On the eve of the NHL draft, Philadelphia Flyers fans were left reeling after the team traded away captain Mike Richards and elite scorer Jeff Carter. While it was necessary to make some big changes after this year’s disappointing playoff exit, few expected Richards and Carter would both go. The Flyers also announced the signing of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year deal worth $51 million. These changes, along with the players coming back to Philly in the two deals and the player they will get early in the first round of Friday’s draft, represent a major organizational facelift.
Most of the fans I have spoken to are okay and even happy about the trading of Jeff Carter. Although at times he was a prolific goal scorer in the regualr season, he annually disappeared in the playoffs. His 46 goals in the 2008-9 season caused visions of scoring titles to dance in many fans’ heads. Unfortunately, injuries prevented Carter from playing a complete season in 2009, and the emergence of Claude Giroux and the Flyers balanced attack allowed them to rely on Carter less last season than they had to in the past. Carter is one of those players whom the Group Two Flyers fans will pretend that they never liked (See Sample Test item #4). They will point to his failure to meet expectations in the playoffs, and his one-dimensional style of play as reasons why he should have been traded. They have already begun to bash him on Philadelphia sports talk radio, saying that he is, “Not a Philly guy.”
Captain Mike Richards is a different story. He is a “Philly guy.” Or…was. In 2007, Richards signed a 12-year contract extension which he believed would make him a Flyer for life. The news of his trade came as a shock, and he said he never would have signed such a long term deal if he believed he would ever have been traded from Philadelphia. He goal was to lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup, and he is disappointed that he won’t get the chance to achieve that goal after coming so close two seasons ago. His legacy among the fans is more difficult to predict. To many, he was the face of the franchise. A heart and soul player, Richards employed a lead by example approach to captain his teammates that many fans respected. Others will point to his estranged relationship with the head coach, and his well documented night life as reasons for trading him.
Ilya Bryzgalov is the answer to the goaltending issues that the Flyers have been looking for. He is a bonafide number one goalie whose numbers speak for themselves. In the last two seasons, Bryzgalov won 36 and 42 games respectively, playing with a less talented Phoenix team. The Flyers will be able to rely on him for nearly 70 games in the regular season. He puts a long awaited end to Philadelphia’s need for a legitimate starting goalie.
Jakub Voracek was acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade. In three seasons with the Blue Jackets, Voracek has registered 134 points in 241 games. In 2007, he was drafted 7th overall in the first round by Columbus and is an explosive skater with exceptional playmaking skills. He will be a nice addition to the second line on the Flyers next year, and will provide ample secondary scoring.
Wayne Simmonds was part of the package that the Flyers received in return for Mike Richards. In three complete seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Simmonds has registered 93 points in 240 games, while spending 264 minutes in the penalty box. A nice mix of talent and grit, Simmonds could quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia. Likely slated for third line duty, he has the potential to rise to Scott Hartnell type numbers and status.
Brayden Schenn is the real prize of the bunch of forwards acquired. He was drafted fifth overall in the first round of the 2009 draft, behind cuurent NHLers John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane. A center in the mold of the departed Mike Richards, Schenn is considered to be NHL ready, and will likely center the second line. A highly coveted prospect by many teams, he is projected to be even better than Richards one day. He is currently considered the number one ranked prospect in the NHL.
I won’t bother to speculate on the second and third round picks that the Flyers acquired on Thursday. Anything can happen between now and the draft, including moving those picks or others for other assets, and teams breaking from the suggested rankings and drafting guys projected to go later. The 8th overall pick that came in the Carter deal is the one that is fun to think about. Although, there is no guarantee that that pick won’t be moved as well. My guess is the Flyers will keep the pick and draft defenseman Ryan Murphy. Murphy is a small-framed, smooth skater with an offensive bent to his game. He is highly regarded for his vision and decision making ability on the ice. Although less physical, his game has been compared to Ryan Ellis, defensive prospect of the Nahsville Predators. He is currently ranked 8th among all 2011 draft prospects by International Scouting Services, and if he is still there when the Flyers draft at eight, he will be a smart pick.
This is a complete changing of the guard. The Giroux and JVR era has officially begun. While I am impressed with the bold statement Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has made here, I don’t entirely agree with it. I do not think Mike Richards should have been traded. He brings so much more than just skill, which he has planty of, to the table. I feel like they have traded one problem, plenty of offense but no goalie, for the exact opposite problem. One fan I spoke with compared them to the Philadelphia Phillies-teams won’t be able to put up many points against them, but they won’t score many themselves. One thing is for certain. We are going to learn a lot about Claude Giroux and JVR next season. Giroux was able to develop with no pressure whatsoever under Richards and Carter. Now he will be counted on to replace Carter’s offense at least. I think the Flyers could have gotten the goalie that they neede without moving Richards, and that is what I would have done.