Every real hockey fan wants the National Hockey League’s lockout to end as soon as possible. Depending upon the speed of any potential resolution, the regular season could start on “Black Friday”.
Philadelphia Flyers’ fans are cautiously optimistic that a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached. At the same time, they know that labor peace won’t solve the current challenges that their team faces.
Front office: Paul Holmgren
Let’s begin this team review by focusing on the person who is the most responsible for the Flyers’ success, failure and all that falls in between.
Paul Holmgren was a gutsy player. After Bob Clarke’s resignation in October 2006, he was elevated to the team’s top front office boss on an interim basis and later was named their permanent general manager.
Since that time “Homer” has made a variety of bold and sometimes controversial moves. Two of his earliest aggressive decisions involved the Nashville Predators. In February 2007, he sent Peter Forsberg to the Predators for two players and two 2007 draft picks. In June, he acquired the rights to pending Nashville Predators’ free agents’ Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen in exchange for the number 1 draft pick that he had received in the Forsberg deal.
Those transactions, combined with a number of others and the acquisition of Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks in June 2009, set the stage for the unbelievable 2010 playoff run that resulted in a Stanley Cup appearance against the Chicago Blackhawks. However, one squirming overtime goal stopped what seemed to be a destined third Flyers’ championship that season. Two separate trades (in June 2011) and two years later (June 2012), Mike Richards and Jeff Carter raised the Stanley Cup as members of the Los Angeles Kings.
Holmgren’s shrewd 2007 moves were referenced this summer when he made a gigantic restricted free agent offer to Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber. The Flyers thought that Weber would help to close the hole left by Pronger’s likely permanent absence. The hockey world believed that the deal wouldn’t be matched, but it was and Weber remained in Nashville.
If the 2012-13 season is actually played, Holmgren knows that his current team is short defensively. In light of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s inconsistent presence, the Flyers know that they must play a tighter game across the entire ice surface and especially behind the blue line.
Because any new salary cap rules aren’t yet known, it’s difficult to determine if Holmgren will have enough flexibility to add players at the trade deadline. Until (or if) a final agreement is reached and even after that paperwork has been completed, this team’s immediate future (and potentially Holmgren’s) remains uncertain.
I’ll review Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette and the team’s goaltending issues in Part 2 of this feature.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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