Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Philadelphia Flyers - Missing A Stanley Cup Shot Once Again?

Flyers Prolegomena - How To Rebound From Being The Worst Team In Hockey

In 2006-07, everything went wrong for the Philadelphia Flyers. 44 players and 5 goalies suited up for a wretched squad that fired Ken Hitchcock after the first eight dreadful games only to barely improve on the mark he set. Flyer goalies had an .892 save percentage as the team allowed 302 goals. This wouldn't be so bad if the Flyers offense, usually a strength of the team, also hadn't deserted them - star LW Simon Gagne had a 40 goal season, but the rest of the team combined to score 173 goals. Young phenoms Jeff Carter and Mike Richards struggled. How could the team pull out of this funk? Simple - by importing all of the Nashville Predators' best players.

In February of 2007, Paul Holmgren sent Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a 1st and a 3rd. He also sent veteran D Alexei Zhitnik to Atlanta for young stud D Braydon Coburn, and nabbed then-backup goaltender Martin Biron from the Sabres, whom he later signed. Holmgren was hardly finished; In June of 2007, before free agency, he swung a trade that brought both Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to Philadelphia for the aforementioned 1st round pick - both signed long-term deals in Philly. Malingerer Joni Pitkanen, a D with loads of talent but not always the ability to use it, was shipped off with veteran re-re-re-tread Geoff Sanderson for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul. The piece de resistance was star centerman Daniel Briere's addition to the club in free agency. The team had added Coburn, Lupul, Briere, Smith, Biron, Hartnell, Timonen, Upshall, Parent, and all for a minimum of cost to the current roster (Zhitnik and Pitkanen). With the improvement of Carter and Richards almost inevitable, the Flyers made the Eastern Conference Finals - a rise that should have shocked no one.

That Doesn't Look As Bad As I Thought: The Flyers don't actually have to make a trade this off-season. The Flyers are helped by the fact that they don't have any restricted free agents to deal with.

2010-11 Looks Unpleasant, Though: Well, certainly. $48 million dollars, no goalies, and still three short on the bench too, and the salary cap is likely to be between $50 and $53 million dollars. The Flyers will have to move one of Lupul, Briere, Gagne, or Hartnell - Briere would be the most likely to move, except that he has a no-movement clause.

2011-12 Is Unpleasant, Too: Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux are RFA that season - both will require large raises.

2009-10 Projected Lines

This indicates a player who is RFA in 2009
This indicates a player who is UFA in 2010
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2010




Future Flyers: The Flyers have a stellar farm system. James Van Riemsdyk, 2nd overall pick in 2007, finally signed a contract with Philadelphia, and has to be considered to have a good shot to make the team. Luca Sbisa, the 18 year old wunderkind from Switzerland, played half the season with the Flyers on defense; his upside is not sky-high, but Philadelphia fans should expect him to be a defensive stalwart for the next decade. Claude Giroux may be a future star.


As mentioned above, one of the high-salaried Flyers is going to have to leave town eventually. The Flyers may get crazy - reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer suspect the Flyers will go after Jay Bouwmeester, but they don't have the money this year or next year. Paul Holmgren is not afraid to pull the trigger on a creative trade, so expect the unexpected from him. The Flyers have to realize with their cap situation that their best shot for a Stanley Cup is this season.

Free Agent Discussion

Money To Spend: 6.2 million
Holes to Fill: 3


If the Flyers go after a center, it will likely be of the Malhotra/Pahlsson/Peca/Madden/etc. ilk. They may go after a left wing instead.


Bouwmeester is a possibility, however remote. If the Flyers can find a new home for one of their top six forwards, they can bring in one of the Ohlund/Komisarek/Oduya/Spacek/Beauchemin group. If not, they will likely have to stick with the Andrew Alberts/Karlis Skrastins/Hal Gill group. Luca Sbisa could make the team, leaving more money available for other things.


Ray Emery can't be thought of as the de facto starter in Philadelphia - the Flyers will likely have a 1A/1B situation set up. Ty Conklin, Scott Clemmensen, Craig Anderson, Antero Niitymaki, etc. etc. all have to be interesting players for the Flyers, and that player will likely get paid around what Emery got paid.


It's hard to talk about what the Flyers might do, because they very well could do anything. They have all kinds of assets to make a trade. They have two of the best young forwards in the league in Carter and Richards, and their top 6 forwards may be deeper than anyone else's in the NHL. The defense, however, is not great and slightly overpaid, so something may be done there. Even with the great young players the Flyers have, they still have a small window with which to be very serious contenders.


Playoff team on a short list of Stanley Cup contenders next year, a playoff team with salary cap-induced holes in the near future.

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