The Flyers’ Flawed Offseason Approach

May 8, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique (14) screens Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) as the puck gets past him for a goal by Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (not pictured) during the third period of game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center. The Devils defeated the Flyers 3-1, to win the series 4 games to one. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

It seems like every year that the hockey fans and media watch the Philadelphia Flyers put on the same show.  During the draft, free agency period, and everything in between and afterwards, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is constantly cooking up wacky deals and attantion-grabbing transactions.  In every offseason it seems like the Flyers are attempting to shake up the roster, throwing caution and team chemistry to the wind while management seeks to infuse rich talent onto an already talented team.

Holmgren and his coworkers just don’t seem to get it.  His track record in Philadelphia seems to prove it.

When Holmgren was brought aboard to turn around a very bad Flyers team in the 2007, he made some tremendous strides.  Out went guys like Kyle Calder, Alexei Zhitnik, and a past-his-prime Peter Forsberg.  In came building blocks of a solid franchise: Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timmonen, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and draftee James van Riemsdyk.  Holmgren turned a 56-point team in 2007 into a playoff team in ’08, and that effort cannot be ignored.  In his first year on the job, Holmgren looked to be one of the game’s best general managers.

As the offseasons have passed, Holmgren can be more accurately be described as “active”, and not necessarily one of the best GMs anymore.  His great effort to reboot the franchise in 2007-08 was remarkable, but no one told Paul when to stop wheeling and dealing.

In 2009 he brought in Chris Pronger from Anaheim in an effort to shore up a weak defensive unit and provide some leadership in the locker room.  The move had unintended consequences.  Pronger played decently, but his leadership skills seemed to overshadow the ones that the team’s captain, Mike Richards provided.  Although the growing rift in leadership wasn’t released until later, there certainly was some sort of hidden intangible weakness in the Flyers’ game that was brought about by that dichotomy.  On top of that, Pronger was limited the next year with knee issues, and the year after that with post-concussion syndrome.

Also in 2009, Holmgren took a flyer out on goaltender Ray Emery, who was almost banished from the NHL after a tumultuous career in Ottawa.  Toiling in the KHL, Holmgren brought him back to the states, where Emery promptly developed a hip injury that would keep him out for the rest of the year.  The Flyers would be forced to ride a Michael Leighton-Brian Boucher tandem in their 2010 Stanley Cup run.

The next year, Holmbgren would bring another goalie in from the KHL, Sergei Bobrovsky.  The young Russian was given the starting job on day one, and numbers were unspectacular but steady.  Management would have no patience to watch him develop, unfortunately.  The Flyers used three different goalies in the first round alone in the playoffs on the way to a second round defeat to the eventual champion Boston Bruins.  In the 2012 offseason “Bob” was dealt to develop in lowly Columbus.

Holmgren’s worst offseason would come in 2011.  Impatient with his young nucleus, he dealt Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards to Columbus and Los Angeles, respectively, in two blockbuster trades.  The return was substantial, but the team’s identity seemed lost.  Gone were the anchors on the top two lines at center, and in came prospects and potential.

But those weren’t even his worst moves of the summer.  That distinction belongs to the nine-year, $51 million contract awarded to Ilya Bryzgalov.  The albatross of a cap hit will stick to the team until 2020, and apparently so will Bryzgalov’s horribly inconsistent play.  The display of goaltending in the playoffs against the Penguins and Devils was a farce, and already the fickle Flyer fans are starting to have their patience worn thin by Bryz.

And now everything’s leading up to this: the Flyers went after the best defenseman in the league last week by signing Shea Weber to an offer sheet of 14 years and $110 million.  Apparently the Flyers were frustrated by the lack of pace in getting a trade done with the Nashville Predators for the man, so Holmgren went to the logical conclusion of trying to skip the process and buy the player away.  The possible transaction seemed to have no good ending for the Flyers: if the Predators couldn’t match, then the Flyers would have Weber, but be short on first round picks for the next four years.  If the Predators matched, then the Flyers would have a very weak blue line.

The Predators would match the offer.

Are we sensing a pattern here from Holmgren?

For every year since the Flyers’ turnaround season five years ago, Holmgren has been refusing to stay pat.  He makes a signimg, a trade, anything to shove pegs into holes and hope they fit.  The man seems eternally restless when it comes to improving his team.

However, it is safe to say that the amount of improvement is not equal to the amount if money being spent.  Huge contracts have not broken though for the Flyers, so why does Holmgren continue to go that route?

He should learn a lesson from guys like Dale Tallon.  Dale is not afraid to make a deal if he sees fit, but he doesn’t feel compelled to.  He knows when to act and when to stick to his guns.  The Panthers are in the mood to give their plants water and sunshine.  The Flyers are more comfortable digging up plants and throwing pesticide all over them.

That’s why one franchise is on its way up for sure, and why the other can’t seem to get off the ground.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment!

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Topics: Columbus Blue Jackets, Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Nashville Predators Match Offer Sheet, Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers, Shea Weber

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  • Catscratchfever

    Intelligent reply.  Why not give detail why you feel otherwise?

  • FrankRekas

    We appreciate comments on our articles, and thank those of you who leave them.  To say we’d like more would be an understatement, however many of our readers communicate with us via Twitter, and that’s perfectly fine. 
     
    Profanity type comments aren’t appreciated, and will be removed.  Do us all a favor.  Don’t bother.  We are doing just fine without senseless remarks.  If you disagree, that’s great.  Use your words.  Not street slang.
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  • caik09

    Bryz was very inconsistent I will agree with you there, but you have given him one season when his captain and best defenseman was out for arguably the whole year. He also was under the spotlight of Philadelphia. In the second game of the 2011-2012 regular season Bryz had a clean sheet which no goalie for the Flyers was able to do the year before. I believe that all this offseason attention finally gives Bryz time to breathe. People will not forget the season he had, but this definitely helps him.
    Jeff Carter was a good center but disappeared in the playoffs with injuries and inconsistency on offense. Great decision to trade because he helped us get to the playoffs, but did nothing when we got there. 
    Richards was a bad move. He was a great two way forward, but he was known to have problems with Laviolette. We can’t have our captain like that. So I understand the move. 
    How do the Flyers have a “very weak blue line”…? Timonen is 37 I realize but still a fantastic player and was an all star. Schenn was a great pick up and led the league in hits last year. Grossman is fantastic and a good substitute to knock big guys out from in front of the net. Cobourn is still young and has a bright future. Meszaros is a very underrated player who is great on the PK and PP. We are one average to above average player pick up away from being one of the best defenses in the league. We didn’t need Weber even though he would have been a great pick up. 
    Our offense is only looking up and picking up simmonds, schenn, and voracek from the moves in the 2011 offseason were great. Voracek will now be playing alongside Giroux and Hartnell where I believe he will shine. Voracek might hold on to the puck too long, but when he has a scorer like Hartnell and a top 3 in the NHL player in Giroux something is telling me he will pass a little more. Read led all rookies in goals. I know he is 26, but he will produce again this season.
    Finally, Holmgren’s moves are keeping the fans on their toes in the offseason. Yeah it was a bummer we didn’t get Weber, but it shows that our team is trying to compete with the likes of the Penguins and the Rangers.