GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts on the bench during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The moves have already been made. Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina were added to the blueline well in advance of the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline, and despite plenty of rumors to the contrary, Paul Holmgren stayed quiet on Monday. He didn't trade for Rick Nash. He didn't trade James van Riemsdyk. He did absolutely nothing.
That's a very, very good thing.
I think we get a little discombobulated with the difference between listening to what's out there and actually making a move. The Flyers are always one of those teams that's always in on trade discussions for just about every single player that hits the market. That's extremely unnerving, probably because we're still dealing with the post-traumatic stress of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter getting traded within the same hour.
Every time we hear that the Flyers might be interested in Rick Nash or that teams are trying to pry James van Riemsdyk away from them, we get scared. Probably rightfully so. But there's a distinct difference between listening to what other teams have to say and actually pulling the trigger on a trade. I'm happy Holmgren's in on trade talks for Rick Nash or that he'll listen to offers on van Riemsdyk. You never know what could happen, right?
Listen to these quotes from Paul Holmgren today, though. They are extremely rational.
On fielding calls regarding James van Riemsdyk:
We received some calls about some of our players, with some scenarios that we talked about. But nothing really made sense for us in the short term or in the long term. I think we've stated here all along that anything we do needs to make sense both ways for us, and nothing really came up. We made our moves a couple weeks ago and I think adding the size and experience on defense that we were looking for with the absence of Chris Pronger for the rest of this year... we felt good with our group. We really didn't go into this trade deadline, since we made those two deals for Pavel and Nicklas, we didn't really go in with anything that really felt we needed to do. We like our team and we were quite comfortable coming out of it like we did without doing anything more today.
On how the team looks post-deadline:
Absolutely not. Not at all. A couple weeks ago we felt we lacked some things on our back end just because of the absence of Chris, and we addressed those issues without giving up anyone off our team. I like our team. I think we're a team that obviously the group for the most part has been together all year. We've put some young guys into the lineup over the course of the year, and we like our team. We like the direction we're heading and we didn't want to do anything to disrupt anything long-term for sure.
He's already made his big moves. Homer has blown up the team once and he's committed to the new path. We can agree or disagree with that path, but it's extremely clear that he's not going to trade away Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier or Claude Giroux or likely even Ilya Bryzgalov. (Not that he could if he wanted to on the last one, y'know?)
Are the Flyers a Stanley Cup contender this season? Who knows, really. I see a team that's still lacking a bit on defense, and goaltending that clearly can't make up for that relative weakness. I see a team that's been surprising up front for several reasons -- the contributions of the rookies on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck, the play of guys like Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, the offensive shock to the system that is Max Talbot, the speed of Claude Giroux's ascent from really, really good to utterly elite, among other things.
Overall, I see a team that's still growing. I see a goaltender that surely isn't as bad as he's played, but one who is still getting used to playing under Peter Laviolette, in the Eastern Conference and in Philadelphia. I see a bunch of rookies who, as impressive as they've been, could easily go cold (ahem, Matt Read) and could easily fold in the postseason. (There's nothing wrong with this. It's the downside of relying on so many rookies, but it's not a bad thing in the long-run.)
Could the Flyers have gone all-in with moves to try and win a Cup this season? Sure, they absolutely could have. They could have sacrificed the future for Rick Nash, offered up some ridiculous combination of youth for a top pairing defenseman somewhere perhaps. But they didn't. They made a few relatively minor moves -- and given the conditions of this trade deadline, probably overpaid a bit in those two minor moves for Kubina and Grossman.
Paul Holmgren filled a few short-term needs, giving the team a chance in the postseason this year. Being realistic about things, though, the Flyers best chance at winning the Cup as currently constructed isn't this season. It's in the next two or three years and beyond as the defense (hopefully) gets sorted out, the rookies get better, the team continues to mesh, Ilya Bryzgalov settles in here and Claude Giroux gets even better at hockey (if that's possible).
Holmgren did exactly what he had to do: He gave up enough to bring in pieces that give this team a chance this year, but he didn't sacrifice what the organization is building to go all-in this year. It's a bit of a shift in organizational philosophy I think -- not that they don't want to win the Stanley Cup this year, but in recognizing that there's a better chance to win at some point in the next five years than there is right this minute.
It's smart. It's calm. It's rational. And it gives us all a reason to just relax a bit and perhaps enjoy the ride.
Well, at least until the draft in June.