... to be determined in the summer, as they once again try to structure a team based around immovable contracts.
We're all pretty angry and confused right now,and understandably so. I know I've been the guy who tries to keep us all in check with regard to negativity, etc., but I'm stepping outside of that role for the time being and laying it all on the line.
I've been a fan for a long time. When I first started going to games as a youngster, Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber were still on the team, Brad McCrimmon was a rookie, Mark Howe had just arrived from Hartford via trade, and a promising young goaltender named Pelle Lindbergh was waiting in the wings. In other words, I've seen a lot of Flyers hockey. I saw both first round exits and Stanley Cup runs in the 1980s. I stayed loyal as the team struggled to adapt to the league's Russian and European influx in the early 1990s. (Believe me, in 1991, NO ONE wanted to play here.) I saw the Lindros era in all of its glory and disappointment. I could go on, and I will... after the jump.
Since their 1997 Cup Finals appearance - even since the 1989 Russian Invasion - the one constant flaw I've seen in the Flyers (aside from goaltending) is an inability to keep up with the modern game. They were too late in getting Russian players; by the time they had a chance, all the good ones were gone and the Flyers were left with Andrei Lomakin and Slava Butsayev. They were too overzealous in acquiring Eric Lindros, to the point that they literally traded the farm to get him, and thus had no prospects or picks left to trade later so as to build the team around him. They did not take the time to analyze the rules enough (or something) after the lockout ended, so they signed a bunch of slow defensemen who got eaten alive by the time other teams got used to playing in "The New NHL." And they were so desperate to compete after the horrific 2006-07 season that they began their ugly trend of signing players to long-term deals with No-Trade or No-Movement Clauses.
The Flyers have some decisions to make in the summer. No matter how you slice it, it is very likely that a big-name player currently on the team will not be here next season. The team needs cap money and flexibility; they have too many centers and need wingers and goalies; the list goes on as to WHY one of the team's marquee guys will be elsewhere next season. Conventional wisdom says that Jeff Carter is most likely to go; he has a $5 million cap hit but will be an RFA after the 2010-11 season. He will fetch good value in a trade since he is young and has a lot of upside. Perhaps most importantly, he does not have the NTC or NMC of a Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, or Simon Gagne. Carter is the easiest to move out of all of these players and therefore should be the guy to go... right?
Wrong, I say. A million times wrong. Just because a particular decision is the easiest doesn't make it right.
If the Flyers had their choice and could move ANY player, I would hope they somehow get Briere off their hands. I'm not going to make a statistical argument as to why - I'll leave that to Geoff and Mario. But in my estimation, Briere has become obsolete here. Let me explain.
Before I proceed, a disclaimer: I realize that the actual trade of Danny Briere is highly unlikely. Still, a man can dream. You may share my opinions or you may not. This post is just for discussion purposes and is not intended to suggest that Briere is a bad guy or that the Flyers would even be able to trade him. That said, read on.
Remember way back in the 2007-08 season when we got Danny? He was counted on to be one of "the" guys on offense, as well as one of the locker room leaders of a young, up-and-coming team. (Remember, he had been one of the co-captains in Buffalo, along with Chris Drury.) When Danny scored, the team did well. When he struggled, the team struggled. (Remember him getting booed during the 10-game losing streak?) But at the end of the day, he was the "man" and more often than not he played like it.
As good a year as that was for Mr. Briere, a problem arose for him: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter emerged as true talents for the team. But we began to see other problems as well - some of them long-standing, some of them new. I honestly think these things have been dragging him down and possibly even causing issues in the locker room. But more on that later.
First, let me explain why I would much rather trade Briere than Carter:
1. Tomorrow is already here: Briere was called upon to help the team be competitive while Richards and Carter developed into offensive weapons. But they have done so already. And, for the past two seasons, Carter has been the go-to guy for scoring goals. Granted, Briere was hurt last year, but Carter has taken his place as the premier offensive weapon on the team. Speaking of injuries:
2. Durability: Before Carter's foot fracture, he played something like 286 straight games for the Flyers. I wouldn't say Danny is injury-prone, but he's certainly missed his share of time over the course of his career. In fact, his long absence and subsequent return from the LTIR during the 2008-09 season led to the losses of Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen, and the gain of David Sloane. In fairness to Danny, it's not his fault that Homer totally screwed up the salary cap. But I'd rather have a healthy, durable, young player than an older one who has had a couple of long-term injuries.
3. Two-Way Play: Carter has emerged as a solid face-off man this year, and has consistently been a strong player in both ends of the ice. Briere was shifted to the wing after one year with the Flyers. He is an offensive dynamo when he is on his game, but back-checking has never been his forte. Even Claude Giroux does better in the corners than Briere. Again, I'd rather have someone who is effective all over the rink.
4. Too many cooks spoil the chemistry-broth: Briere was brought in for his offensive skills and his leadership. As I said above, he was a co-captain with Chris Drury in Buffalo and was an Alternate here. Now, he is neither of those things. After last year, the Flyers determined that they did not have enough veteran leadership so they went out and got Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere. Furthermore, correct me if I am wrong but Carter is an Alternate as well. I remember an article from December, when the Flyers were struggling; one of the players said that "Richie and Carts are going around, talking to the guys, telling them to stay loose..." Not Richards and Briere, not even Richards and Pronger... Richards and Carter.
5. Copying the Penguins: The Pens are successful with a team-drafted triumvirate of centers: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal. Why can't the Flyers be in the same mold with Richards, Carter, and Giroux?
6. Removing the air of invincibility: Some have suggested that the core / NTC players half-ass it here because they know they aren't going anywhere. If the Flyers could somehow trade Briere, that illusion would be gone, just like a train. That might be just what the other guys need to keep them on their toes.
7. Money talks: If the Flyers trade Briere, they can use his newly-vacated cap space to sign free agents, extend current contracts, and have additional cushioning in case the salary cap goes down.
8. A shift in needs: The Flyers got Briere because they needed someone who could score reliably while their younger players developed. The team doesn't need that anymore. They now require a reliable goaltender who can play well in this system while Ericsson et. al. are developing. So yes, this entire post is my extremely long-winded way of saying that the Flyers should trade Danny Briere for Tomas Vokoun; they should NOT trade Jeff Carter.
To close, I want to return to point 4 for a moment and tie that in with my feelings about locker room issues. Perhaps they are completely unrelated, but I cannot help but wonder if Briere's being "passed over" as a leader on the team doesn't have him a little upset. He is no longer the offensive star, and he is no longer needed to lead. Yet he knows that he is firmly entrenched here, what with his NTC and long-term deal. Plus, whenever he does one of his mini-windmill goal celebrations, I can't help but wonder if he still views himself as the star of the team. Maybe he is jealous / resistant to guys like Pronger / egotistical? God only knows for sure. But SOMETHING bad is going on in that locker room. It may have nothing to do with Danny Briere. I only picked on him because, as his role has changed over the years, the team's fortunes have reversed. That's just one man's opinion.
My main point is that the Flyers need to get with the times if they hope to compete next season and beyond. In order to do that, they need to have a stud goalie in place while their prospects develop. In order to do THAT, they need to move one of their large contracts. I feel that, if they could somehow acquire Vokoun for Briere, a number of the team's issues would be ameliorated.