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June 23, 2011 may go down as the greatest day in recent Flyers’ history. When the Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter within an hour of one another it certainly sent shock waves through the NHL.
After six seasons of being touted as the dual faces of the franchise the Flyers cut loose this inconsistent pair who seemed to be attached at the hip. Carter was a one dimensional player who spent most of his time without the puck coasting around the ice.
His offense, which was his strong suit, was also deceiving. His 10.7 shooting percentage was awful especially for a player who was supposed to be a top tier goal scorer. Only three players who scored over 30 goals had a worse shooting percentage.
That doesn’t even count his bread and butter: the high and wide shot. Carter also had a tendency to miss the easy goals, most notably his chance to give the Flyers the lead with 1:30 left in the third period of game six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.
With a wide open net glaring at him Carter, for one of the very few times ever, failed to get any real elevation on the puck and his shot hit prone goalie Anti Niemi right in the shoulder. The Flyers ultimately lost in overtime.
But it wasn't just that one moment that sealed Carter's fate. During that Finals appearance he and linemate/best friend Mike Richards were virtually invisible and Carter's overall career playoff numbers are less than impressive.
Just 21 points in 47 playoff games is not enough from one of the team's highest paid players and supposed offensive superstar.
Bryzgalov's signing meant that Carter would more than likely have to go in order to clear salary, which would not have sat well at all with Captain Mike Richards. Richards complained publicly in the past when the team traded friends of his and admitted it would be difficult for him to continue with the Flyers without Carter during an interview with WMMR’s morning show.
Richards, who was a good two way player, would also have found himself with a more limited role on the team with the emergence of Danny Briere and Claude Giroux as a scoring center.
It doesn’t make much sense for a team to be paying their third line center as much as the Flyers would be paying Richards, especially considering he was under contract until 2020 and his no trade clause was due to kick in.
There were rumors of a split in the locker room with Richards and Carter on one side and veteran leaders like Chris Pronger, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen on the other. Added to that was the questionable off ice “Dry Island” nonsense and a questionable work ethic.
Former Sixer Allen Iverson was rightly crucified for blowing off practice. When Mike Richards skipped practices they were called “maintenance days." Not many professional athletes in their prime 20s need to take "maintenance days" off.
Trading Richards and Carter will transform a reputedly negative locker room. It sent a message to budding stars like Giroux and James van Riemsdyk to make sure their commitment to the club and to winning is unquestionable.
It will also allow the proven leaders on the team to take charge. Not to mention, receiving Jakub Voracek, Brayden Scheen and Wayne Simmonds in return is nothing to sneeze at either.
In March 2010 as the Flyers were sliding their way down the standings to possibly missing the playoffs, Paul Holmgren said big changes may be in order. It seems that improbable playoff run in 2010 only delayed the inevitable for Richards and Carter.