In today's world of professional hockey, almost no one is as vital to a franchise's success as the general manager. The best GMs can transform a struggling franchise into a Stanley Cup contender in a few years, change the outward perception of the franchise and give the team's fans a reason to believe the next season could be their year.
Paul Holmgren is undoubtedly the architect of the most recent iteration of the Philadelphia Flyers. Nothing is greater proof of that than the franchise's recent trades of their 26-year-old captain, Mike Richards, and leading scorer, Jeff Carter. While these trades have left many fans wondering what "Homer" has planned, I think the answer is simple: Holmgren is trying to build a "Flyer Dynasty."
To this day, the Flyers are defined by their 1973-74 and 1974-75 Stanley Cup winning teams, affectionately known as the "Broad Street Bullies." Every Flyers team that has taken the ice since those golden years has been compared to those two legendary squads.
The term "Flyer hockey" has become synonymous with an overly physical, gritty, aggressive, blue-collar style of play, team-first attitude, willingness to do whatever it takes—legal, illegal, painful, whatever—in order to win.
In trading Mike Richards, Holmgren traded away a player who many believed was the second coming of the great Bobby Clarke. In trading Carter, Holmgren moved a player with the ability to be another complete player in the mold of Bill Barber.
But the problem with both of the former Flyers stars was never their talent—it was their willingness to be like the Hall of Famers to whom they had been compared.
Sports fans of all stripes have witnessed the disastrous effects of locker room feuds, player-first attitudes and coaching carousels. Any student of the NHL game knows that the most successful franchises are those with stability and excellence that resonate from the front office and the head coach.
In electing to side with Laviolette and trade Richards and Carter, Holmgren has made a dramatic attempt to change the culture of the entire Flyers organization.
There can be no question now that "The Room" belongs to Laviolette and (soon-to-be) captain Chris Pronger, two men who exemplify the mentality of the last Flyers dynasty. Philadelphia's young core has a lot to learn and massive skates to fill, but if they follow their leaders, in a few years we could be debating whether this version of the Flyers is better than the one that hoisted the Stanley Cup all of those years ago.