, not skate away from it. I have no problem with guys like (Bob) Sirois. That's the only way they know how to play. But it's not rubbing off on some of the others.
"You have to be a psychologist as well as a coach these days. These guys don't know how lucky they are. Everything is done for them, they're making big money and they feel sorry for themselves. They ought to try being a bricklayer or a plumber for a while and maybe they'd appreciate being a hockey player."
Belisle has been shuffling lines from day one, trying to obtain some balanced scoring. In the process, he has learned each man's capabilities, a task that normally would have been accomplished in training camp.
"I just didn't know the personnel," Belisle said. "I think I know them now. I know what we need. One bright spot has been the goaltending. If Gary Inness had been here all season, playing the way he has the last three games, we'd be ahead of half a dozen teams. He's come up big in the third period, when it counts."
One long wait that has been concluded satisfactorily involves defenseman Robert Picard, who was rated No. 4 in the Capitals' defense corps by Belisle until a recent fourgame surge that has produced three goals, five assists and a plus-three rating.
"I pampered him, encouraged him and kicked him," Belisle said. "Nothing. They told me how well he could play and I couldn't believe them. Now he's playing with authority, moving the puck and taking the body. I just wonder why he hasn't played that way all season."
Belisle was encouraged by the hustle displayed Saturday by Blair Stewart, who joined the team three hours before the game in Detroit. It seems likely that another Hershey standout, winger Gary Rissing, will also earn a major-league opportunity in the next few days.
The Capitals are nine points behind Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the race for a playoff berth and Belisle is reluctant to wait any longer for some of his charges to blossom. He has also run out of line combinations.
Several players used the two-day layoff-practice resumes today at 10:30 a.m-to fly to their homes. Among them were Inees, who headed for Indianapolis nursing a hyperextension of the right knee, and Bob Girard, who flew to Montreal with an icebag clutched to a bone bruise on his right knee, suffered when he was struck by a Willie Huber shot.
Both are expected to be available for Wednesday's game in Minnesota by which time one or possibly twoplayers will be dispatched to Hershey their waiting period having expired. CAPTION: Picture 1, Three best Capital scorers, Bob Sirois, on ice, Guy Charron, rear, and Dennis Maruk move against Penguins. The Caps play in Minnesota Wednesday. Washington Post Photo; Picture 2, Robert Picard