Should Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren Be on the Hot Seat?
There is a short, simple answer to the question posed in the headline: no. But there is a slightly longer and more complicated answer that also needs to be brought up, because some points are worth further discussion.
To begin, we have to start not last offseason but the one previous on two fateful days in late June. That's when the biggest moves of the Holmgren era were made and when the organization's future was determined. Core changes were made, and the future will be dependent on those original moves.
Let's take a look at the moves, starting with the two major trades made on the same day in June.
Jeff Carter was sent to Columbus in exchange for the eighth overall pick and Jakub Voracek. Mike Richards was sent to Los Angeles in exchange for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
Analyzing those trades almost two years later, it's pretty obvious that Holmgren won both deals by a long shot. Things ended up working out for the Kings, who traded midway through the 2011-12 season for Carter and won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't really have a bearing on the Flyers' deals.
It's ironic because Schenn and the eighth pick were looked at as the bigger components of their respective deals, yet Simmonds has out-produced Richards (80 vs. 74 points) and Voracek has way outdone Carter (93 vs. 63 points).
So if those trades had been one-for-one, the Flyers would have come out on top. But add in Brayden Schenn, one of the league's most promising young centers, and the eighth overall pick, and it's really quite lopsided for Philadelphia.
That transitions us to looking at that eighth overall pick, which Holmgren used to draft Sean Couturier. Couturier was one of the top three prospects a year before the draft, but he was sick during his last season of juniors and slipped all the way to eight, where the Flyers were no doubt ecstatic to grab him.
His play has been a little disappointing after a surprisingly solid rookie year when he made the team off the bat as an 18-year-old. He dominated in the 2012 playoffs against the Penguins, and the 6'3" center still has a ton of potential.
But there is a trade that has recently come under scrutiny which was almost exactly a year after the Carter and Richards deals.
Holmgren sent backup Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for a second-round pick, which seemed like a sensible idea at the time. Bobrovsky had some inconsistencies, and a second-round pick looked like fair market value.
That deal has come under scrutiny because of the contract to which Holmgren signed Ilya Bryzgalov on that same day as the Carter and Richards trades.
The Flyers had goaltending issues for decades, and they had really gotten bad in 2010-11, when Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher were embarrassing in the playoffs. Holmgren knew he needed a proven goaltender and tabbed Bryzgalov as the Flyers' man.
So he signed Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal. The Russian goaltender's time in Philadelphia has been rocky to say the least, and I won't go over every detail because it's been well-documented in the media.
But while Bryzgalov is not living up to his contract, Bobrovsky has been arguably the best goaltender in the league for the Blue Jackets, which makes the Bryzgalov deal look even worse for Holmgren.
But then fast-forward to this past offseason, where there are a few other key talking points. The first is the new CBA, which, although it took forever to get ratified, contains an amnesty clause that allows a team to release a player this offseason without the usual salary-cap penalty.
This is the easiest way for Holmgren to cut his losses with Bryzgalov, and what he does with it could end up being the deciding factor in keeping his job. Just last week, he acquired Steve Mason from the Blue Jackets, further twisting the goaltender plot while suggesting a release of Bryzgalov is imminent.
But there's one other thing to consider with Holmgren—the Flyers' defense, which has been porous in this lockout-shortened season.
Holmgren made a huge splash when he offered restricted free agent Shea Weber a genius front-loaded 14-year, $110 million deal, which Weber signed.
But then the Predators matched the offer, leaving Holmgren and the Flyers high and dry in their pursuit of replacing Chris Pronger. But while Holmgren was criticized for not having a Plan B, I applaud him for being patient and not overpaying for a middle-tier defenseman.
Would that defenseman have really put the Flyers over the edge this season? No, because their injuries were too much to overcome. He did make a smart acquisition in getting Luke Schenn for an underachieving James van Riemsdyk. Schenn has been instrumental in keeping the Flyers' blue line somewhat steady this season.
That's the last point to be made here—Holmgren could not have done anything about this season. Truly, he did the right thing by holding on to his core players. This was a weird year because of the lockout.
The Flyers' young forwards didn't have the normal training camp and preseason to develop, and the roster in general couldn't generate the same chemistry as seasons prior. Then injuries hit, and hit hard, and that's an unavoidable consequence of a condensed season when four to five games a week isn't uncommon.
But he has made another couple of good moves which can't be overlooked. Signing Matt Read was brilliant. Stealing Max Talbot from the Penguins was a great move as well. Little moves like this have really helped bolster Philadelphia's roster, and the GM deserves his credit.
Holmgren has a big decision to make with Bryzgalov, but for now, he has an impressive arsenal of young forwards and a potential to have a lot of cap space if Bryzgalov is amnestied.
He isn't on the hot seat now and will only get on it if the goaltending decisions end up sinking the team in the 2013-14 season, when making the playoffs is a must.
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