Here in Philadelphia today, they were heralding the Flyers' five-game rout of the New York Islanders as a change of command ceremony.

There's no doubt that the Flyers' 1-0 victory in the concluding contest Sunday night marked the end of an era.

For the first time since 1978, the Islanders will not be among the final four in the Stanley Cup playoffs. General Manager Bill Torrey will be sitting in his office, preparing to make some hard decisions about the future.

Almost certainly, Coach Al Arbour will step down after 12 years. And of the four players who have participated in all 34 playoff series, only one, defenseman Denis Potvin, is a sure bet to return.

The other three -- goaltender Bill Smith and forwards Clark Gillies and Bob Nystrom -- figure to retire, although Smith might return as backup to Kelly Hrudey just for the money.

None of them was discussing the future when the series ended, from Arbour down the line, through other possible retirees like defensemen Dave Langevin, Stefan Persson and Gord Lane, and forwards Bob Bourne and Anders Kallur, all owners of four Stanley Cup rings.

"A lot of things go through your mind at a time like this," Nystrom said. "It's not even May and we're out of it. I know the sun is going to come up tomorrow, but I'm not looking forward to it."

"No other team has accomplished what we have," Potvin said. "Now it's time to start over again. We weren't too old. We just lost our youth."

If most of the Islanders' old men were in action at the finish, they were worn down, in large part because they were forced to shoulder an extra load because of the absence of injured younger players like Greg Gilbert and Patrick Flatley.

"It was a disappointment, but time moves on," Arbour said. "We have young guys and in this series our young guys were our best players."

While there was no doubt that the old guard failed to produce much offensively, Arbour may have done Potvin an injustice with that comment. At 31, still struggling with hypertension he controls through medication, Potvin played brilliantly against both Washington and Philadelphia. Had his second-period shot Sunday angled down instead of up after striking the crossbar behind Pelle Lindbergh, Potvin might have been toasted as a hero today while the teams prepared for Game 6.

Several Islanders mentioned the five-game struggle with Washington as a major reason why they could not skate with the Flyers.

"You can only dig down so many times," said defenseman Paul Boutilier. "We had a battle every night in the Washington games and there was no mental break. Close games eventually take their toll."

"We were riding high when the series started, after the way we came back against Washington, and we didn't realize what the task was," said defenseman Ken Morrow.

Proving that they can handle defeat with as much class as victory, the Islanders wished their conquerors well and refused to use Ilkka Sinisalo's disputed goal as an alibi. Hrudey, so bitter after Mike Gartner's overtime goal in Washington, accepted Sinisalo's score graciously, although Hrudey had been flattened by Peter Zezel in far more questionable circumstances than when Greg Adams knocked him off balance at Capital Centre.

"It's not even controversial," Hrudey said. "They worked hard for that goal. They had 20 guys who played excellent for five games. That's what won it for them."