A month into the 2006-2007 Philadelphia Flyers season, veteran GM Bobby Clarke stepped down.
In his place stepped longtime Flyer player and scout Paul Holmgren. Holmgren had been the GM for the Hartford Whalers before joining the Flyers management.
Since taking the helm, Holmgren has the Flyers at 193 wins, 153 loses and 49 ties. In the playoffs, the team is 25-21, with an Eastern Conference championship under their belt.
One of the biggest successes of Holmgren’s tenure is his ability to entice free agents to come play for the Flyers.
This is a list of the top 10 moves that has made Holmgren one of the best general managers in the NHL.
After leaving the New York Rangers at the conclusion of the 2008-2009 season, Blair Betts was offered a chance to come to the Flyers as a fourth line, penalty kill specialist.
Betts has come into the team and been one of the hardest-working players since Rod Brind’Amour.
He ranks eighth in the NHL in shorthanded time on ice per game and has helped the Flyers hover around 12th in penalty kill percentage.
After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, Paul Holmgren realized that the biggest weakness in his team was the lack of depth on defense.
The Flyers gave up a second-round pick in the 2012 draft for Meszaros on July 1, 2010, and the move has been huge.
With veteran defensive leader Chris Pronger being out for extended periods this season, Meszaros' production has been a great addition. He has 26 points and is ninth in the NHL with a plus-27.
The Flyers haven’t had stability in net since Ron Hextall left for the second time in the late 1990s.
With Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, there is hope; the kind of hope that was there with Pelle Lindbergh.
Paul Holmgren signed him as a free agent this offseason and didn’t expect much from “Bob” this season.
Not only has he found a position on the Flyers, he has 27 wins, a save percentage of .917 and a goals-against average of 2.53. Bobrovsky is also a leading candidate for rookie of the year.
In Paul Holmgren’s first offseason, he decided to take the bull by the horns and go after the biggest free agents available.
One of his first moves was acquiring the rights to power forward Scott Hartnell. To say that he has been one of the keys to the team success is an understatement.
In Hartnell’s four seasons with the Flyers, he has 88 goals, 102 assists and 190 points. His added presence has been great in front of the net.
Braydon Coburn is one of the best defenders in the Flyers system and he is only 26 years old.
In Paul Holmgren’s first trade as Flyers GM at the deadline of 2007, he traded veteran Alexei Zhitnik for youngster Braydon Coburn.
Holmgren saw there was no future with Zhitnik and has always been a great evaluator of talent, so he brought in what he thought was a great prospect.
Boy was he right. Coburn has been one of the better defensive defensemen on the team and has really grown into a top-four defenseman in the NHL.
Paul Holmgren likes taking chances, and acquiring Ville Leino was a chance that has paid off tenfold.
On February 6, 2010, Leino was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Leino scored seven goals and added 14 assists for 21 points, which tied the rookie record for most points in the Stanley Cup playoffs held by Dino Ciccarelli.
Holmgren’s next big move will be whether or not to sign the unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
Another big free-agent signing from Paul Holmgren’s first offseason as general manager was Danny Briere.
Briere came to Philadelphia after scoring 95 points with the Buffalo Sabres the year before.
Since joining the Flyers organization, Briere has 100 goals, 111 assists and 211 points in four seasons with the club. He has been the key to a lot of playoff success and looks to take them even farther this season.
Paul Holmgren had a tough decision to make in 2009 in firing former head coach John Stevens.
"I think Paul felt he had to make this change," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said after the firing to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I make it a policy never to overrule my general manager, because once I do, it means I've lost confidence in him."
Snider was right and Holmgren’s hiring of Peter Laviolette has paid off well. In Laviolette’s season-and-a-half with the Flyers, the team has reached the Stanley Cup Finals and is leading in the Eastern Conference standings.
Laviolette has a record of 74-44-15 since taking over the Flyers.
Paul Holmgren realized that he needed veteran leadership on the blue line and he found his perfect defender in Kimmo Timonen.
Timonen has been one of the best defensive defenders in the NHL since he signed with the Flyers and is Paul Holmgren’s crown jewel from his first big splurge on free agents in 2007.
While Timonen adds offensive power with 36 points, he is better known for blocking shots, getting turnovers and keeping the puck out of his own net.
As in playoffs past, he will be asked to log a lot of minutes and put the team in a solid position to win.
There is no coincidence that Holmgren’s top two signings during his tenure are defenders.
That’s just smart hockey sense. The common thread between all Stanley Cup champions is the strength and depth of their defense.
Since Paul Holmgren wanted the best defense, he decided to go get one of the best defensive defensemen in NHL history.
In the 2009 offseason, Holmgren traded Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first-round draft picks and a conditional third-round draft pick for veteran Chris Pronger.
Less than two weeks later, Holmgren signed Pronger to a seven-year extension. Now that’s called securing your defense.