June 23, 2011
June 23, 2011
After a second round defeat to the NJ Devils just two and a half months earlier, GM Paul Holmgren decided to transform the Flyers’ roster as if he were shaking a snow globe.
On this June day, Paul traded Jeff Carter to Columbus, Mike Richards to Los Angeles, and signed Phoenix Coyotes’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, 51 million dollar contract. It was no secret that the Flyers were looking to upgrade their position between the pipes; however the trading of a top scorer in Carter and the team captain in Richards sent shockwaves not only through Philadelphia, but the entire NHL.
It was a poorly kept secret that the culture in the “room” was not what it needed to be. Everything from the unwillingness of some to buy into the “dry island” request of the team regarding alcohol, to the lack of leadership from Richards (who wore the “C” while many looked to Chris Pronger as their voice) and the eventual four games to one early exit from the Devils all but forced Holmgren’s hand to make big changes. Add to that the the Stanley Cup run just a year prior, and the season was labeled a disappointment.
In the Carter deal, Jeff was sent to that “hockey hotbed” in Columbus for promising winger Jakub Voracek, the Blue Jackets’ 2011 first-round pick (Sean Couturier) and a third-round pick (Nick Cousins). The Richards deal was made with L.A. for winger Wayne Simmonds, center Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second-round pick – later transferred to the Dallas Stars. After those moves, the Flyers were transformed into a younger, deeper team (four players for two), and it would allow for that all-important “room” to shift itself to leadership led by Scott Hartnell, the aforementioned Pronger, and budding superstar Claude Giroux.
As for the goalie situation, the Flyers’ brass felt they needed an established goalie to take them further and Ilya was their best option to do so. In the 2010-2011 season, Sergei Bobrovsky supplanted both Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher as the starter, playing in 54 games after his callup from Adirondack in the AHL. At just 22, the Flyers knew that they had something in Bobrovsky, but wanted a veteran that could carry the load. Playing the previous four seasons for the struggling Phoenix squad, Ilya signed with the Flyers as a free agent. It gave the Flyers brass (and fans) the hope that the “merry-go-round”-type of situation in the net would finally be solved for the first time since the heydays of Ron Hextall (Act One) over a decade ago.
As we reflect on these moves by Homer just three years ago, one would grade them as a “C’ at best. The Bryzgalov move was a "humongous” disappointment, leading to a buyout in 2013, his career in Philly lasting just two years. The Richards trade brought in two very good players in "Simmer," now a leader both on and off the ice, and in Schenn, both of whom hit the 20 goal plateau this past season. Carter's trade for Voracek and “Coots” was a good one as well, with Jakub scoring 23 goals on the top line with Giroux and Couturier becoming one of the top young two-way players in the NHL.
But... there are those two Stanley Cups that “Richie” and “Cartsy” now have…
After Carter's exile to Columbus, his uninspiring play brought another trade to the Kings just eight months later, which connected him with Richards in L.A. Along with superstar goalie Jonathan Quick, former Flyers Justin Williams and Simon Gagne, they made an improbable run to their first Cup together as the eighth seed, beating the NJ Devils. This year, they lifted Lord Stanley again (minus Gagne), defeating the NY Rangers in five games.
Part of the irony in all of this, is that the newly-named GM of the Flyers, Ron Hextall, was the Vice President and Assistant GM of the Kings (behind GM Dean Lombardi) when those trades to L.A. for Carter, Richards, and Williams happened. With Hextall as the new GM and Holmgren now Team President, it is Hextall’s main job to shape the roster and help bring Lord Stanley back to Philly after a nearly four-decade absence.
I just hope he doesn’t own a snow globe…
Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99