Kudos to the Flyers for never settling for mediocrity. While some franchises would be happy to just sit back and count its revenue, a la Scrooge McDuck, the Broad Street Bullies always try to better its Stanley Cup chances. Over the years, management has sought every avenue and turned over many stones, fully illustrating its unending desire to ascend the to peak of the NHL. Unfortunately, for every spring since 1975, all the moves have amounted to the same outcome....utter disappointment.
Yet, hindsight is always so crystal clear; it provides fans the opportunity to decipher whether a specific move worked to better their beloved franchise. Flash back to June 23, 2011. In separate deals, GM Paul Holmgren traded two cornerstone players: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. In both cases, the return on investment was prospects and draft picks. We all know what happens when a proven commodity is shipped out of town for youthful talent and promise. In the world of sports, it can go one of two ways: crash and burn or epic heist.
In retrospect, it would be hard to find anyone willing to debate that Columbus fleeced the Flyers in acquiring Jeff Carter. His tenure with the Blue Jackets rivals William Hung's singing career in that it was not only short, but provided absolutely no positive effect from being launched. After a brief and dismal performance in Ohio, Carter was ultimately given a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to be reunited with his friend, and Sea Isle wingman, Richards.
In the deal with Columbus, Holmgren procured an up and coming youngster, Jacob Voracek, a first round draft choice (Sean Couturier), and a selection in the third (Nick Cousins). Based strictly on the acquisition of talent alone, it is safe to say the Flyers are more than happy with how things have progressed.
As the draft approached, the Flyers were salivating on having a top 10 draft choice to garner an impact player. As the clock wound down and the Flyers were next on the big board, one prospect peaked their interest: Sean Couturier. Projected to possibly be the number one overall selection in the preseason polls, the center dealt with a strong bout of mononucleosis and saw his stock drop. Scouts turned their attention to other talent who were making headlines. The eyes of management would get wider and drool would increase with the anticipation that Couturier would be there for them to snatch.
To the surprise of no one who witnessed his development in junior hockey, the young 19 year-old center broke the season as part of the Flyers opening night roster. Even from the earliest moments of the season, Couturier played a pivotal part to the success of the franchise. Who can forget him being on the ice in the latter seconds in the season kick-off against the Bruins as the Flyers clung to a one goal lead? That would prove to be just a glimpse into the season's full body of work. With each passing game, he accepted and excelled more defensive responsibilities and even showcased his untapped offense, accumulating 13 goals while getting most of his ice time on the third and fourth lines. There is little doubt that he will continue to improve and be an integral component for the foreseeable future. (Unless he ends up getting traded like Richards and Carter, who were once viewed in the same light.)
However, even with his presence in the lineup, the Flyers once again found themselves getting a head start on the golf links as the team faltered in a lackluster second round series loss to the much hated, New Jersey Devils. The club could simply not overcome its true shortcomings and looked like it needed Life Alert. Unfortunately, pushing the button and yelling, "Help. I've fallen and I can't get up," did not magically improve the holes on defense and the swiss cheese it had suited up in net.
Credit GM Paul Holmgren for constantly tinkering with the team, all in the effort to improve its' core. While the book of a possible return by concussed Chris Pronger sadly closed, the team tried in earnest to pry perennial Norris Trophy candidate, Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators. With the hopes of all Flyers fans on high, the offer sheet ultimately proved to be like the career of Bruce Hoffort... a pipe dream. Even coming into this shortened season, the Flyers are still trying to patch up the blue line and are counting on Ilya Bryzgalov finding his game amongst the stars in the humungous galaxy.
So, the big question is: Did the Flyers select the right player with the #8 pick? What if, instead, it chose a player who is considered to be a franchise defenseman and not only filled a void in the lineup, but had a clear cut heir to the defensive throne? As we all know, with the very next selection, the Boston Bruins chose prized prospect Dougie Hamilton. He is expected to see substantial ice time in a powerful lineup and more than likely learning from the tutelage of Zdeno Chara. Wouldn't it have been nice for Kimmo Timonen to offer his experiences to the Toronto native?
As we get ready to go into hyperdrive in what will no doubt be a wild 48 game sprint, the goal has not wavered. The Flyers and its fans will never be happy until the Stanley Cup returns to Broad Street. Looking at the current make up of the roster, are the Flyers truly better off with Sean Couturier or would they have been better off with Dougie Hamilton?