It will go down in Flyers history as the Day of Reckoning.
General manager Paul Holmgren took his organization across the hockey Rubicon and with guts made of iron, changing the course of the Flyers’ future for the next decade.
The afternoon of June 23, one day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Holmgren ripped the spine out of the Flyers by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter less than an hour apart, and replaced it with a younger, more talented but less-proven set of discs and cords.
The Flyers needed salary cap space to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They just needed a minor shuffle of the deck and to re-load for a run at the Stanley Cup next season. Instead, they wiped the slate clean.
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Rumors, speculation and amateur attempts at general managing have become a staple of every NHL offseason. While ideas become somewhat intriguing during a summer of disappointment and vacant of real news, rumor mongering is typically unreliable and in some cases, annoying.
So when the scuttlebutt broke from Twitter on Monday night that New York-based news hound Incarcerated Bobclaimed the Toronto Maple Leafs and Flyers are in “serious discussions involving Jeff Carter,” there was a spark of curiosity and rightfully very few true believers. Just another Carter trade rumor.
However, there is one overlooked nugget in Bob’s proposed deal that is hard to ignore. The formula actually makes sense.
The offseason chatter surrounding the improvement of the Flyers has focused primarily on goaltending, Mike Richards’ captaincy and potential trade opportunities featuring Jeff Carter.
Yet, while those topics may headline the solutions put forth to avenge their embarrassing second-round playoff exit, there is a more fundamental problem the Flyers need an answer for— where was the fight?
“We got slapped around and that was a little harder to take,” general manager Paul Holmgren said after his team was swept from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins. “I think we have to take a look at some things and see where we are going.”
Mike Richards isn’t the problem and neither is his captaincy with the Flyers.
After being swept out of the postseason in effortless fashion by the Boston Bruins in the second round, fingers were pointed and blame was assigned — most of it landing on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, who was playing with a torn ligament in his wrist.
The second-round series against the Boston Bruins was a summation of all that came before it.
Trailing 3-1 late in the third period of Game 4 at TD Garden, with his team facing elimination, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled Sergei Bobrovsky for an extra skater. Instead of gaining momentum, pushing their war-torn bodies to the limit and scraping up any amount of remaining pride to go down fighting, the lackluster and empty Flyers failed to gain the zone and were unable to set up the least bit of offense. Holding the man advantage, the Flyers were still outworked.
The Bruins scored on the empty net before Laviolette pulled his goalie once more in a last-ditch effort down 4-1. The Flyers barely even tried to stop the Bruins who added another empty netter to make it 5-1.
They were wiped out of the playoffs in four games by a team that wanted it more.
Jeff Carter walked gingerly down the hall at the Flyers practice facility on Thursday morning, holding a slight limp on his sprained right knee.
The high-scoring forward’s walk, along with mechanical knee brace laying under his equipment in the locker room, told the tale of someone not quite ready to play in an intensity-driven post-season game. Throw in the fact that Carter hasn’t practiced with the team since the injury occurred on April 20, and there’s reason to believe that although the optimism is present for his return at some point during the second round against the Boston Bruins, that comeback won’t happen anytime soon.
But should Flyers fans be worried?
Winning in the post season comes down to production. If one team’s best players out-produce the other, the series is usually there for the taking.
It’s a simple formula.
Yet, while the Flyers’ big scorers have produced nine goals in two games, the Sabres are still looking for answers. And that’s why, despite having the better goaltender in Ryan Miller and holding the Flyers to a power play efficiency of 11.1%, the Sabres are down 2-1 in the series and holding on for dear life.