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Choose your own adventure - Chapter 3: A trip to the Final?

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Inching closer and closer to the new decade.

Dan Hinote #13, Markus Naslund #19

Previous Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2


Last time on “Choose your own adventure”...

“Here is where we reach the next turning point in our story. Now, in real life, Peter Forsberg would score 116 points and absolutely toast the league. However, do you think that his stellar season alone is enough to propel the Flyers to glory? Remember, the Avs had Forsberg and Joe Sakic. Do the Flyers need any more upgrades? Remember that they can only trade for guys who were actually traded in 1995-96.”...

The results are in, and out of the four options, you collectively chose to trade for...a forward! (with 41% of the vote). This is certainly an interesting scenario now...

So who could this have been? Well, as commenter Jared from DE pointed out, there were a number of forwards who were moved during the 1995-96 season. They include but are not limited to: Jari Kurri, Dave Andreychuk, Rick Tocchet, Markus Naslund, Jarome Iginla, Joe Nieuwendyk, Esa Tikkanen, and Brendan Shanahan. Let’s zoom in and take a look at those guys:

Below is a table containing their total points during the 1995-96 season across all teams:

Forwards traded in 1995-96

Name Age (at start of season) G A P
Name Age (at start of season) G A P
Shanahan 26 44 34 78
Tocchet 31 29 31 60
Andreychuk 32 28 29 57
Naslund 22 22 33 55
Kurri 35 18 27 45
Tikkanen 30 14 30 44
Nieuwendyk 29 14 18 32
Iginla 18 - - -

The top players on this list such as Shanahan would have been too expensive—Shanahan was traded for Chris Pronger, a top-tier, clear-cut #1 defenseman, so to nab him, the Flyers would have needed to give up a player like Desjardins and probably more. Nieuwendyk, though he only played in 52 games while he was holding out for a contract with Calgary, also counts in this ‘too expensive’ category, as he was traded for the rights to Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen, a checking center. Therefore, in order to trade for Nieuwendyk, the Flyers would need to give up a top tier prospect that they wouldn’t have had at this time (their best prospect at the time, in hindsight, was Vinny Prospal) or vice versa trade a future hall of fame veteran for Iginla, who wouldn’t play until the following season.

On the reverse side of this, I wouldn’t want to trade for Tikkanen or Kurri, as they weren’t particularly good by this point. Kurri, at the very least, was still an effective NHLer at the age of 35. He would still register 45 points in 1995-96, but after this he would never hit 40 again. Of course we have the value of foresight, but still, I’m not pulling the trigger on Jari Kurri.

This leaves our possible players at Andreychuk, Naslund, or Tocchet, and out of these three players, the Flyers trade for Markus Naslund. Why him, you ask? Well for me, it was a toss up between Andreychuk and Naslund. Tocchet would not only join the Flyers later on, but he was traded for Kevin Stevens, a decent middle-six wing. The Flyers could have gotten Tocchet for Jeff Friesen perhaps, but that doesn’t seem like an upgrade to me.

Andreychuk was traded for a 2nd round and a 3rd round pick, and Naslund was traded for Alek Stojanov, a winger with 7 career points in 100+ games. Even if the asking price on Naslund was slightly higher than that, this is a deal you take every time. So, hypothetically, let’s say that the Flyers acquire Naslund for Jim Montgomery and a 5th round pick in 1996. This is essentially for peanuts. It also means they never pick Jesse Boulerice (133rd overall).

The Flyers also traded Craig MacTavish for Dale Hawerchuck, so we’ll keep that too. Good thing we don’t have that pesky salary cap, eh? As was mentioned last episode, the Flyers never bother to sign Kjell Samuelsson as a free agent, and there were comments left as well for me to replace Pat Falloon with Mike Ricci, so I’ll humor this.

This leaves the Flyers line-up as follows:

Forwards - ‘96

LW C RW
LW C RW
John Leclair ‘C’ Peter Forsberg ‘A’ Rod Brind’Amour
Jeff Friesen Markus Naslund Mikael Renberg
Shjon Podein Jason Arnott Petr Sykora
Joel Otto or Chris Simon Dale Hawerchuck Mike Ricci

Defense + Goalie ‘96

LD RD
LD RD
Eric Desjardins ‘A’ Petr Svoboda
Kevin Haller Chris Therien
Steve Duchesne Karl Dykhuis
G
Ron Hextall
Garth Snow

That’s, uh ... one stacked team at forward. When you’ve got Dale Hawerchuck at 4C (could also swap him and Arnott), you know your team is good! However, the team is lacking slightly at defense. The top pair is very good and the 2nd pairing is okay, but certain lower end defensemen like Dykhuis scare me. Additionally, while Ron Hextall would play well in 1995-96 (2.17 GAA led the league, 0.913 SV%, 31 wins), he wouldn’t play as well again for the rest of his career, so the Flyers are in a bit of a “win now” mode regarding their goalies.

We will cover what happens to this Flyers team shortly, but first, let’s check in on our old pal Eric Lindros. As of 1995-96, he has played two full seasons in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators as they continued to finish bottom of the league. With Lindros, they aren’t the worst team in hockey, but they certainly aren’t making the playoffs. By 1995-96, Daniel Alfredsson has joined the Sens, and he and Lindros combine to be one of the best duos in hockey on one of its worst teams. By 1996-97, the real life Senators would make the playoffs as the seventh seed, but with Lindros added, they do one better and enter as the sixth. But, I digress.

Back to the start of the 1995-96 season. The Flyers, with their newly Naslund-ed lineup, tear through the league. In real life, the Flyers won the Atlantic Division and the entire Eastern Conference! Detroit and Colorado were the only two teams in real life that were better than them, but since the Avalanche are trash now, the Flyers become the 2nd best team in hockey. They top the Eastern Conference easily, and face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1 of the 1996 playoffs. Now, I wasn’t born yet when this series happened, but thanks to the Internet, I watched a recap of it, and it was a tough, physical series filled with fighting and Tampa players pretty deliberately trying to injure Eric Lindros. But, the Flyers still win this series easily, and move on to the 2nd round where they play the newly minted Florida Panthers as they did in real life. Now, they would lose this one as John Vanbiesbrouck, aided by the 90’s neutral zone trap, would steal this series in 6 games. However, with this lineup, do things change?...

While the Panthers were good defensively, and had an outstanding season from Vanbiesbrouck, the Flyers take this series from the Panthers in seven games. Remember, they have Peter Forsberg, the master of beating teams in the 90’s who employ the trap. Their style of play would have changed to adapt around Forsberg rather than Lindros, and because of this, I’ll give the Flyers the series. This means the Flyers face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Flyers split their season series with the Penguins that year, so no doubt this would have been a tightly contested series. They were, of course, led by Mario Lemeiux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis. However, their goaltending was worse than the Flyers. Both teams weren’t really known for their defense, so this series would really boil down to a shootout and who was going to score more.

This one could honestly go either way, but I am going to give this one, again, to the Flyers in seven games. Why you ask? Not because of favoritism or simply because I want the Flyers to win in my little hypothetical universe, but because the fact that the Flyers’ forwards are better defensively (on paper) than the Penguins. This series could very well go to the Penguins, but while the Penguins scored the most goals among Eastern Conference teams during the 1995-96 season (363), they also let in the most among playoff teams (284). The Flyers would almost certainly be a better offensive team than they were in real life, so therefore, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

This then takes us to the Stanley Cup Final. Without the Avs standing in their way, the Red Wings breeze through the Western Conference, so we get an early appearance of a Red Wings v Flyers final. Unfortunately though, things won’t go the Flyers’ way. The 1995-96 Red Wings were one of the best teams in NHL history, and without the goaltending of Patrick Roy to stand in their way, the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup in 1996. They are just too deep to handle, and Ron Hextall is unfortunately not Patrick Roy.

Though, despite this, the Flyers’ chances at a cup run are not dead. They still have a core led by Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, John Leclair, and Eric Desjardins. With the 1996 NHL draft upcoming, and the 96-97’ season looming, I once again turn control over to you, the readers. Below I have provided a list of options for things the Flyers could do heading into this year. Choose wisely, and make sure to comment your answer if the poll does not show up on mobile. Additionally, I will be closely monitoring the comments for your ideas. Who knows, maybe I’ll make one of them come to life…

The poll will close in 5 days:

Poll

Chapter 3: What should the Flyers do?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Make a trade for a big name player or sign one in free agency - Skater
    (74 votes)
  • 47%
    Make a trade for a big name player or sign one in free agency - Goalie
    (166 votes)
  • 21%
    Make a couple smaller trades or smaller moves in free agency (includes skaters and goalies)
    (76 votes)
  • 3%
    Offload a piece for a higher draft pick
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Run it back again as is
    (15 votes)
  • 1%
    Rebuild
    (5 votes)
347 votes total Vote Now