The unthinkable has happened: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded. My thoughts keep returning to the same point: Ed Snider has turned into Al Davis, the once great but now senile and meddling owner of the Oakland Raiders. It’s the only explanation.
Sure, the Flyers got good value for Carter and his 11 year contract–which hadn’t even started yet–in the 8th overall pick, a 3rd round pick and the highly promising Jakub Voracek. And the return for Richards and the 9 years left on his contract was an equally good haul, top prospect Brayden Schenn, solid winger Wayne Simmonds and a 2nd rounder. But obviously that’s not the problem. The problem is that these trades have set the franchise back years, elite players in their primes were traded for non-elite players. The former are of course, much harder to find than the latter. Cornerstone pieces to winning a Cup now lie in Columbus and Los Angeles.
And we’re left wondering why. Richards and Carter were key pieces to a team that got to an Eastern Conference Final with Martin Biron in goal, and were the face of the franchise when they got to the Stanley Cup Finals with Michael Leighton between the pipes. Clearly all that was needed was a goalie, not the subtraction of one of the best snipers and one of the best two way forwards in the league. But gone they are, and I have only one person to blame: Ed Snider. I’m reluctant to say it, but it’s the only way, based on two very telling things.
The acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov was all Snider’s doing, which I’m fine with. He made it clear immediately after the playoffs, and at the awards ceremony he said “it had to be done. I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston.” So clearly Snider was the force behind it. And who was the force behind making the cap space to fit Bryzgalov and his 9 year, $51 million contract? The guy who said “we can make anything work, even with the cap.” That would be Ed Snider.
I could have lived with trading just Carter. It just felt like eventually he would be dealt. He was injured and thus ineffective in the playoffs too many times, and trading him would go a long way to replenishing a drained pipeline of talent. I would have let Ville Leino walk, dumped the overrated Matt Carle for whatever draft picks and/or prospects they could and begrudingly move Kris Versteeg. The Flyers would still be a top contender without those three. Heck, the defense would be better without Carle, who has shown that without Chris Pronger by his side he is a liability. It’s a joke that he got Norris Trophy votes. It looks like Pronger is out to start the season, but that doesn’t seem to be a consideration.
What was taken into consideration it seems is that Richards and Carter, along with their notorious night life, rubbed some of the veterans (read: Pronger) the wrong way. Already long gone from the Main Line Clique are Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Upshall. If Scott Hartnell’s contract was more appealing, he might have been gone too. Thursday was the final clearing out of the problem children in the Flyers locker room, at the expense of them also being the faces of the franchise and the future of the team. Because after these trades, the Flyers just took huge steps backwards. Gone is Jeff Carter, one of the best even strength scorers in the league and a guy who’s contributions in his own zone go relatively unnoticed. Gone is the captain of the team, Mike Richards, one of the best defensive forwards in the league who more than holds his own offensively. It boggles my mind that you would trade the captain of your team because of off-ice issues. Why did you make him captain of the team to begin with? Richards’ handling of the media, which was magnified this off-season, appears to be the tipping point. Which says a lot about the franchise in a negative way, to address the issue by getting rid of Richards. The media are a bunch of clowns.
These leaves the Flyers dangerously thin at defense down the middle. Briere is terrible in his own zone and at face-offs, he has negative defensive value. The newly acquired Brayden Schenn will be a rookie. Blair Betts and Darrell Powe are 4th line PKers. Who is going to take the ice late in the third in a tie game against Crosby or Malkin? Against Ovechkin? Against Stamkos and St. Louis? As of now the answer is Claude Giroux, and that’s not getting anyone excited. Giroux is a fine defender but he was at most the #2 guy, now he’ll be asked to go up against top lines unless someone else is brought in. And he’s not the grinding physical presence that made Richards so effective. And why did this happen? Because the owner didn’t like their attitude? Then why make Richards the captain when Pronger, Timmonen and Briere, who served and served well as captains before coming to the Flyers, were on the team? Again, it reeks of the powers that be stepping in and acting on a whim.
This is the kind of set the franchise back three steps move to placate my feelings meddling that Al Davis does. This is drafting JaMarcus Russell #1, this is giving up a 1st rounder on a team in need of top young talent for 30 year old Richard Seymour, this is signing Larry Brown and Desmond Howard after they had the game of their nothing special careers in the Super Bowl. This is reviewing your hand picked coach’s game plan on Friday and then ordering wholesale changes in strategy, which Davis constantly does. And this is done to loyal soldiers, which is what Holmgren is to Snider.
The other thing that convinces me that Holmgren not only didn’t make these trades but that he was opposed to them this video of him choking up when asked about the trades. He’s as upset as I am at this.
“I probably wouldn’t have signed the deal, actually, if I knew I was going to be traded. When I signed that extension, I wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the rest of my career.” – Mike Richards
Well, in the wake of completely reshaping the team, there’s only one thing left to do. As Al Davis is fond of saying:
Just win baby.