Our Philadelphia Sports Teams have really declined the past few years. I can remember just a few years ago, when all Four professional teams were at the top of their game. In Hockey, the Flyers made the Stanley Cup…the Phillies made the NLCS…the Eagles made the Playoffs and were very close to going to the next level…and the Sixers also made the playoffs. This season, the Eagles had one of their worst seasons in recent memory…the Phillies are old, injury prone, and inconsistent…the Sixers are rebuilding AGAIN…and the Flyers finished near the basement and failed to make the playoffs.
The Flyers failure to make the Playoffs came as a complete shock as many experts had picked this team to win the Stanley Cup in a season that was cut in half by the strike. The Flyers instead were extremely inconsistent and looked unprepared at many times. Well, after this season, the Flyers decided to Buy-Out Daniel Brieres contract and Ilya Bryzgalov. Between those two players, thats a savings of over twelve million dollars, which gives the Flyers some cap space to make some moves.
Let us go back a few years and look at some of the moves that Paul Holmgren made and let’s review how this team has found its way to where they are now. In 2010, the Flyers made the Stanley Cup and came 1 goal away from taking the series to Game 7 and a possible Cup Championship win. Holmgren had traded for Chris Pronger a year prior and made some other key moves that pushed the team to the Cup. Holmgren had also signed Daniel Briere a few years prior and also traded for Scott Hartnell. All of these moves were considered extremely successful and also made Holmgren look like one of the Top General Managers in the NHL.
Ok…let’s fast forward to the offseason after 2010, where some real surprise moves were made. Claude Giroux, the young forward had established himself as a Superstar that was coming into his prime. Mike Richards, the teams Captain was a very good player and had become one of the top two-way Centers in the League. However, Richards had wore out his welcome in the locker room. Richards was also a player that was into the party scene. Holmgren made a bold but surprising move when he sent Mike Richards and his long term contract to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a First Round Pick. Holmgren further shocked the city when he traded Jeff Carter the same day, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and another pick. That same offseason, Holmgren also signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a long term contract.
At the time, these moves were both shocking but also intriguing. Brayden Schenn was a top Center that has the potential to be better than Richards. In Simmonds, the Flyers secured a top winger with scoring prowess and toughness. With Voracek, the Flyers also got a tough winger with a ton of upside. And then with Bryzgalov, the Flyers thought they had finally solved their Goaltending issues. However, before signing Bryz…the Flyers had traded for Evgheni Nabakov’s rights. The Flyers turned down an offer from his agent stating that it was out of their budget. However, weeks later they ended up giving Bryzgalov more years and more dollars than they would have with Nabakov. In my opinion, Nabakov is the better goalie.
In my opinion, the Bryzgalov move was the first mistake made by Holmgren. Then the following year, Holmgren let Matt Carle get away in Free Agency. To me, Matt Carle was the backbone of the defense along with Timmonen. Then this past season, Holmgren may have made his worst deals trading away young goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to the Blue Jackets for a bag of pucks and then traded up and coming winger James Van Reimsdyke to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers thought they were getting a star defenseman Luke Schenn, Brayden’s brother. However, after a season of play, JVR had a breakout year and Schenn looked nothing more than an average defenseman.
Holmgren also let Jaromir Jagr go. Jagr is older, however, he had turned Giroux into an absolute sniper. Holmgren could have resigned Jagr, who wanted to stay here, for less than he got in Dallas. Also, another mistake was made by getting rid of Michael Leighton. Although they did get him back, Leighton was a great backup that had experience and could have been a more consistent option in net.
It really was sad when the Flyers announced that they were buying out Daniel Brieres contract. Danny Briere is one of the top playoff performers in today’s game. Then the buy-out of Bryzgalov was an admission of fault and a mistake at a position that never seems to be addressed properly. Holmgren is not the only General Manager that has made mistakes at this position. Bobby Clarke consistently made bad moves at this position. Now where to go. Well, Jonathan Bernier, the 24 Year Old Phenom was targeted early. Bernier could potentially be a star goalie for years to come. He has Martin Brodeur written all over him. Well, Holmgren would not part with Courtier. Im sorry, but sometimes to get a prospect you have to give up a prospect.
Holmgren to me has ruined this team. Besides Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, anyone would be game for trades to me. Also, the Defense continues to get older. The Blue Line was once a strength for this team, but now its one of the weak links. Kimmo Timmonen is 39, Mark Streit (recently acquired from the Islanders) is 36. Brayden Coburn is 32 and there is talk that he is on the trade block. This weekend is the draft. The Flyers have PICK 11. If I’m the GM, I take the top Goalie. If I was Ed Snider, as hard as it would be, I would replace this GM. My top pick would be Ron Hextall. This team needs a CUP. To me it all stats with the Goalie. Anyways, only time will tell.