To the surprise of many, the 2006-07 Flyers were absolutely terrible, shattering franchise records for losing streaks (10 games, and 12 games at home), single season losses, and largest point drop off from one season to the next (101 points to 56). They compiled the worst record in the league at 22-48-12, and over the course of the summer of 2007, attempted to right the ship once more. Bob Clarke had resigned as General Manager, and Paul Holmgren took over, retooling the team for future success, but not blowing the whole thing up. The Flyers already had exciting, upcoming players, and figured they didn’t need to go into full rebuilding mode.
However, what if after performing so awfully, they decided they did need to completely blow up the team? In this hypothetical reality, Paul Holmgren looks at the roster and projects incoming doom and potential mass decline. On this what if, the Flyers go full process mode.
To start, all the moves that the Flyers actually made that can be considered moves made for the future will be kept. Therefore, the Flyers still trade Peter Forsberg to the Predators, and still receive Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, plus a first and a third in the 2007 draft. They also still trade that first round pick back to Nashville for Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. Alexei Zhitnik is also still traded for Braydon Coburn, and Kyle Calder is traded for Lasse Kukkonen. The Lupul and Smith trade still happens as well, since despite Smith being near the end of his career, Lupul was only entering his age 24 season.
However, the Flyers don’t trade for Martin Biron, wanting to keep their 2nd round draft choice in 2007. Antero Nittymaki becomes the de facto starting goaltender. They also don’t sign Danny Briere as a free agent, nor do they make any moves for big name free agents. Instead, they look to make trades for future assets.
Now, forgive me if these trades seem unfair with future context. I’m only trying to assume what would have been deemed fair at the time.
First on the trade block is Simon Gagne. The 26 year old winger had come off a 68 point, 41 goal season, and would’ve been a hot commodity. Coincidentally, Alain Vigneault coached one of the best, most “win now” mode teams in the Western Conference: the Vancouver Canucks. They decide to pull the trigger and trade for Gagne, and the Flyers in return get Alexander Edler (an AHLer at the time), Ryan Kessler at age 20, and the Canucks’ 3rd round pick in 2007.
The Flyers also decide to trade Mike Knuble to the Ottawa Senators, who view Knuble as a playoff player, and after having lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Anaheim Ducks, decide they need his toughness. To the Flyers, they send Nick Foligno, still in the OHL at the time, along with a 4th round pick in 2007.
Now, with even more picks, this is what their 2007 draft looks like:
|Round 1||James van Riemsdyk|
|Round 2||P.K. Subban|
|Round 3||Garret Klotz, Joakim Andersson|
|Round 4||Jamie Benn|
|Round 5||Mario Kempe|
|Round 6||Scott Darling|
|Round 7||Carl Gunnarsson|
Well, it turns out they hit on a majority of their picks, instead of drafting hot garbage. We know that van Riemsdyk, Subban, and Benn all become great players, and there’s a chance that in an alternate reality that some of the others could develop better.
In this reality, for the rest of the decade, the Flyers might not have been very good, but for at least most of the 2010’s they would be poised to become a dynasty with all the talent they acquired. It may be wishful thinking to assume they’d draft in this manner, and pull of the trades, but it’s a what if not a scientific paper. Just imagine for a minute a line of Claude Giroux, Jamie Benn, and, say, Jeff Carter in 2010-11. They almost certainly beat the Devils.
There’s no telling exactly how this team would do with a more rebuilt roster instead of a retooled one. However, I think we could see them pull off what the Blackhawks or Kings did in the 2010’s, especially with all the young talent they would’ve drafted in the late 2000’s. They could even have more high draft picks while they take time to develop guys like Benn and Subban. It may make the John Stevens era teams un-fun, but it could lead to some parades down Broad Street.