A Nightmare on Broad Street; The Downfall of the Philadelphia Flyers

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized
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holmy

 

The date was was June 9th, 2010. The venue was Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. On that evening, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime of game six on a goal by Patrick Kane.

At the time, many believed that these were two teams going in completely opposite directions, and not the ones that you would think based on the last three years. Chicago, despite their championship, was on the verge of salary cap hell. Their high priced signings of Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa, coupled with their upcoming contract negotiations with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith; were believed to be the dagger in Chicago’s dynastic dreams.

Meanwhile, the Flyers had the cap space and the youth that was expected to trigger a dynasty of their own on Broad Street. Philadelphia possessed a young forward corps led by Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux and one of the deepest defensive lineups in the league, with Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn leading the way.

Fast forward three long years to last night’s 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Blackhawks, and it’s clear which team came out of the post-Finals rubble with the upper hand. Chicago, poised to make a run to their third Cup in five years, skated circles around a Flyers team that looked slower than a fat kid running the mile.

Gone are the Mike Richards and Jeff Carters of the world. Instead, the Flyers have players like Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek. While these are talented youngsters in their own right, their lack of puck moving ability and finishing touch is apparent. Blaming Claude Giroux, whose promotion to captain has coincided with the Flyers’ tumble to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, is a copout. Give Giroux an actual finisher on his first line, and you might see a return to the point-per-game pace the 25-year old exhibited between 2010-2012. How can anyone expect Giroux to thrive when his line mates are Sideshow Bob (Scott Hartnell) and Otto Mann (Voracek)?

Now, this brings us back to the man behind the team’s fall from grace, General Manager Paul Holmgren (pictured). Once considered a successful executive with ice water in his veins and a penchant for pulling miracles out of his hat (Ville Leino, anyone?); Holmgren is now the puppeteer pulling the strings of a failed experiment. His trades of Richards and Carter netted them only one marketable talent in Sean Couturier. Other than that, Holmgren sent the team’s leaders packing for an enigma (Voracek), a tough guy with very limited skills with the puck (Simmonds), and a likely bust with zero confidence when the puck is on his stick (Schenn).

Never before has one team had so much trouble moving the puck into the attacking zone. At this point, Philadelphia’s only chance of scoring is on the power play, where they are just as likely to allow a short handed goal this season (4 SHG against, tied for third from last in the NHL).

The moves that Holmgren has made since that fateful June evening have left this franchise in ruins. James van Riemsdyk, who was shipped to Toronto by Holmgren prior to the 2012-2013 season, has 25 points this season. Meanwhile, the Flyers are led in that category by Giroux with a whopping 21. The return in that JVR deal, Luke Schenn, has been a turnover machine and an absolute turnstile in his own zone.

Holmgren’s failures to acquire Shea Weber (thanks to his reluctance to part with Schenn at the time), Ryan Suter, or Zach Parise left the team without any top level talent outside of Giroux. One thing Holmgren has been good at, however, is signing underperforming veterans to ridiculous contracts. If it weren’t for the new CBA’s compliance buyout clause, the team would be stuck with Daniel Briere’s $6+ million salary and Ilya Bryzgalov’s $5+ million salary for the foreseeable future. This team is a train wreck, and it could even be worse! That’s just how bad Holmgren has run this franchise since 2010.

Even this past offseason has proven to be a debacle. Holmgren’s stopgap signing on defense, Mark Streit, is clearly on the way down, with a paltry one goal so far this season. The 36-year old is signed for three more seasons after this one. As a 35+ contract, Streit’s cap hit will not come off the payroll if he is waived or retires. The Flyers also have no more compliance buyouts to aid them in their rebuilding. In other words, it may seem bad to be a Flyers fan now. But, just wait until 2015. This team is a mess, and nothing short of a massive fire sale can save them.

The Flyers were once a franchise that thrived year in and year out. Their run of 16 postseason appearances in 18 years was one that books are written about. Now, the party is over. This isn’t your father’s Philadelphia Flyers. There will be no orange crush come May for the next few years. At least not until Paul Holmgren is fired for his miserable performance as GM since that fateful night of June 9th, 2010.

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