When the Philadelphia Flyers traded then-captain Mike Richards and goal-scoring phenom Jeff Carter 30 minutes apart during the 2011 NHL offseason, eyebrows were raised so high they caused permanent wrinkles to the forehead of the hockey world.
Just one year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren decided that his team was due for an expansive makeover. He captured highly-esteemed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes and signed him to a nine-year mega-deal with hopes that he had now found that elusive cornerstone goaltender—one who could perform consistently and would not clam up in the pressure tank that is the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Signing Bryzgalov, however, would require some budget readjustments. Bryzgalov wanted to be paid like the Vezina finalist he was in 2010, and the Flyers needed some wiggle room to make that happen. One might suspect after a disappointing second-round exit in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs that Holmgren would be questioning the strength of the Flyers’ core. Most probably didn’t expect such an immense foundational shakeup.
Richards was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second-round draft pick; Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jakub Voracek and a first- and third-round draft pick in the 2011 draft; and the Flyers’ core was effectively dismantled.
Fast forward one year and a trade deadline acquisition later. The former Flyers pairing is back in the Stanley Cup Finals, wearing different colored sweaters from their foray two years ago, while their orange and black counterparts find themselves in a wistfully familiar position.
Was this the success that Holmgren was expecting?
Before I move further, the Flyers had a great season. Claude Giroux emerged as a superstar, and many of Holmgren’s acquisitions from the two aforementioned trades turned out to be viable commodities. Wayne Simmonds exploded for a career-high 28 goals, Voracek still maintained himself as a solid 50-point producer and the Flyers even received useful play from young prospects Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
They were an offensive powerhouse even without Carter and Richards and trailed only the Pittsburgh Penguins in offensive production per game in the 2011-12 regular season. They finished their season fifth overall in the Eastern Conference only because they were ensnared in a loaded Atlantic Division that supplied four mammoth contenders that achieved over 100 points.
But despite these accomplishments, Broadstreet still shut down early this summer. The roster was revamped, but the same issues resurfaced. The goaltending was still shaky. The Flyers once again encountered the proverbial barrier between them and postseason success.
Has anything changed?
The short answer is yes. A longer answer would expound upon the emergence of Claude Giroux as an elite talent, the abundance of youth now present in the organization also with elite potential, more glorified remarks about the successful year the Flyers had without their two former keystones and the many more the Flyers will most likely have with their new crop of talent.
There is no questioning the benefits the Flyers received by trading Carter and Richards. It is also far too early to judge who the winners and losers are in these trades (unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets). But if Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are posing for pictures with a champagne-filled Stanley Cup in the next couple of weeks, I’m sure the Los Angeles Kings will have zero regrets with how circumstances panned out.