Yesterday, Travis gave us a list of the top five stories on Broad Street Hockey this year, based on the amount of web traffic that each one pulled in. It was entertaining and also a bit sad because I miss Chris Pronger a lot and he showed up a few times on said list.
However, 2013 was quite an interesting year for the Flyers, and we figure that there are more things to talk about from it than just the things mentioned there. So we've compiled another list of the top Flyers stories from the year of 2013. Enjoy!
(Note: yes, most year-end lists like this are typically released before the year itself ends, but, uh, what if Claude Giroux was traded to Edmonton yesterday for Taylor Hall and two first-round picks? Then it'd have been meaningless. So we waited for today. You're all welcome.)
* Peter Luukko resigns as president of Comcast-Spectacor and the Flyers, out of absolutely nowhere
* Steve Downie returns to Philadelphia in a Halloween trade, sparking the creation of maybe the Flyers' best line of the season with Matt Read and Sean Couturier
* Danny Briere is bought out from the final two years of his contract after six mostly-good years in Philadelphia
And now, your Top 10 list.
10. Scott Laughton emerges as an elite forward prospect
The Flyers' pick of Oshawa Generals forward Scott Laughton in the 2012 draft raised a few eyebrows, with the team already having plenty of good young centers and a lack of prospects on defense and with Laughton being a bit of an off-the-board pick. But after not making the Flyers out of training camp in January (and then again in October), he's justified the pick and then some by spending his year carving up the Ontario Hockey League in just about every way possible. He's putting up nearly two points per game this season in the OHL, he's garnered tons of praise for his efforts in all three zones, and he's doing stuff like this. Laughton was even given the huge honor of captaining Canada's World Junior Championships team which is currently competing in Malmo. He'll almost certainly be in Philadelphia next year -- finding where he'll fit in is tough, but his play this year will probably force the Flyers' hand.
9. Ron Hextall comes home, takes over as assistant general manager
One of the more interesting events of the offseason was former Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall leaving the job of assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings ... to join the Flyers in basically the exact same role. With Hextall's stock rising among potential front-office-job candidates, it was peculiar that he would leave a team that's doing as well as the Kings in order to make what is really a lateral move for him. Naturally, the speculation has since turned to whether he'll become the next general manager for the Flyers whenever Paul Holmgren retires or is removed. No matter what, though, it's nice to see Hexy back in Philly, where he belongs.
8. Flyers bring Simon Gagne home, then don't re-sign him
In trading a fourth-round pick for Simon Gagne in late February, the Flyers brought back a fan favorite and appeared to mend a relationship that looked like it had been irreparably broken thanks to some bad feelings stemming from Gagne's 2010 trade to Tampa Bay. Gagne did a pretty good job in a top-9 role for the Flyers last year, and it sounded for a while like he was going to be back with the team this season. Unfortunately, that fell through in September following the team's attempt to acquire Dan Cleary, and it left Gagne angry with the organization again. Sad way to see his Flyers career end.
7. Chris Pronger's concussion struggles continue, as Paul Holmgren says he won't play again
Chris Pronger's trouble with post-concussion symptoms dating back to his October 2011 injury have been well-chronicled, and interviews this year with everyone from Pronger's brother Sean to Paul Holmgren to Pronger himself make it sound like there's just about no chance that the future Hall of Famer is going to play hockey again.
6. Vincent Lecavalier signed by the Flyers in free-agency stunner
Longtime Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier was bought out by his team in late June, with seven years left on the massive extension he had signed before the 2009-10 season. In one of the biggest shockers of the 2013 offseason, it was the Flyers who made the move to bring Lecavalier in, signing him to a five-year, $22.5 million deal and bringing on another good scorer to the team's already-stacked top-9.
5. Claude Giroux becomes the franchise's 19th captain, then signs here for eight more years
With Pronger's aforementioned concussion problems being evident, the Flyers rewarded an MVP-worthy performance from Claude Giroux in the 2011-12 season by naming him the team's 19th captain in team history shortly after the lockout ended. After another really strong season in 2013 where he put up exactly a point per game, the Flyers then decided to take no chances with their franchise player and signed him to an eight-year, $66.2 million contract extension on the first day of free agency, which will keep him as a Flyer until at least the summer of 2022.
Giroux's received some flack in parts of both the shortened 2013 season as well as the 2013-14 season due to some cold streaks here and there, but he's an outstanding player who produces at an elite level despite being the focal point of the other team's defensive efforts night in and night out. Plus he does things like this. He's deserving of both the 'C' and the contract he was given in the offseason, and it's awesome to know he's here for the next decade.
4. Flyers trade for Steve Mason, who has been ... good?
With the Ilya Bryzgalov experiment on the verge of heading straight off the rails (more on that soon!), Paul Holmgren made one move at the trade deadline to try and set himself up for the future at the goaltender position. He made a trade with Columbus for then-24-year old Steve Mason, the 2009 Calder Trophy winner who had been mostly quite bad in the four years since then. Holmgren made the trade, signed Mason to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million for this season, and watched him play well in his seven games with the Flyers last April. For the most part, though, everyone -- us included -- just kind of laughed about the plan and was quite skeptical that it would work out in the long-term.
But a funny thing has happened since then: Mason is still playing well. He's put up a .922 save percentage in 30 starts this season, he's been the Flyers best player so far, and he's taken control of what was meant to be a goaltending competition between him and Ray Emery. It's anyone's guess what will happen from here, with half a season left to go and with Mason being eligible to sign a new contract beginning today, but so far Holmgren's gamble has come up aces -- and quite frankly, with the way the rest of the team struggled in October, it may have saved his job.
3. The Ilya Bryzgalov experiment comes to an end
Almost two years to the day after the Flyers traded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and gave Ilya Bryzgalov a nine-year contract extension, Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren decided that enough was enough and gave what was (at the time) the largest buyout in NHL history to Ilya Bryzgalov, sending him on his way out of the city. Bryzgalov's two years in Philadelphia were marked by spotty and ultimately inadequate performance, which was simply not good enough for someone making as much money as he was. In Holmgren's own words, the contract was a "costly mistake", and with the lockout opening up two compliance buyouts to remove bad contracts from the books, it was a move the Flyers almost had to make.
2. Fred Shero finally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
It took far, far longer than it should have and it's a damn shame that Shero himself wasn't around for it having passed away more than two decades ago, but the only coach to lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup was finally tabbed for the Hockey Hall of Fame last July and was inducted in November. An innovator in every sense of the word, he was inducted into the Builders category, and his induction was marked by fantastic speeches by his captain, Bobby Clarke, and his son, Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
1. Peter Laviolette fired three games into the 2013-14 season, Craig Berube takes over as head coach
Everyone who saw the Flyers' disappointing lockout-shortened 2013 campaign knew that Peter Laviolette would enter the 2013-14 season on the hot seat, but making a coaching change three games into the season probably wasn't something that anyone could have seen coming. Because these are the Flyers, though, that's exactly what happened, as Laviolette got the ax the day after a loss in Carolina sent the team to 0-3 and Craig Berube was promoted from assistant coach to head coach.
The move was widely seen as an impulsive panic move by Holmgren, who had surely been feeling the heat for his team's underperformance in the calendar year of 2013. However, after a rough month of October that saw the Flyers sitting in dead last in the NHL for a bit, it looks like the Chief has started to right the ship. The Flyers have gone 20-13-4 in his time as head coach, and despite a 1-7-0 start, the Flyers enter the new year sitting in a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division. Berube deserves credit for what he's done with this team, and he's got them heading into 2014 playing some pretty good hockey.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what you thought were the biggest Flyers stories of the year in the comments.