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Choose your own Adventure - Chapter 4: The Rematch

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The Flyers face a familiar foe, while adding a less familiar face.

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins
our savior
Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Previous Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3


Last week on “Choose your own adventure…”

“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…”

With nearly 50% of the vote, you have chosen to make one big splash in the market for a goalie! However, unlike last episode, this player does not necessarily need to have been moved during the 1996-97 season.

Ed Belfour was suggested in the comments, and interestingly he was moved during the 1996-97 season (traded from Chicago to San Jose). However, Belfour is not the guy whom I am interested in acquiring. Though in reality he was traded the season prior, I am thinking of trading for Patrick Roy. His name was mentioned in the comments on Chapter 2 a fair number of times, and I think he gives the Flyers the best chance of winning. However, before making this trade, the subject of his career must be addressed.

In the sense of fairness, I will assume that Roy and Montreal coach Mario Tremblay still fall out in that famous 11-1 loss. However, in this instance, Roy is not traded to Colorado. This is due to the Avalanche not being the powerhouse that they were due to not making the Lindros trade while they were in Quebec. Instead, Roy simply sits out the rest of the 1995-96 season waiting for a trade. I will assume that Roy’s relationship with Montreal could not be resolved, since I won’t give Tremblay any credit where it is not due. He and Roy were known for their disputes, and reportedly Tremblay “regularly mock[ed] Roy’s English speaking abilities”. Not only is that appalling behavior, but it’s just plaid rude. I can see why Roy would never want to play for Montreal after what Tremblay had done to him.

Around this time, both with and without Roy, Montreal were a bubble playoff team at best and by the end of the decade, they would frequently miss the playoffs. Therefore, I think it would be safe to assume that regardless of their falling out, the Canadiens might have been looking to trade Roy anyway. Due to the falling out, as we know, Roy was traded for essentially nothing in hindsight. The return on him from the Avalanche was Andrei Kovalenko (a 3rd line forward at best), Martin Rucinsky (had his moments but was mainly a middle-six forward) and Jocelyn Thibault (average to eh goalie). However, due to the Canadiens not panic-trading him in this situation, the ask will be slightly higher than that. So what could the Flyers give up in this situation?

Well, in terms of draft picks, the Flyers have a first (15th overall) from the Yuskevich trade, and additionally, due to Pat Faloon being ousted for Mike Ricci in the last episode, the Flyers have their own first round pick this draft. This pick will be #25 overall due to the Flyers replacing the Avalanche as the runner-up in 1995-96. However, two things will happen before these picks come into play. Firstly is that the 15th overall pick will be included in the trade with Montreal for Patrick Roy. Secondly, is that the Flyers will swap picks with the Avalanche, moving up to #24 overall and including Dale Hawerchuck in the deal as a sweetener. 1996-97 would prove to be Hawerchuck’s last season, so the Flyers aren’t missing out on too much. This means that Dainius Zubrus heads to Montreal with that #15 overall pick, and that Danny Briere heads to the Flyers with the #24 overall pick. The only other pick of note that occurs at the draft is that the Flyers land Mark Parrish (with Colorado’s real life 3rd round pick).

So who heads to Montreal along with the 1st round pick? Well if we are matching what his return was in reality, then Garth Snow, Jeff Friesen, and Shjon Podein would be a decent match given the Flyers also included a first round pick. This is significant given that Zubrus was a very touted prospect at the time. Right away, Roy becomes the de-facto #1 starter with Hextall as the backup, giving the Flyers very solid goaltending right off the bat.

However, the Flyers also made other additions. They signed Janne Niinimaa to his entry level deal for this season, so we will plug him into the roster for Karl Dykhuis. The Flyers also made the Paul Coffey trade this year, so we will keep this. Away goes Kevin Haller and their first round pick in 1997, but in comes a hall-of-famer. To make up for the forward trades, I will call up Vinny Prospal from the AHL, and slot Danny Briere into the lineup despite the fact he returned to Juniors that year.

So therefore, the roster at the moment looks like this (with age in parenthesis):

Forwards ‘96-’97

LW C RW
LW C RW
John Leclair ‘C’ (27) Peter Forsberg ‘A’ (23) Mikael Renberg (24)
Petr Sykora (21) Rod Brind’Amour (26) Markus Naslund (23)
Danny Briere (19) Jason Arnott (22) Mike Ricci (25)
Joel Otto (35) Vinny Prospal (21) Trent Klatt (26)

Defense and Goalies ‘96-’97

LD RD
LD RD
Eric Desjardins ‘A’ (27) Petr Svoboda (30)
Paul Coffey (35) Chris Therien (25)
Steve Duchesne (31) Janne Niinimaa (21)
G Backup
Patrick Roy (31) Ron Hextall (32)

Now of course, Danny Briere isn’t immediately the Briere we would come to know and love, but even at 19, I would wager he could have played in the NHL. Modern day point translation figures (thanks to Hockey Abstract) have ‘The Q’ at 0.25, meaning that every point scored in the QMJHL (where Briere played) is worth 0.25 NHL points as of 2017. In 1996-97, Briere scored 130 points for Drummondville, meaning around 32.5 points by modern standards. I’ll lower this for fairness, due to these point translations being based on this decade. Though, despite this, to think Briere would have been good for around 25-30 points as a rookie isn’t out of the question considering the following year, he scored 92 points in the AHL (or 43.24 NHL points). On this particular offense, he probably could have scored 30 points. I think that’s a fair estimate.

So, in the end, just like last season, the Flyers wipe the floor with the division and secure the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They finish above both Buffalo and New Jersey, and play the Canadiens in the first round. They promptly sweep Montreal because their goalie is Garth Snow. The #3 Sabres beat the Penguins and the #2 Devils lose to Eric Lindros and the Senators in seven games, as Lindros feeds Daniel Alfredsson for the game winning goal over Martin Brodeur (trust me, it felt very good to write that).

In the second round, the Flyers come across the aforementioned Ottawa Senators. They are led by the impeccable line of Eric Lindros, Daniel Alfredsson, and Alexei Yashin. Alexandre Daigle is the 2C, but there is little behind those four players. Their goaltending, especially Ron Tugnutt, is very bad, and they can’t muster the strength to beat Patrick Roy and the Flyers. The Rangers beat the Sabres in their series, and so as in real life, the Flyers and Rangers do battle in the Conference Final, with the Flyers winning out. For a second straight season, the Flyers head to the Stanley Cup Final.

And who better to meet them there than the Detroit Red Wings again. However, Detroit was not the same team as before. The Flyers swept their season series with Detroit in real life, and though it was an unfortunate final, this is a whole new ballgame.

Patrick Roy had an outstanding 1996-97 season. In real life, he compiled a 0.923 save percentage, and won 38 games to lead the league. The Flyers also improved their defence by adding Paul Coffey and Janne Niinimaa, and ditching the dead weight of Karl Dykhuis. While Detroit had the better defence on paper, the Flyers had some game-breaking players, though would it be enough?

To gain a better estimate of this, I will compare the point shares of the best players on either team:

Point-Share comparison 1996-97 season
Drew Meyer via Hockey Reference

While Detroit wins out on the defensive side, the Flyers are better in every other category. It will undoubtedly be a close, very toughly fought final, but I can finally say it. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Flyers are your 1997 Stanley Cup Champions.

Cue the celebrations! We did it guys! Well...not entirely.

While the Flyers may have won the Stanley Cup thanks to our ingenious moves as the collective hive-mind GM, the story is not yet over. We have the 1997 NHL draft, the upcoming season, and much more to go. Next episode I will cover all of that, however, I will also be zooming forward in time at a quicker pace next episode, entering the 2000-01 season.

This episode’s choice centers around how I will behave as GM. Would you like me to be...

A. Aggressive and in “Win now” mode

B. Cautious, mostly keeping the same lineup

C. Pensive, thinking for the future

D. (aggressive but even when I shouldn’t be)

The poll ends in 5 days, and again, make sure to comment if the poll is not showing up on mobile!

Poll

Chapter 4: Should I be...

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Aggressive and in "Win now" mode
    (124 votes)
  • 31%
    Cautious, mostly keeping the same lineup
    (86 votes)
  • 15%
    Pensive, thinking for the future
    (41 votes)
  • 6%
    All out Holmgren
    (18 votes)
269 votes total Vote Now