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The Puck Stops Here

How Did Holmgren Do?

The team that made the biggest wholesale changes last summer was probably the Philadelphia Flyers.  They traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in order to make salary cap room to acquire Ilya Bryzgalov, who was supposed to solve their goaltending problems.  Initially, I didn’t think the moves were very smart.  Now that the season has ended for the Flyers, we can better assess how successful the moves were.

In 2010/11, before these moves were made, the Flyers finished with 106 points.  They were first in the Atlantic Division and one point back of the East Conference lead.  In the playoffs they made it to the second round.  This season the Flyers had 103 points (a dropoff of three points) and this put them in fifth seed.  They again made the second round of the playoffs before their elimination.

With a look at those results, it isn’t clear that any significant progress either forward or backward was made.  Their regular season point total was approximately the same, though they slipped a bit in the standings and they went the same distance into the playoffs.

Let’s look at the individual moves to see how they worked out.  The most significant addition was the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov in goal.  Bryzgalov had an up and down year.  At times he got hot and looked very good and at other times his play was not so good.  In the regular season he posted a .909 saves percentage and a 2.48 GAA.  Those numbers are not particularly impressive.  It got worse in the playoffs.  Philadelphia survived a very high scoring first round and then lost in the second round.  Bryzgalov posted an .887 saves percentage and a 3.46 GAA.  Those numbers are lacklustre.  Philadelphia didn’t improve their goaltending this season.  It remains possible that they will into the future as Bryzgalov has a lot of talent and when he gets hot he is an outstanding NHL goalie.  He may have more hot streaks and less poor play into the future.  Bryzgalov is signed until 2020 and he is unlikely to be a top level goalie that long, although he is a good bet to have a strong year next year.

In order to make salary cap room, the Flyers made two big trades.  They sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles and Jeff Carter to Columbus.  Carter was traded to Los Angeles just before the trade deadline.  With Los Angeles looking like the best team of the playoffs so far it is easy to look at things and say that LA got better from the Flyers moves and this was done at the expense of the Flyers.  Neither Richards nor Carter had hugely successful regular seasons.  Richards posted 44 points and Carter 34 (in 55 games).  Neither has been among the top couple of Kings scorers in the playoffs - though Richards is third.  They have both provided solid two-way play and have helped to create depth in LA.  The Kings now have two legitimate scoring lines and opponents have been unsuccessful stopping them both.  In the regular season LA was a low scoring team because opponents could shutdown their one offensive line.  WIth the addition of Jeff Carter, that hasn’t been the case.

The Flyers did pick up some useful players in the trades including Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.  Simmonds and Voracek had successful regular seasons.  Each scored 49 points, though neither is as important to the core of their team as Carter or Richards is.  In the playoffs Voracek scored ten points and Schenn stepped forward with nine, making him the top scoring rookie in the playoffs to date.  The offence lost by the departure of Richards and Carter has thus far been replaced.  It is not clear that it will continue to be replaced into the future and even if it is their two-way play is unlikely to be replaced but it is possible.  This is particularly true if Brayden Schenn develops into a star, which is a strong possibility.

It is too early to make any final statements about Paul Holmgren’s moves in the summer of 2011.  It hasn’t solved their goaltending problems yet.  It hasn’t hurt them offensively yet.  It is possible that both of those situations could change into the future.  Those changes may be positive and they may be negative.  It looks as though Holmgren made a big step sideways last summer.  His team is no better or worse and the weakness he was trying to address has not been fixed.  He traded some big name forwards who are doing well in the playoffs but it hasn’t hurt his offence at least not yet.  He brought in some young talent, particularly Brayden Schenn, who have potential to be the best players involved in the deals in a few years.  After one year, it looks like Holmgren made headlines with his moves but hasn’t significantly changed the Philadelphia Flyers standing in the league.

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phillyd's avatar

You forget a really significant piece of the Carter trade which was the fact that they got Columbus’ first pick, 8th overall, which the Flyers used to take Couturier who blossomed into a very good 3rd line/defensive shut-down center over the course of the year and practically eliminated Malkin from the playoffs. You also fail to look at with both Richards and Carter gone, others in the team were allowed to step forward like Giroux and, potentially, JVR. I don’t think Giroux gets to where he is as a player if Carter and Richards are here.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 02:40 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I’m not fully convinced about Couturier becoming a significant NHLer.  He does have the draft pedigree to do it.  He could become a significant part of things in the future.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/10/12 at 02:46 PM ET

phillyd's avatar

I don’t disagree with that, however, by not putting that into the evaluation, you aren’t fully analyzing the trades. In my personal opinion from watching all year, I think Couturier will have a greater impact than Schenn, but Schenn was also hurt much of the year so that may be clouding my opinion of him. It is important to note, he didn’t make the team out of training camp, Couturier did.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 02:48 PM ET


This article also doesn’t take into consideration the loss of their captain and best defenseman. It also doesn’t talk about the youth of this team that was just as good as last years team. Team is young and only going to get better.

Some more in depth reads here:



Posted by Swells on 05/10/12 at 03:02 PM ET


“...practically eliminated Malkin from the playoffs.”
Posted by phillyd from New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 01:40 PM ET

Let’s dispel the myth about Coutourier shutting Malkin down:


from that article:
Corsi %
1. James Neal – 35.35
2. Evgeni Malkin – 33.82
3. Chris Kunitz – 27.02
4. Kristopher Letang – 19.63
5. Sidney Crosby – 17.66
6. Steve Sullivan – 14.25
7. Jordan Staal – 12.89
8. Tyler Kennedy – 12.85
9. Zbynek Michalek – 9.36
10. Deryk Engelland – 8.65

1. Matt Cooke – 1163
2. Tyler Kennedy – 1096
3. Jordan Staal – 1089
4. Deryk Engelland – 1045
5. Zbynek Michalek – 1024
6. Pascal Dupuis – 1020
7. Brooks Orpik – 970
8. Kristopher Letang – 968
9. Sidney Crosby – 954
10. Evgeni Malkin – 954
11. Steve Sullivan – 907
12. Chris Kunitz – 906
13. Craig Adams – 900
14. James Neal – 861

It shows Malkin & his line held possession but had a poor shooting percentage.
Malkin averaged 4.3 shots per game with 3 goals
Neal averaged 5.6 shot per game with 2 goals
Kunitz averaged 2.8 shots per game with 2 goals
This line averaged almost 13 shots per game - that’s not being shut down. If anyone shut them down, it was Bryzgalov.

Posted by NathanBC on 05/10/12 at 03:07 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Couturier making the team out of training camp was entirely CBA related.  If he didn’t, he would have had to be sent to the CHL and have spent the entire season there.  Schenn not making the team is also CBA related.  Philadelphia would have exceeded the salary cap with Schenn on their roster.  He came to the NHL as soon as salary cap space existed.

My point is which one made the team out of training camp is not an evaluation of either of them.  It evaluates their situation in the CBA world.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/10/12 at 03:07 PM ET


@NathanBC, if you watched all 6 games, you’d know that Couturier absolutely shut Malkin down at even strength. Is it really fair to take Malkin’s power play time into account? How many of that shots per game stat you mentioned came while those guys were on the power play? Did you see Malkin get any grade-A opportunities the entire series at even strength? Most of his shots were from far out or from bad angles on the outside.

@ThePuckStopsHere, I’m not really sure how you could say he’s not a legit NHL player, when he scored goals in 5 consecutive games at one point and scored a hat trick in the playoffs. Find me one NHL player who’s pulled both of those off in one season and wasn’t a “significant NHLer.” Also, he averaged just 14 minutes of playing time each night in the regular season, and was only playing about 8 or 9 for the first few months, a quarter of which was on the penalty kill.

Posted by Kyle on 05/11/12 at 02:29 AM ET


Posted by Kyle on 05/11/12 at 01:29 AM ET

Sometimes the eye test on players you like vs. players you don’t like isn’t total reality.


Malkin - 11/26 shots on the pp
Neal - 8/28 on the pp
Kunitz - 7/17 on the pp

Malkin - 2.5 es shots per game
Neal - 4 es shots per game
Kunitz - 1.7 es shots per game

Even strength scoring chances - Malkin vs. Coutourier:

At the end Coutourier was a -9 in es scoring chances for/against Malkin.

Game 5 where Coutourier was -8 was the game where Grossman first sat. Malkin had trouble getting around his body those first 4 games, much more trouble than Coutourier gave him.
Coutourier gave him trouble after the whistles by slowly running into him with his head down as if he didn’t realize where he was gliding, after every whistle.

Posted by NathanBC on 05/11/12 at 01:56 PM ET


NathanBC, you didn’t watch the series if you think Coutourier wasn’t effective. Why do you think Neal took a run at him? Why did Malkin keep throwing elbows his way?
Plus, you don’t put stats in perspective. Is 2.5 es shots for Malkin average for him? You don’t say. Are 3 goals average for him in a 6 game series? Again, I don’t know because no comparison is made.
Then you muddy the waters by trotting out even-strength chances between the two. What’s the point of that? Malkin is an offensive superstar; Coots is a 19-year old rookie whose job it was to limit Malkin’s chances…not be similarly offensive. It is an irrelevant statistic!
Then you arbitrarily conclude your piece by sulking. Coots did things after the whistle? Welcome to the NHL playoffs! Conveient that you’ve forgotten that’s exactly what Crosby & Malkin were doing as well!

Posted by Spooky from Chalfont on 05/12/12 at 10:18 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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