Kings' Assistant GM Ron Hextall and Flyers' GM Paul Holmgren chat at last year's NHL Entry Draft.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren pulled off two cataclysmic trades that changed the identity of the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23, 2011. Mike Richards, the team captain, landed in Los Angeles, and Jeff Carter went (albeit begrudgingly and with significant prodding from his new team's brass) to Columbus.
Most Flyers fans, as evidenced by Twitter feeds and message boards, have rooted against the Kings in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Many Flyers fans have expressed that they cannot even bear to watch the Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and New Jersey Devils.
Philadelphia is a beleaguered city. That is harsh but true. Those who believe in curses and hexes may argue that a dark cloud hovers over Philadelphia. They could be right.
Philadelphians will count the nearly glorified playoff runs of the Flyers, Sixers, Eagles and Phillies throughout the year. They will certainly remember the devastating injuries and the controversial calls.
Philadelphians watched as upstart teams like the 1984 New Jersey Nets and the 2010 San Francisco Giants won playoff series over heavily favored Philadelphia teams. Philadelphia fans have watched in horror, disgust and disdain as vilified rival cities like New York and Boston hoist Stanley Cups, NBA Championships, World Series titles and Vince Lombardi (NFL) Trophies.
It's late spring, and sometimes Philadelphians need to take a deep breath and let the hate go, at least temporarily. The Phillies are off to a dismal 12-19 start at home with a power outage in the lineup and no consistent set-up man on the roster. The union is dismantling a team that was just beginning to come together.
Doting on these negatives is just unhealthy and unproductive. Instead, the positives—the seeming ascension of the 76ers, the Grade A 2012 draft by the Eagles and the growth of the Flyers with superstar-in-the-making Claude Giroux—need to be accentuated.
1. For all the Flyers fans saying that Paul Holmgren gave the Kings a championship (which they have yet to win), remember that Holmgren traded Jeff Carter to Columbus. Blame Blue Jackets' general manager Scott Howson if you need a fall guy for the reunion of the bosom buddies.
2. Richards and Carter are NOT first-line players; they are complementary pieces. Richards and Carter play on the second line in LA with Dustin Penner, behind the trio of Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown. If they couldn't win in Philadelphia as first-line players, why not acquire young players for them?
Their cap hits are too large to build around them with top-line talent in Philadelphia. Paul Holmgren deserves some degree of vindication in that regard.
3. They are but two players on a team that is playing perennial villains Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias and the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, a division rival, are vying for a fourth Stanley Cup, which would be double the output of the Flyers. How can any self-respecting Flyers fan want that?
4. In another effort to accentuate the positives, how many other Kings do Flyers fans despise? How many Kings do Flyers revere and respect?
How about Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, and Ron Hextall? Do Gagne and Hextall deserve their first Cup? Hextall and Gagne, in my opinion, were Flyers through and through. They displayed their emotions differently, but they were both consummate team players.
Hextall lead the 1987 Flyers to a Stanley Cup Final matchup against the Goliaths of the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers. He came away with the Conn Smythe Trophy only, but he left an indelible mark on Philadelphians with that performance. The Flyers will probably need another goaltending performance like that in order to catch Lord Stanley's Cup, but that is a different topic for a different article.
The Flyers do not pull off the epic comeback against the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals without Simon Gagne. He was the spark plug that provided the necessary offensive lift in Game 4, and he notched the series winner in Game 7 in front of a stunned Boston crowd. In 2004, he knocked the Flyers into a Game 7 showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning with an overtime tally.
Flyers' fans often argue that Gagne was overrated and never a consistent top-line guy. So what? He had heart, and he battled through injuries, gave his best effort and never (from any published reports) caused rancor in the Flyers dressing room. I am thrilled that Darryl Sutter played Gagne in Games 3 and 4, making him eligible for inscription of his name onto the Stanley Cup.
Last season, Schenn, Simmonds, Voracek and Couturier doubled up the Richards-Carter tandem in points. So, if you want to gauge the short-term impact of the trade, that should be the barometer—not how the Kings TEAM reached the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings also have some guy named Jonathan Quick, who may finish this postseason with the second-best goals-against average in NHL history.
Many Flyers fans will scoff at this article, and that is OK. It is sports, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. For me, it's time to be happy for a deserving team and to root against a natural rival.
The Flyers have re-tooled for the future. These trades cannot be fully measured for many years to come. There should be ample opportunity for the Flyers to capture more Cups than the Kings.