Homer traded his stick for a suit and hasn't looked back
Paul Holmgren made his NHL debut in March of 1976 for the Philadelphia Flyers after being drafted and never playing for the Edmonton Oilers. In his first professional season he nearly lost his life for the game he loves. While playing for the Richmond Robins (the Flyers AHL affiliate at the time) he suffered a scratched cornea. After surgery in Boston he had an allergic reaction to the anesthetic and nearly died.
He eventually was called up to the big club and while playing eight seasons in Philly he maxed out at 30 goals and 65 points in the ’79-’80 campaign while adding 10 goals and 10 assists during that year’s playoff run. He became the first U.S. born player to tally a hat trick in a Cup Finals game.
After eight glorious years in the orange and black he was dealt to the Minnesota North Stars half way through the ’83-’84 season.
He only played 42 games with Minnesota before retiring in 1985.
“Homer” is remembered as being a hard-nosed player who accumulated 1,600 penalty minutes during his tenure as a Flyer.
After his playing career he immediately began coaching the Flyers as an assistant to the infamous Mike Keenan. After Keenan’s release he took over the head-coaching job for 4 seasons before being let go.
He then took a job with the Hartford Whalers as Head Coach and Interim General Manager before returning to Philly as a scout until a month into the 2006 season where he took over as General Manager for Bobby Clarke who seemed to be running in place for years.
Since then Holmgren has made a number of player transactions. Some have been questioned but most have been favorable and have made the Flyers a better team.
He had a number of great signings of young drafted players like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, but those aren't included here. I'm just concentrating on trades, free agent signings and personnel moves.
Here are the top ten moves Homer has made since taking the reins of the club.
It's happened before and it will happen again. The Flyers organization parts ways with a player only to bring them back. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Holmgren knew what he was doing when he signed free agent Brian Boucher to a 2 year deal to back up Ray Emery in 2009. If you've watched hockey at all this year or last you would know why this signing was so important to the Flyers organization. Based on his play this year some would rank this signing higher on the list, but at the time of the signing it didn't seem like a big deal. Brian not only played his way into the starting role but also paved the way for the release of Michael Leighton.
Some people say Homer trades away too many picks and doesn't care about the future of the Flyers. His resigning of an 11-year contact with Jeff Carter in November, 2010 suggests otherwise.
Perhaps Holmgren saw a bit of himself in Lappy when he signed him to a 3-year deal in 2009. Lappy, like Holmgren almost lost his vision on the ice. He was a huge part of the 2010 Flyers success and still serves as inspiration to anyone who laces up the skates.
If you watched the 2010 NHL Playoffs, you know the one thing that probably cost the Flyers the Cup was their lack of depth at the blue line. Homer wasted no time trading a 2012 second round draft pick to
Tampa Bay for Andrej Meszaros this past off season. He's a beast in the +/- category and has fit in with Lavi's system nicely.
Homer took matters into his own hands in 2007 and traded a 1st round (23rd overall) pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for UFA's Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. He subsequently signed both to six-year deals. Could you imagine our team without these two?
When Holmgren signed Danny Briere to an eight-year contract worth $52 million on the first day of free agency in 2007 the hockey world was stunned. Briere was happy to sign to the Flyers not only for the money but because his former teammate Marty Biron was the Flyers net minder. That same day, Holmgren pulled off a four-player deal with the Oilers acquiring Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul in exchange for Joni Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson.
Briere came into his own as the 2010 Playoff MVP for the Flyers and started where he left off at the start of this season. He has been tearing it up in the first half of the season and doesn't look like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.
Midway through the Boston series in the 2010 NHL Playoffs, Holmgren picked up an insurance policy in net. He signed the Metallurg Novokuznetsk's Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. It was a blip in the sports pages and Flyers fans knew if "Bob" ever saw time in net it would be because both Boucher and Leighton were hurt. No one ever could have guessed then that Bobrovsky would start the first regular season game for the Flyers in October. The rest is history. Bob had an amazing start and the Flyers waived Leighton after only one start once he was healthy. Bobrovsky has since cooled off, but once he gets acquainted with the long grind of the NHL season he's expected to carry the load for years to come. Homer was once again looking out for the future of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Homer has the knack to see things in players that other teams don't. Case in point is Flyers' forward Ville Leino. Cast aside to create salary cap space by the Detroit Red Wings in March of 2010, no one in the hockey world really knew who Ville was. It wasn't much of a gamble when Holmgren dealt Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in exchange for Leino and there weren't many expectations. Leino was a healthy scratch in favor of Riley Cote on the final game of the season vs. the Rangers. Looking back on that now it seems impossible. But that was Ville's reality. Leino went on to accomplish the most impressive rookie playoff run this city has ever seen with 21 points in 19 playoff games. Holmgren will hopefully be able to swing a long-term contract extension for Leino in the near future.
If there was ever a match made in heaven it's Chris Pronger and Philadelphia. For most of his career he was the guy the Flyers and their fans alike loved to hate. Now he's the guy we all love. He was the blue line presence the Flyers have been lacking for so long. He logs major minutes on the ice, contributes in every way you can imagine and has no problem saying what's on his mind. When Holmgren traded forward Joffery Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa, first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 and a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011 in exchange for Pronger and prospect Ryan Dingle, Flyers fans rejoiced. He has become the heart of this team and a key move for the organization.
If there was a moment that the Philadelphia Flyers organization turned it all around it would have to be the day Paul Holmgren hired head coach Peter Laviolette. John Stevens just wasn't doing it anymore for the team who was 13-11-1 and out of the playoff picture at the time of his firing and Lavi's hiring. Holmgren saw the perfect point to make a change. It's not about the personnel moves, trades and acquisitions as much as it's about timing for teams.
Holmgren came at the right time for this franchise and so did Peter Laviolette.
This article was also published here: Philly Sports God Blog