That's the question of the year around these parts, and even though it's been about 12 months since those trades went down, there's really no set answer. Everybody has their own reasons for why it happened, and many of them border on outrageous and/or downright slanderous.
I don't choose to believe most of the outrageous stuff. Did Mike Richards and Jeff Carter like to party? Yes, of course they did. Claude Giroux beats people at beer pong with two broken wrists. Who cares?
There were hockey reasons for the trades, and I think Ian Laperriere summed it all up best Tuesday.
"Here, they were the face of the franchise, but there they're not, and I think it's a better fit for those two guys," Lappy said. "They're not the top players. They're second-line there. They have Kopitar and Brown in front of them.
"I said that when we made that trade last summer, I think it's a perfect deal for both teams, and it turned out to be great for them. They have a great role there, and same with Carter, went to Columbus, he was a tough player there. Didn't work for him there, and they send him to L.A. as secondary scoring and it worked perfect for them."
To this day, I disagree with trading those guys. I'm rare in that I still love both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and I won't lie and say my personal feelings about them don't play into why the trades bug me. But we could have seen the problems coming as early as last May -- before Ilya Bryzgalov's rights were even traded here. Everything from Bryz being a head case to none of it being worth it, at least in the immediate term.
If you're going to trade two guys like that, though, you should always do it the way the Flyers did. They got youth in return -- and not just youth, but youth that actually has the chance to surpass what they had in Richards and Carter. And as Lappy points out, they've opened up a star player to his true potential but getting rid of two road blocks ahead of him.
"The future's brighter, people," Lappy said. "They have to understand that Giroux became Giroux this year because the other two guys left. With those two guys in front of him, you just can't say 'Okay, Mike and Carts, you're going to be secondary scoring and we're going to leave the team to Giroux.'
"That's not the way it works. I don't think G would be who he is today. Maybe I'm wrong. That's my opinion, but I don't think he's the All-Star that G became this year if he doesn't have the ice time. This year he played a lot more than everybody else and that's what it takes when you want a guy to become a superstar on your team. If the other two guys had been here, I don't think it would have happened."
It's a great point. Giroux's average ice time increased 2:09 from 2010-11 to this past season, which may not seem like a ton. Consider though how he went from playing on a line with Jeff Carter and some mix of Nikolay Zherdev and James van Riemsdyk to a bonafide top line situation with Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. His power play ice time skyrocketed from just above three minutes per game to nearly four.
Giroux's unreal season was a direct result of Carter and Richards being traded. He would have improved with those two in orange and black, but not nearly as rapidly. And the future is still extremely bright despite the trades, thanks to fantastic returns on both players.
As Paul Holmgren has said, it's not as if the Flyers are any better or worse than they were a year ago at this time. (Hell, they had the exact same playoff finish -- they even won an extra game this past season.) They're just a little different.
That's the thing about winning the Stanley Cup. It's not a perfect science. The Bruins can blow a 3-0 series lead -- the least-clutchiest of all clutch things -- and then come back the following year to win three Game 7's en route to the title. The No. 3 seed in the East can play the President's Trophy winner one year while the No. 6 and No. 8 seeds can battle for the Cup the following year.
There's no magic potion here. The winning formula changes year-to-year based on a million different variables that we can't even begin to outline, especially since a vast majority of that formula is pure luck. Just ask the Bruins -- who just so happened to get one-goal wins in two of those Game 7's in 2011 -- all about that.
And that's why for the Flyers, it doesn't matter that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards now have a Stanley Cup. It might matter emotionally -- okay, no, it does matter emotionally -- but it's not an indictment of the organization or a failure in leadership or anything like that.
Guess Richards and Carter are good enough to get the job done after all. Really happy for those guys.. Sorry Philly— Joffrey Lupul (@JLupul) June 12, 2012
Congrats to the Kings!!!! LOL @ the Flyers.— Stacey S. (@Staceface11) June 12, 2012
Flyers gotta feel stupid after the Kings win the cup lol— Apollo DeLorean (@ApolloDeLorean) June 12, 2012
I’m going to spend the next 24 hours hammering Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider. Prepare yourselves.— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) June 12, 2012
Wondering if anyone has put Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren on suicide watch yet? Must be depressed watching Carter/Richards win cup for Kings.— David Johnson (@hockeyanalysis) June 12, 2012
It's not #lolflyers. No.
There's zero guarantee that the Flyers would have won the Cup with Carter and Richards and Simon Gagne on the team this season. Frankly, it's more coincidence than anything else that it happened this way.
That's not to say there wasn't a Cup in the Flyers' future had those trades not happened. That's not to say there's not a Cup or several in the Flyers future now, though, either. Paul Holmgren, Ed Snider and the Flyers made a decision last year to change this roster in a dramatic way and the future is damn bright following that decision.
That Jeff Carter and Mike Richards now have a Cup might sting, but it's nothing we should be mad about. It doesn't change a damn thing for the Philadelphia Flyers.