by PuckStopsHere on 05/10/12 at 02:38 PM ET
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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