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Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren gives the team a new identity


Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

"Five Hole" logo by Matt Schetter.

Well, for some.

Just days ago, on an absolute whirlwind of a Thursday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers were given a major facelift. The culture of the team changed in an eye blink.

When I first found out that Jeff Carter had been dealt to Columbus for Jakub Voracek and a first and third round draft pick, I was neither shocked nor disappointed.

I was even more pleased when I discovered that the Flyers received the eighth pick in the draft, which later developed into highly touted phenom Sean Couturier and also center Nick Cousins. I love the move!

However, when I clicked my mouse to refresh my web browser, I thought I was seeing things. Did the header just say Mike Richards had been traded as well? To the L.A. Kings?

Team Captain and Flyer-for-life Mike Richards? WHAT?

This blew my mind. It was way too much to process at once. But, wait, there’s more.

In what had now become an almost anticlimactic development, the Flyers have signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine year deal worth 51 million dollars. This we all saw coming, but it actually possible that the Flyers signed a supertalented Russian goalie for nine years and it was somewhat overshadowed? Seriously, read my last sentence again slowly.

Clearly, Paul Holmgren has boldly altered his team in a calculated manner. Ridding of top goal scorer Carter and his long term contract in favor of signing veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was something rumored and plausible. Holmgren traded goal scoring for goal stopping; makes plenty of sense. But the subsequent trade of Richards is a total shake up move, despite the talent the Flyers received in return.

I think this overhaul is very similar to the Phillies of half a decade ago. Carter was the Bobby Abreu of the Flyers- talented, but often lackadaisical and fundamentally unsound. Like Abreu, Carter looks most impressive in the box score, with inflated numbers due to all the little things left undone.

It is almost hard to believe. The Flyers FINALLY went out and got an upper echelon, big time goalie, yet they managed to upstage themselves.

My thoughts on the situation are as follows:Jeff Carter photo: Andre Ringuette- Getty Images

I have long thought Carter to be overrated. His lack of stickhandling and fundamentals were frustrating to watch, and his tin man heart left a lot to be desired. Furthermore, his inability to finish could be infuriating.

Many Flyers fans, including myself, will never forgive him for failing to bury what would have been the game-winning goal in Game Six of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. That moment still makes my blood boil and my entire being ache.

But even more so, I remember his nonchalant effort toward Sidney Crosby as 'Sid the Kid' buried the series winning empty net goal in 2009, on his way to leading his Penguins to the Stanley Cup. That moment stuck in my craw ever since. I can still envision Carter loafing his way toward the bars and golf course, while the mega-talented Crosby gritted it out to eventual glory. It kills me to this day.

Good riddance, Jeff.

Richards, on the other hand, mixed his talent with grit, effort, heart, and determination. Yet, he was anointed as the next Bobby Clarke way too early. He grew into the role to an extent, but never seemed totally comfortable as the leader when off the ice. The addition of Chris Pronger clearly relinquished some of his command of the locker room, and his apparent lack of maturity seemed to catch up with him during this past season. His battle with the media became a clear distraction, and not very becoming of a team captain. That said, he was a complete hockey player and his talent, grit, and versatility will be missed.

Bryzgalov is a very talented goaltender with some playoff experience on his resume. He has even won a Stanley Cup, although he served primarily as the backup at the time. I think he is a vast improvement on what the Flyers had, although I do think Sergei Bobrovsky is going to be an above average goalie, if not better than that. And, as a result of signing Bryzgalov, any success that Bob has will no doubt be with another team.

The overall return was very good, and has the potential to be incredible. The sheer talent possessed by Schenn and Couturier could pay huge dividends in the future. Both are projected as potential superstar level talents. Voracek is a young talent who was a high draft pick, and Simmonds is a tough, versatile forward who could immediately step into a second line role.

Do I think the Flyers are a better team today than they were a week ago? I honestly doubt it. Not right now. Not for this coming season. It is difficult to replace the offensive production of a Richards and Carter, but the addition of so much young talent promises to set the Flyers up to be much improved in the not so distant future.

All that said, I think the other shoe has yet to drop. I think these moves were part culture change, part financial, and part philosophical. There is plenty of work left for Holmgren to do. I think he will use some of the newfound payroll flexibility to add another impact player after free agency begins July 1.

The Philadelphia Flyers are a different team than they were a week ago. They possess a newfound core and new captain of the ship. The locker room is completely overhauled, and will presumably be much improved. It will be very exciting to see how all this madness plays out on the ice.

I am hopeful that it plays out much the way the Phillies scenario did. Once all the dust settles, Ilya becomes the goalie to lead this team to their long awaited Cup.

But, much the same way, I see it two years down the road at soonest.


Contact Ryan Downs at rdowns@philly2philly.com
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