Has anyone ever heard of the word growing pains. C’Mon, true “sports” fans have to understand this word and recognize the importance it has on building team chemistry which ultimately catapults them to the top and many times will lead to a championship. Lets face it…what has happened here in 2013 for the Philadelphia Flyers is exactly that…”Growing Pains.”
For those fair weather fans that are ready to jump ship, for those fans that are saying blow up the team and rebuild, for those fans that are calling for the oust of General Manager Paul Holmgren and the firing of fan favorite coach Peter Laviolette, for the impatient Philly faithful, for the “nega-delphians” around the city…please take note.
First of all…let us go back and rehash this past off season for the Flyers. Lets look at what a team did coming off a 103 point effort and trouncing of the star studded Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 of last years playoffs. And yes, unfortunately the embarrassing loss to the New Jersey Devils in Round 2 and their early exit in the playoffs. Lets look back to the summer and all of the high hopes that fans had for this “very young” team.
Ok…first of all, for those fans that are ready to fire Paul Holmgren and Peter Laviolette, just remember this. You are the same fans that just last year were raving at the moves that were made in getting rid of core players Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne. Well here is a news flash, those three players won the Stanley Cup in their first season as Los Angeles Kings. Ok, also recognize that just because these players won the cup, it does not constitute a mistake on team managements fault for making changes.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were and still remain very talented. They were both drafted as number 1 picks and were home grown talent. They even led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup in 2010, only to lose in a disappointing end to a better Blackhawks team. Well, on the surface one would say wow…this was a huge mistake on Holmgren’s part. Well…here is another news flash…2012 was not a mirage. The Flyers Achilles heel has and always will be
Goaltending. Check. Holmgren went out and signed one of the Top Free Agent Goalies Ilya Bryzgalov to a huge contract. Bryzgalov was coming off 3 consecutive 30 win seasons in Phoenix and was a runner up for the Vezina Trophy in two of those years.
The trades of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were not only bold moves, but also moves that turned out to be fruitful for the Flyers. Claude Giroux had established himself as the young rising star and this team was budding with youth and talent. The Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr in a move that many saw as a leap of faith. However, when all was said and done the Flyers had huge success and Jagr was one of the key components to help the Flyers gain 103 points and make it to the second round.
Ok…flash forward to the offseason and last years free agent scenario. First of all, the Flyers right away tried to address their flaws right away by trading for defenseman Luke Schenn, brother of Brayden who was a budding star for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Schenn, in his early twenties is the type of defenseman that you can build a team around. However, the Flyers paid a price as they shipped away one of their own young rising stars, James Van Reimsdyke. Do not discount this loss.
Secondly, Holmgren went hard and fast to sign restricted Free Agent Shea Weber, the best Defenseman on the market, only to see Nashville match the offer. Check. Ok, then the Glyeds tried to sign Zach Parise, the best offensive player on the market only to lose out again to Columbus this time. The Flyers actually offered more money and more years…check. When they lost out on Parise, they did the next best thing and courted the best free agent defenseman Ryan Sutter only to lose out once again…check. They also offered Sutter more money but ultimately lost out on him too.
Ok…so let us recap, the Flyers tried to sign the top 3 free agents available and were unfortunately unsuccessful. I would not exactly call that poor management and I would not say that Holmgren did not put his best effort out to make the team better. There is only one problem that occurs when a team spends free agency courting other teams best players. Don’t miss the point folks, the risk is losing their own key free agents.
While Holmgren was busy trying to get the best…the Flyers lost a few key players of their own to Free Agency. Once again…it was not for lack of trying. The Flyers had offered Defenseman Matt Carle a huge contract but he wanted to test the waters. Well, he signed to his old team the Lightning for less money. Check. Ok…not the end of the world right…we are trying to get the best defenseman available. Well…we see what happened they failed in this quest so this was the first key loss.
Jaromir Jagr had his best year in five years and really helped these young Flyers forwards mature. Well, while the Flyers were courting Parise, who BTW torched them in the playoff loss to the Devils, Jagr grew impatient and signed with the Dallas Stars. Check. Well, not only did they lose Jagr, they were unsuccessful in landing Parise, even though they had offered more money. Check.
Ok…well Holmgren was now looking at a very unhappy fan base although if any of these moves had been successful, he would have been praised. Damned if you do…damned if you don’t. Holmgren could have threw in the towel at this point and called it a draw but instead he became more aggressive. At this point, he tried feverishly to trade for disgruntled forward Rick Nash, who would have instantly made up for all their failures. Well in the end, Columbus wanted the whole kitchen sink so Holmgren decided not to trade the youngsters. Check. He even tried to pry away hometown hero Bobby Ryan from the Aneheim Ducks, but they wanted Schenn or Courtier…not happening. Check.
Ok…so no one can blame Holmgren as he did anything and everything to try and get the best players and these moves just did not Pan out. This does not mean there was a lack of effort. Then Holmgren tried to sign some grit players in Ruslan Fedotenko and Bruno Gervais. These players were not stars but players who could fit in nicely with the youth tenacity. He even brought back Mike Knuble when Scott Hartnell went down early this season with an injury. So no one can blame Holmgren.
As for blowing up this team, that idea is ludicrous. It’s obvious the Flyers have a ton of young talent. Well…the whole point of having young talent is growing pains where these players live and die together on the ice and eventually they go on to win the Stanley Cup. Look back at many past winners…Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, the list goes on and on. Well the point is it takes time for young teams to win championships. It doesn’t just happen overnight.
Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Courtier, Matt Read, Zack Rinaldo. These players are all core players and not one if them is twenty-five years old. Check. The loss of Matt Carle and Jaromir Jagr may have been more deflating than the loss of signing those great free agents. Matt Carle was a veteran anchor of the Defense. And Jagr was a mentor to the young Claude Giroux.
Peter Laviolette has made the best of what he has. What the Flyers have us a very young team that is two or three years away from contending. The apple does not fall far from the tree. If you somehow do not believe this fact, take a look at the Los Angeles Kinhs who finally won a Cup with all of their young free agents after they grew and the team surrounded them with key free agents year after year. Finally their patience paid off and the LA Kings won The Stanley Cup.
So where are the naysayers now. I know you want Holmgren gone. I know you are looking to fire Laviolette because someone has to take the blame. I know many of you want to do ridiculous trades and get rid of Courtier or Schenn and Simmonds. Trust me, the Flyers need to stand pat and not make any irrational moves. Do not…I repeat do not ABORT the plan. Be patient. No trades at this point or players for rent will help the Flyers win the Stanley Cup at this time.
I repeat…do not make any trades just for the sake of making trades unless it will better this team. By that, I mean if the Flyers could get Marian Gaborik or Jarome Igunlia for a pick and a player I would do it. Other than those two players, I would not be interested at any of the names being mentioned.
Remember we live and die with this team. We bleed orange just like Eagles fans bleed green. But do not let your emotions get the best of you and make you become irrational in thinking. The truth be told…this team is only a few years away from contention…just be patient. Remember the 2008 Phillies. Same concept/same principal. The team stayed patient and eventually won a championship with all of its core young home grown players. Don’t give up hope Flyers fans. This team will win…just be a realist.