A New Day
What the Philadelphia Flyers did just 48 hours ago seemed catastrophic on the surface. General Manager Paul Holmgren took two of the biggest pieces of the Flyers post-lockout and shipped both of them away in two separate trades.
It only took fifteen minutes to completely change the look and feel of the franchise. Seemingly unprecedented. Arguably, this could be the biggest Flyers transaction since the acquisition of Eric Lindros after the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
Jeff Carter became the cap casualty that was rumored for weeks. Carter packed his bags to Columbus, where the Blue Jackets sent back Jakub Voracek, the eighth overall pick and a third round pick. Just minutes later, captain Mike Richards, mired in controversy and question, was sent to Los Angeles in exchange for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a 2012 2nd round draft pick.
Shortly thereafter, the Flyers announced that they had reached an agreement with goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov on a nine-year, $51 million contract.
At first, it all seemed bad. After all, the franchise’s cornerstones are gone, and they’re not coming back. Let’s take a second look.
The Flyers can now work with a completely different captain, and work with a new energy. Should the rumor of Peter Laviolette and Mike Richards infighting have been correct, this move makes sense. The Flyers may go with more experienced candidates for the captaincy such as Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere. They were all former captains once upon a time. The Flyers could also boggle our minds and choose Claude Giroux, arguably the new face of the franchise.
Changing of the Guard
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter grew to be 26 years old in almost a heartbeat. In last year’s playoffs, two faces emerged as the franchise’s exciting future. Claude Giroux scored 12 points in 11 games in the playoffs, and James van Riemsdyk tallied a team-high seven goals in eleven games. Not to mention, van Riemsdyk showed his potential to completely dominate on the wings in the Boston series.
To keep this new guard, room had to be made, especially for the young van Riemsdyk, whose entry level contract ends this year. Giroux recently signed a three-year contract at an affordable price to stay in Philadelphia for the time being. These two will be leaned upon heavily for the loss of depth at forward.
When Jeff Carter lost appeal as a centerman, he became a winger. His game should have gotten better because his game is very similar to a winger. He was not the same player. Instead of having a massive logjam at center between Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and Blair Betts, the Flyers saw it fit to do an organizational clearing house. In the trades, Holmgren made sure to grab young, gritty wingers that had the potential to put up points. He didn’t disappoint by bringing in Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds to fill that capacity. There will be no natural centermen playing wing this year.
Two Stars are Born
Flyers fans, look out for two players as a result of these deals: Brayden Schenn, received in the Richards deal, and Sean Couturier, picked with the eighth overall pick received by the Flyers in the Carter deal.
Schenn (picked 5th overall in 2009 by LA) has the potential to be one of the most dynamic and explosive scorers in the NHL. This kid has tremendous speed, tremendous hands, and possesses a scoring touch like no other prospect waiting in the minors right now. In his last showing at the World Junior Championships earlier this year, Schenn scored eight goals and ten assists in just seven games. He received honors as the World Junior MVP, World Junior Best Forward, and he was named to the World Junior all-star team in the past year’s championships. With the Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, he scored over a point per game in every single season.
This kid is only 19 years old.
Couturier (picked 8th overall by PHI) was a teammate of Schenn’s on the silver medal winning Canadian World Junior team. Earlier this year, Couturier ranked atop the QMJHL’s best skaters with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. His final ranking may have dropped due to a bout of mononucleosis he suffered early in the season. Couturier has been heralded as a solid two-way player with a prolific scoring touch. The 18-year-old forward posted back-to-back 96 point seasons, and because of the aforementioned bout with mono, he scored 96 points in ten fewer games this past season. In the 2009-10 season, Couturier won the Jean Beliveau trophy, named to the QMJHL player with the most points at the end of the season.
Excited yet? I sure as hell am.
The Flyers lost two 30+ goal scorers in a span of fifteen minutes. They also lost over twenty years of that scoring prowess in a matter of fifteen minutes, too. Should Carter fill out to his potential, he could have been a consistent 40 goal scorer. Centermen are usually burdened with putting up a lot of points on top of scoring goals, and the Flyers lost two prolific centerman with that ability to post points.
The onus of putting up points rests with fewer players than had previously existed. Danny Briere may have to change his role (again) to be the team’s goal scorer and set-up man. Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are expected to significantly increase their point totals as well. The team will not have the same offensive depth.
Sergei in Limbo
As a result of this past season, the Flyers needed to solve an ages old problem of bringing in a netminder that could actually stop the puck, and maybe play good enough to pitch a shutout. The Flyers picked up goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s rights from the Phoenix Coyotes by shipping out gritty prospect forward Matt Clackson, a 2012 third round pick and future considerations. They signed Bryzgalov moments after shipping out Richards and Carter to a nine-year, $51 million contract.
Quite a hefty term, huh? It’s also terrible news for young netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who was a shining star in the crease for the Flyers last season. On top of having two years left on his entry-level deal with the Orange & Black, he has to play behind a goaltender that has proven to play over 60 games a season. This gives Bobrovsky close to no room to develop as an NHL starter with the Flyers. Also, by playing in game four against Boston, he breached his 60 game waiver exemption period. This means that Bobrovsky can’t travel between leagues unless he is put on waivers.
I think everyone knows he’d be picked up in a heartbeat. So the question remains: is it worth keeping him for the post-Bryzgalov days, or is it worth giving him away for a quality asset on forward or D so he can further develop as a goaltender? Both results are bad news bears.
Immediate Star Loss
By getting rid of the captain and the team’s most natural goal scorer, the Flyers lost two stars. They lost the faces of the franchise post-lockout. It is really hard to envision this team without these two players. Say what you will about Richards’ proficiency as captain or Carter’s ineptitude of playing in the playoffs…this team lost two really good players. They lost two players that stand out.
Even in a marketing sense, the Flyers need to hope that van Riemsdyk actually gains a little bit more of a personality in the years to come. Giroux is already a pretty funny guy to start with.
The Flyers’ offensive structure will not be as deep as in years past, but that’s the name of the game right now. The new stars need to fill those old star shoes starting right now.
As far as their Cup hopes, I don’t think anyone has a clue until they see this team play a few games. For now, let’s be excited for what this move means for the future of this franchise.