Written by: Anthony DiGrazio (@antgratzi)
When Paul Holmgren was the general manager of this team, he helped bury this franchise 6 feet under. There is no denying that, and if you do not agree, you might as well stop reading this article right now.
The team may have been mediocre, but the fan-base kept showing up and the Flyers continued to have sell-outs.
Not ALL was bad under Holmgren, but the cons definitely and by-far outweigh the pros.
Holmgren traded Mike Richards for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, and no one is denying that move was a great one. Brayden Schenn is still young with a lot of potential, and Wayne Simmonds was an all-star this season. Not to mention, Wayne Simmonds is a top power-forward in the league who can do just about anything that is asked of him. He is a motivator, hard-worker and role model to others players on the team. IF Giroux was not apart of this team, my guess is that Wayne would have the “C” on his jersey.
Another solid trade was Jeff Carter for Jacob Voracek, along with a 1st and 3rd round pick. The 1st rounder turned out to be defensive stud Sean Couturier. The 3rd round pick ended up being Nick Cousins. Although the Flyers could still use Jeff Carter and his scoring ability, it was time to move on as the core was dismantled in Philadelphia.
To be a logical fan, you must give credit where credit is due.
Now it is time to criticize and realize why we are currently struggling during the 2016-2017 season.
In a cap era, it is harder to compete and GM’s have to be smarter when it comes to long-term deals with tons of money involved. That was the downfall of Paul Holmgren and his tenure as GM.
Which bad signing do I start with?
Ilya Bryzgalov was signed to a nine year deal when he was already 31 years old. Not only was the length a horrific decision, he was signed for 51 million dollars! Bryzgalov, with the help of Paul Holmgren, robbed this franchise. Bryz was so bad, the Flyers thought it would be better to pay him to not play. The buyout of Bryz would cost the team 23 million dollars over the course of 14 years!
Not only was the signing absolutely devastating, but this forced back-up Sergei Bobrovsky to be traded. Do not forget that Bobrovsky was traded for one 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks.
Bobrovsky is currently one of the elite goalies in the league, and to make matters even worse, he will most likely win the Venezia trophy as the leagues best goaltender for this current season.
Who could forget the 5 year, 22.5 million dollar addition of Vinny Lecavilier? This move was made for Peter Laviolette and his offensive system. Laviolette was fired and Vinny was never able to be productive in a Flyers uniform.
The Flyers are still in need of a scoring winger, and at the time, we had James Van Reimsdyk, but we traded him for Luke Schenn. A horrible evaluation of talent by Holmgren and scouts who informed him that he should make that deal.
After signing fan-favorite Andrew MacDonald to a 6 year deal totaling 30 million, the Flyers signed 35 year old Mark Streit to a 4 year deal. Scott Hartnell also received a 6 year, 28.5 million dollar contract.
Over 100 million dollars were spent on mediocre players that did not help this franchise take the leap that it needed. Of course Holmgren won’t admit to his terrible contracts, but there is overwhelming evidence that says he has hurt this team.
What Hextall has done is nothing short of phenomenal, we all know this. His vision is exactly what this franchise has needed for decades, and especially since the game has evolved drastically.
The Broad Street Bully days are long-gone and not winning a cup since 1975 is all the evidence you need for that argument. Toughness and fisticuffs have been replaced with speed and skill.
Hextall knows what the new game entails, and all of this shows through his drafting and trading ability.
The 2017-2018 season should be the most exciting season since the Stanley Cup run in 2010. With players such as Provorov, Konecny, Morin, Sanheim, Lindbolm, Myers, and other prospects fighting for a roster spot, the new age of Flyers hockey is nothing short of exciting.
Although things are looking up for this franchise, there are still problems that need to be addressed. First and foremost is the coach.
Dave Hakstol was hand-picked to become the coach of the Flyers by Ron Hextall. With college experience, Hakstol was brought in to be a developing coach. Hakstol was brought here to be a coach that would help younger talented prospects make an easier transition into the professional league.
I have seen the complete opposite from Hakstol over the course of this season and there are many examples that can be used to believe this speculation.
Hakstol has implemented a defensive system which uses primarily two-way forwards and offensive-defensemen to help join an offensive attack. This system relies heavily on shots from the point, but with a weaker blue-line, I call this the Chip Kelly effect.
Hakstol is relying on a system that doesn’t fit the talent he has on the roster. His lack of in-game adjustments have cost this team. Factor in over-usage of mediocre 4th liners, and and horrible handling of goalies, scratching Gostisbehere and Konecny, overplaying MacDonald, it has not been a great year of coaching.
Of course the rebuttal is lack of talent, and rightfully so. That is another problem with this team, everything is intertwined. Players aren’t scoring, it is as simple as that. Players also need to be put in the best position to score.
If a game plan involves minimal cycling and control of the puck by forwards in the offensive zone, of course players will go through droughts and not be able to produce like they should.
Goal-tending was horrible in the beginning of the season, and it is a shame because last season, goal-tending was the only reason we made playoffs, and you can also add that the play of rookie Shayne Gostisbehere also motivated and helped this team win.
Next year is year 4 under the Hextall regime, and in no way is this article promoting the firing of Hextall because that would be completely asinine for anyone to think. However, it is time for this process (Yeah I said it) to take shape.
Hextall has put this franchise is a great position to compete for many years down the road. It is time for him to receive some criticism and pressure from the fan-base. His drafting has been nothing short of phenomenal, along with returns by trading. Juniors are loaded with Flyers prospects and the Phantoms are competing. The Flyers have acquired an abundance of picks and assets
With a few minor mistakes as GM, including trading for Umberger, signing Dale Weise, and extending both Neuvirth and Bellemare, Hextall has made far many better moves than he has bad moves.
It is time for the Flyers to take the next step, and quite frankly, they have no choice but to make that leap next season.
With an abundance of young talent competing for roster spots, this team will be better just by losing some expiring contracts.
This is easily the most important off-season for Hextall as he navigates further away from Holmgren and his terrible contracts.
The Time is now and I have complete faith in Ron Hextall.