Philadelphia Flyers: Analyzing GM Paul Holmgren's Deals
Ever since Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was replaced by Craig Berube on October 7, seemingly impulsive general manager Paul Holmgren has come under close scrutiny.
Many believe that the roster he has assembled since taking over almost seven years ago is the real reason the Flyers are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
So has the Flyers GM made one crazy move too many? Is the criticism he is receiving unjustified? I'm hoping to take an objective look at some of his moves from over the years and provide you with some subjective answers.
Mike Richards Trade
June 23, 2011 was a crazy day. Paul Holmgren changed the Flyers forever when he signed Ilya Bryzgalov and traded captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter (who I'll get to) on the same day.
The deal: Mike Richards and Rob Bordson for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second-round pick (later traded to Dallas in a package for Nicklas Grossmann).
At the time, Mike Richards carried around with him a reasonably hefty contract without being an elite player. Brayden Schenn was widely known as the best player not currently playing in the NHL and Wayne Simmonds was a young, physical right winger with plenty of potential.
Over the past two seasons, Wayne Simmonds alone has outscored Mike Richards, with the tallies being at 81 and 76 points, respectively. Right now, Brayden Schenn is still yet to reach his potential, but the door hasn't been closed yet.
Rumored party-boy persona aside, Mike Richards is the kind of of guy the Flyers need on the ice right now. A guy who consistently wins battles, does the physical stuff and gives his all.
Schenn, whilst looking promising, can not be counted on for regular offense. Wayne Simmonds can sometimes go missing for stretches.
Easy win for Holmgren. A straight-up trade of Simmonds for Richards would be debatable, but when you throw Schenn into the mix, it's a deal-breaker.
Jeff Carter Trade
The deal: Jeff Carter for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 first-round pick (Sean Couturier) and a 2011 third-round pick (Nick Cousins).
Jakub Voracek broke out last season, scoring 46 points in 48 games and establishing himself as a speedy playmaker after a slow start with Columbus. Much like Wayne Simmonds, Voracek has outscored his counterpart over the past two seasons by a margin of 28 points.
Sean Couturier is yet to blossom into the two-way forward many were predicting he would become after shutting down Evgeni Malkin in his first playoff series against the archnemesis Pittsburgh Penguins. There is still time, however.
I don't know about you, but I was never comfortable with the team having to pay Jeff Carter $5.2 million in 2022.
The Flyers could also do with Jeff Carter on their roster right now. He may be a one-dimensional goal scorer, but at least somebody in the Flyers lineup would be putting the puck in the back of the net.
A straight-up trade of Voracek for Carter would have been a victory for Holmgren. Even if Couturier turns out to be a dud, I think this was a good trade.
Ilya Bryzgalov Signing
Ilya Bryzgalov signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with the Flyers.
At the time (and I can't stress that enough), Ilya Bryzgalov was coming off of two stellar seasons in a row, earning 42 wins in 2009-10 and 36 in 2010-11. The Flyers had been craving a long-term solution to their perennial goaltending woes since the departure of Ron Hextall, and Ilya Bryzgalov was the best upcoming free agent on the market.
Where do I begin? First, signing a 31-year-old goaltender to a nine-year deal is absurd.
Secondly, the man who should have received a long-term contract was Sergei Bobrovsky, who was (and still is, despite having won a Vezina Trophy) developing. Rather than offer a long-term deal to a veteran, Holmgren should have brought someone in on a short-term deal to work in tandem with Bobrovsky to keep the goaltending relatively solid while he was learning the ropes.
You might say that everything is easy with the beauty of hindsight, but I even said this before Bryzgalov was signed.
Nevertheless, Bryzgalov didn't pan out on the ice or in the locker room, and hopefully Holmgren has learned from his mistakes.
I can see what Holmgren was trying to do, and I'm not sure how much pressure was being put on by owner Ed Snider, but this is an absolute fail for Holmgren.
Sergei Bobrovsky Trade
The deal: Sergei Bobrovsky for a second-round pick and two fourth-round picks.
Bobrovsky was somewhat inconsistent as a backup to Ilya Bryzgalov, who had recently been signed to a long-term deal. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, Bobrovsky was essentially an expendable asset.
With one of the worst prospect pools in the league, the Flyers needed as many draft picks as they could get.
If Holmgren had just been more patient with Bobrovsky, or been more patient with the goaltending in general, the Flyers may have had their prayers answered. Unfortunately, the situation in goal is still on unstable ground.
Impatience cost Holmgren here. Bad. Very Bad.
James Van Riemsdyk Trade
The deal: On June 23, 2012, James van Riemsdyk, otherwise known as "JVR," was traded for defenseman Luke Schenn.
The Flyers have not had much luck developing their own defensemen in recent years, with all of the D-men in the current lineup having arrived via trade or free agency. Good, young defensemen have been few and far between for the Flyers.
Once a highly touted early draft pick, Luke Schenn had not developed as fast as Toronto Maple Leafs management would have liked, but he was a big, rugged defensemen who dished out more hits than the New Kids on the Block in the early '90s.
Similarly, former No. 2 draft pick JVR seemed to be regressing in his development after an impressive playoffs in 2011.
It seems as though JVR is going from strength to strength with the Maple Leafs, while Luke Schenn is providing more offense to the opposing teams than the Flyers.
Still too early to call. Both players still have plenty of development time left, and Luke Schenn still has the potential to be a top-pairing defenseman. Most likely a loss to Holmgren, though, albeit by a small margin.
Vinny Lecavalier Signing
On July 2, 2013, the man once proclaimed to become "the Michael Jordan of hockey" was signed to a five-year, $22.5 million contract.
Lecavalier may not be the powerhouse he was in the mid 2000's, but he is a high-quality second-line center. Now 33 years of age, he has the experience and leadership to excel both on and off the ice, and at 6"4', 218 lbs, he has the size to be a real presence. He is also known as a quality person who gives back to the community.
First, the Flyers were already stacked at center when Lecavalier was signed. Claude Giroux, Max Talbot, Adam Hall, Schenn, Couturier and Scott Laughton are all natural centers, with the latter three requiring time at the position to develop. The best teams are always strong down the middle, but when your leading left winger is Scott Hartnell and your next best left winger is Zac Rinaldo, you may want to look at investing elsewhere.
Secondly, Lecavalier will be 38 at the end of his contract. At that age, I don't want to be paying him more than $4 million per season.
A win for Holmgren. Lecavalier provides size up the middle, something the Flyers have been missing since the departure of Keith Primeau. He has looked good so far despite the mediocrity surrounding him.
Mark Streit Signing
The deal: On June 28, 2013, Mark Streit signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the Flyers.
The former New York Islanders captain is known for his power-play expertise and his outlet passes. Streit is the exact type of defenseman the Flyers have been lacking.
Although Streit is already 35, he was drafted at 26 and as such, his body hasn't endured the wear and tear most 35-year-old NHL players have been subjected to.
The last thing the Flyers needed was another defenseman on the wrong side of 30. Aside from Luke Schenn, every member of the current defensive corps is at least 27. The $5.25 million per season being spent on Streit could have gone toward a younger guy with potential.
Additionally, the other last thing the Flyers needed was a guy who isn't known for being solid in his own end.
I actually like this signing. It's the other moves that Holmgren has made with the defense personnel that have ruined it, not this one.
Letting Matt Carle Walk to Free Agency
On July 4, 2012, Matt Carle signed a six-year contract worth $33 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning after four years with the Flyers.
At $5.5 million per season, Matt Carle would be the second-most expensive defenseman on the team after Kimmo Timonen. At the time, the Flyers were struggling with the cap and simply could not afford to keep Carle.
Carle was notorious for the frequency of his turnovers during his tenure in Philadelphia, and I'd prioritise all of Schenn, Streit, Timonen and Grossmann ahead of him.
The Flyers defense is aging, no question about it. A young, quick guy with a bit of offensive talent would change the dynamic completely.
Sensible move by Holmgren to let him walk. Sometimes with pending free agents you do have to overpay, but you should only do it with the right people, and I wouldn't put Matt Carle in that category.
Does Paul Homgren Deserve His Current Scrutiny?
Looking back, I think most of the trades and signings that Holmgren has made have improved the team. The Bryzgalov signing and subsequent trading of Bobrovsky was obviously a disaster, but the other obvious mistake Holmgren has made is attempting to reinvent the team with a young, developing group of forwards and an aging group of defensemen.
My main criticism of Holmgren is that he needs to be more patient rather than having an explosion of trades and signings every offseason.
Hey, at least he keeps it exciting.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.